In honor of Valentine’s Day, and to give my poor husband a little help understanding how I got this way, I want to talk about one little movie that basically shaped my entire romantic ideology.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Ever heard of it?
This absolute gem of a film was made by MGM in 1954. It features a cast of seven beautiful young actress/dancers and seven handsome dancer/gymnasts, and is a musical. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won one. I read somewhere that it was all kinds of underfunded and MGM thought it wouldn’t do well, and then it surprised them at the box office.
But I didn’t know any of that when I was a little girl.
I just knew it was my favorite movie ever.
My sisters and I must have seen this movie one hundred times in the space of ten years. We acted out our favorite scenes. We rehearsed the songs. We each had favorite members of the female cast, favorite members of the male cast, favorite dresses, and favorite couples. When we played games, many of us chose names from among these characters (my sister’s pretend name was “Milly” for her entire childhood).
But the main thing I picked up from SBFSB was my entire conception of how gender relations were supposed to work.
This is what I learned (if you haven’t seen SBFSB, you should probably stop reading this post. It simply won’t make any sense):
1. If you meet somebody on a weekday and he asks you to marry him within an hour, say yes. You will not regret it (although you might have to teach him a thing or two after you’re married).
Say yes, wait for “that awful sinking feeling,” and if it doesn’t come, you’re golden. Just don’t be surprised when you find that he’s keeping some pretty major secrets from you (like the fact that he shares a house with six brothers who are named after Bible characters in alphabetical order).
2. It is perfectly normal to cook dinner for seven men on your wedding night.
It is also perfectly acceptable for you to dump that food on them when they act like a pack of animals, and haven’t “any decency to wait for grace.” It is also perfectly normal that your honeymoon suite will be across the hallway from your new husband’s six brothers, and that they are going to be grinning at each other when your husband decides to turn in for the night.
3. A dress made out of a quilt is literally the best fashion you’ll ever see in your life.
I cannot stress enough that my fashion sense has been influenced FOR A LIFETIME by the clothes in this movie. Tight-waisted dresses made out of gingham and quilts. Men in matching shirts of different colors, doing cool feats of acrobatics and vying for a chance to dance with the only seven girls at the barn raising. This is the bar. Nothing I’ve seen in any store can touch it.
While we’re on the subject of only seven women at a barn raising: If you ever get a chance to move to bear country, where there are ten men for every woman, do it. You’ll have a wonderful time watching men get into fistfights over you.
4. You definitely want to be kidnapped someday.
The best way to be kidnapped is to have somebody throw a blanket over your head and put you in their wagon. The kidnapper will do his best to kidnap the parson along with you so you can get married right away. If not, you can just hang out in the house with the other kidnapped girls until spring. The men will stay in the barn and respect your boundaries. They only kidnapped you because they couldn’t help it—they’re so in love.
5. Romance is only romance if you fight with the man before you fall in love with him.
Admittedly, this idea didn’t really come to me from SBFSB alone. It came from every single romantic comedy made in the last 100 years. But in SBFSB, there are some especially good examples of the principal.
All I know is that this principal really tripped me up as a young teenager. Any time I had a crush, I was incredibly rude to the guy, hoping that he would respond in kind and we would fight our way right into each other’s arms. Instead, being a real person, he was simply put off and annoyed (and a little weirded out).
6. It’s cute when men just don’t understand how to talk to you.
That scene where Milly explains to the men how to ‘court’ a female is precious. It helps you forgive them for all the crazy shenanigans when you understand that they’re not bad—they were just raised in a barn and have never seen a woman before.
7. If you ever want to marry a man and your dad is upset about it (especially if he’s upset because this is the same man who recently forcibly abducted you from home), pretend to have his baby.
This technique works perfectly at the end of the movie, when spring comes and all the fathers and brothers descend on the farm. By this time, all that romantic fighting has done its work, and the girls have fallen in love with their blundering captors (clearly they’ve never heard of Stockholm Syndrome).
So the girls, in order to marry the men (and save them from hanging), unanimously try to pretend that the baby crying in the house is theirs.
Seems like a pretty neat trick. It’s like faking a pregnancy, only better.
So there you go. It’s Valentine’s Day! Armed with these romantic tips, you’re ready for it. Put on a dress made out of a quilt, get out there, and give your blundering fighting kidnapping man a baby.
Note: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is based on a short story called “The Sobbin’ Women,” which in turn was based on an ancient Roman legend, “The Rape of the Sabine Women.” It has been called an “incredibly sexist, misogynist” film which “romanticizes gender oppression” by Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, professor of women’s studies.
She clearly just doesn’t understand this movie.