We’ve written about TV writer Ethlie Ann Vare and her Affection Deficit Disorder blog before. Here’s Ethlie’s thoughtful look at the new version of A Star is Born and what it really says about life, love…and love addiction.
by Ethlie Ann Vare
Okay, it’s time to talk about A STAR IS BORN from the perspective of love addiction as well as substance addiction. I should start out with a spoiler warning: I am going to reveal the ending. So if you haven’t seen the mega hit movie with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga – or the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, or the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, or the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (they all have the same plot) – feel free not to read any further. I won’t be offended. You can bookmark this page and come back after you have seen it because, trust me, the pressure to see it will be extreme.
Why is this story so resonant and enduring? Film buffs generally claim the plot has repeated and repeated for a century because it’s a fable about the price of fame. (You may know that the original intellectual property was actually called “What Price Hollywood?”) I think the story endures because it is a pure love addict fantasy, and I do not approve. Every iteration of A STAR IS BORN risks creating a fresh generation of love addicts.
The first half of A STAR IS BORN is essentially a rom-com, because rom-coms are always about the beginning of relationships. The meet-cute. The all-things-are-possible phase. That’s the part love addicts are not only attracted to, but physically addicted to. That’s where the dopamine is. Dopamine is all about the intoxication of anticipation. The daily gave-and-take of actual relationship holds very little attraction for the love addict. Most rom-coms end with a kiss and a proposal, rolling the credits before boring real life starts. Here, they flip the script from comedy to tragedy as a device to leave before the humdrum sets in.
Here is the story, in a nutshell: A seemingly ordinary girl is singled out by a powerful man who sees her for the beautiful and talented person she really is. (This falls under the official SLAA characteristic “a need to rescue or be rescued,” with a dash of the characteristic “we assign magical qualities to others.”) They fall in love instantly. (“We become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.”) Sadly, he’s an addict/alcoholic and often treats her terribly, but their love endures (“We stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships”). Finally, he kills himself as a… let’s call it a grand gesture. Like filling her room with roses, except, you know, fatal.
This is your ideal romance…?