Cultural Mythology on “When Harry Met Sally”
Published 03 May 2017
“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Conformist understanding usually said that one couldn’t create a love story wherein the two protagonists are friends for like a decade before they could actually become lovers. The lead actors are typically having an abrupt connection followed suit by a necessity to fall in love in a situation where the man actually chases the woman. Norah Efron, the writer of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ was successful in hitting the key cultural elements in this love story and at the same time letting the lovers develop upon each other in a subtle but meaningful pace (Dirks). The result was a successful blockbuster hit.
The primary elements that were employed by Efron upon writing the plot for the story revolves how love is all but an irony in the American society at these times of liberalism. One myth is the phrase “I love you” itself which is often most seen as more of a comforting word that a felling of devotion. The lead male character, Harry Burns, lives up to this example in the movie by having several partners to which he literally gets in, gets off, and gets out of. His principles character throughout the movie is practically a cultural myth in general where he was seen as a man with serious issues. His sexist character then is directed into slowly shifting towards that “soft” yet still opinionated one with his views upon interacting with Sally in many scenes of the movie. In most scenes, he is remembered to be the one who belts out several vague dialogues yet is visually interpreted towards the end of the movie.
On the other hand, Sally Albright, played by Meg Ryan is a typical lady type who is really compulsive towards her outlook on life much less on the subject of life. She is madly organized on practically everything that she does. With her character, Norah Efron yet again used the cultural myth of ladies being obsessively compulsive upon their lives. It can be true, but it is used in the movie in a parameter that would generalize the whole beings of girls. The character then follows a pattern of constant thinking of Sally at the course of her indefinable relationship with Harry ends in an sudden manifestation of their feelings in a sexual manner. Towards the climax of the story, this was characterized by the lead lady character as a mistake in her almost-perfect life.
The difference in the characters of Harry and Sally can also be manifested through their weird habits on a daily basis. Harry loves to prematurely talk about sex and death. The famous scene wherein Sally was trying to show a fake female orgasm in a restaurant shows how Sally opened up to Harry’s ideas while at the same time providing a female analogy on their conversations. Sally on the other side loves her add-ons generally put onto a side of her plate. Again, the plot also involves a main gender difference between the two
They both recognize that fact that they can’t be friends with each other unless the two of them be caught up with other people that they go out with. This is where the third cultural myth on the American society settles in: relationships may transcend time. In the movie, they can and they did actually and it worked for them. For a fact, yes, most relationships start and end up in an instant yet the ones that Harry and Sally had for each other was built through time wherein they started out as casual strangers, then they become friends with one another, then a mutually exclusive relationship, a too-good-for-comfort break-up, and a happy ending. The movie actually recognizes the importance of the realistic elements that are important in a film so as the audience could relate to what they see and the writer did just that.
There were a lot of lines in the movie that were considered taboo in the mainstream American society. This can be illustrated in a typical fashion on the topics of sex in most parts of the movies. Decades earlier, it was seen as inappropriate to talk about it in public, much less in the movies but here, it was tackled clearly and in turn, provided yet another cultural myth treatment to the plot of the movie.
Furthermore, one of the highlights of the cultural mythologies employed in the script of the movie on the issue of sex which is seen here as a normal occurrence. The characters in the movie are visually or conversely engaged in sex without feelings, smashing yet another cultural myth that sex must be born out of love. The pattern clearly supports this all throughout the movie after Harry and Sally’s relationship was almost jeopardized because of sex before they actually fell in love for each other. These particular scenes yet again define a tendency of the American society to do sex out of pleasure or for the satisfaction of their sexual needs. This came out as an alteration to the previous cultural myths stated above.
If a couple are engaged in relationships, the stress of possible participation is then lifted (Truby). That is a certain instance wherein friendship-love-friendship doesn’t work either. In general, what commonly occurs then is the person we most of the time get concerned with does not all the time appreciate why we need to be friends with the person we know that we are just friends with, like it actually means something that is lacking from the bond and ends up with wanting to go outside to get it. In the end, we realize that everything is just a myth not because that it does not exist but instead, we create our own myth when it comes to love.
- Dirks, Tim. “When Harry Met Sally”. 2006. February 3 2007. http://www.filmsite.org/when2.html
- Truby, John. “Secrets of Blockbuster Movies – Part I”. 2006. February 3 2007. https://www.writersstore.com/secrets-of-blockbuster-movies-part-1