I caught bits of The Wedding Singer tonight on the television. Plot described on IMDB.com as:
“Robbie, the singer and Julia, the waitress are both engaged to be married but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other.”
I was struck by the scene where Julia (Drew Barrymore) is speaking to the mirror and Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is in the street below. Julia is imagining herself as Julia Hart, Robbie only sees Julia’s happiness and interprets it as an expression of her happiness regarding the planned impending wedding to Glenn Guglia. It made me think of Shakespeare’s tragedies. First obvious connection is to the famous scene in Romeo and Juliet involving the balcony (“Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo?”), instead in this scene we have Julia hailing her mirror image as the future Julia Guglia or Julia Hart. It is a crucial scene because, even though it is a romantic comedy so it must end happily, it is a precarious moment. Julia is juggling two futures of herself, or rather two future selves, to figure out who she wants to become. It is this relation between chance, futurity, and identity that I think is very interesting in The Wedding Singer.
Firstly: chance. Shakespeare uses three methods to complicate the lives of the heroes and heroines of his tragedies:
1) Shakespeare occasionally represents abnormal conditions of mind: insanity, somnambulism, hallucinations–
2) Shakespeare also introduces the supernatural: ghosts and witches who have supernatural knowledge–
3) Shakespeare, in most of the tragedies, allows “chance” in some form to influence some of the action–
The tragedies that are the most relevant for my purposes are Othello and Romeo and Juliet. In Othello there are three characters that drive the play: Othello, Desdomona and Iago. My favourite Shakespearean character of all time is Iago, not because he is a scheming bastard, but because he is a classic example of how the ‘slave’ can invert the power relationship and take advantage of his ‘master’.
There are two uses of the Shakespearean concept of tragedy that could be drawn on. The second one isn’t really relevant, but the first and third are kind of interesting. From a Marxist point of view the alleged motivation for Julia’s engagement to the wanker Glenn (ahhh!) — economic security — as the foundation of a loving relationship is in reality being a mystified relation to the real conditions of the relationship (Glenn is exploitative and uses women for enabled masturbation) . This is a bit weak, I know, but it is really the third one I am interested in.
The event of Shakespearean tragedy deploying chance (the accident/accidental) as the catalyst for tragedy can be conceptualised thus. There is a disjunctive synthesis that maintains the proximity of at least two series while keeping them separated, the haunting resonance between the series serves as the essential element of tragedy. Examples of the third method of producing tragic circumstances in Shakespeare’s plays include: when Romeo never received Friar Lawrence’s letter, when Juliet didn’t wake up a minute sooner, or when Desdemona lost her handkerchief at exactly the fatal moment. Remember, if you will, Baz Luhrmann’s flimic depiction of Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo finds his love Juliet apparently dead he commits suicide by cop. Juliet was not dead. Romeo’s actions were mistaken because they were premised on the occasion of an accidental situation.
An accident is defined here in terms of the future as failure of expectation (or the extrapolation of the present, which, ontologically, is the superposition of moment upon the next to produce a serial form). In the end, the accident of life and love tears the lovers apart. In the scene from The Wedding Singer with Julia speaking to mirror and Robbie in the street below there is a similar role played by chance. What I find intriguing is that this basic premise of the tragedy is played with in the final scene where the accident is replaced with providence (or ‘fortune’ as the imdb.com describes the plot). There is a counter-actualisation that produces a conjunctive synthesis of two series: Julia and Robbie. It is chance that deals the ‘accidental’ lovers a happy blow (Robbie gets to sing his wonderful song to Julia on the plane).
However, what is the nature of these two ‘series’? Here it is useful to think of ‘chance’ in two ways: the first in terms of a calculus of risk expressed as an expectation, as in ‘take a chance’, and it is essentially a tool in the political economy of actualisation; and the second is the cosmic role/roll of The Gambler‘s dice — here fate becomes the motor for the centripedal acceleration of the present around a singularity, the speed of the present when the dice fall is breathless, the realisation of such a fate can take a lifetime…
In the film there is a constant interplay in the film between subject positions correlating to recogniseable identities and the dyamic lived experience that such a discursive violence attempts to capture. One example is Linda’s description of Robbie as ‘not a rock star, but just a wedding singer’. Another example is Julia’s mother describing Glenn as ‘rich, handsome and successful’ (or something like that).
Perhaps it is useful to turn to one of my dead French mates. ‘Phantistical’ notions, which apply to phantasms and simulacra, Deleuze writes,”are distinguished from the categories of representation in several ways. First, they are conditions of real experience, and not of possible experience. […] Second, these types preside over completely distinct irreducible and incompatible distributions: the nomadic distributions carriedout by the phantastical notions as opposed to the sedentary distributions of the categories” (D&R 285).
The phantistical dimension of such individuals is elided for the sake for the discursive categorisation of a sedentary distribution in the form of an implicit or explicit expectation. For example, Glenn is everything you would want because of the future extrapolated from the current present is a representation of all the possibilities that are desired by a correlative to a stereotypical ‘yuppie’ (or ‘bourgie’;) lifestyle. Robbie, on the other hand, is not everything that a ‘material girl’, such as Linda, wants. This is recognised by Robbie when he thinks that Julia is such a girl as demonstrated by his failed attempt to get a ‘real’ job ‘making money’ and become a ‘material girl’.
Love, then, according to The Wedding Singer, is the opposite of the futurity or calculus of expectation premised on the possible experience of the sedentary distributions of categories. Or, according to The Wedding Singer, love is the conjunctive synthesis of two series defined by the nomadic distribution of the phantistical.
Sidenote, “Do You Believe In Love?” is a song by Huey Lewis and the News from The Wedding Singer Soundtrack. I love Huey Lewis. Does anyone know what sort of people like Huey Lewis in the 1980s? I bet they were total lameos! Hurrah!