Boy meets girl, but girl has cancer. It gets worse.
Join Leann and Eryn as we g-chat our way through A Walk to Remember, a Nicholas Sparks novel-based film that Leann calls “a middle school crying movie,” and Eryn (now seeing it for the first time) calls “the worst kind of discourse about suffering” and also “oh jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez.”
- Christian Manic Pixie Dream Girls exist and they should always be played by Mandy Moore
Let’s start with the IMDb description of the early aughts’ teen romance, A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore and Shane West: “The story of two North Carolina teens, Landon Carter and Jamie Sullivan, who are thrown together after Landon gets into trouble and is made to do community service.” Instead of, you know, going to jail, Landon gets a slap on his leather cuff-clad wrist (from the 2000’s Alt Bad Boy collection at Hot Topic) and is made to do horrendously uncool things like tutor children and participate in the school play. It’s through these wholesome activities where boy meets girl–Jamie Sullivan, the reverend’s daughter.
A lot has been written about the MPDG trope and how they only serve as vehicles of growth and development for their male counterparts. That case could be made for Mandy Moore’s character when we’re first introduced to her through the eyes of Landon. Sitting and sulking in the pews, Landon’s first real vision of Jamie Sullivan is of her in a white choir robe singing sweetly to the heavens for the Lord’s guidance and salvation. Will Jamie be the bad boy’s saving hope?? LOL, Nicholas Sparks is more subtle than that, okay?
Landon’s following interactions with Jamie is where she really qualifies for MPDG status. The fact that she is an openly Christian teenager who loves volunteering, musical theater, and is good at school already makes her SO. UN. COOL. On top of that, Jamie is often dressed in overalls, the only cardigan she owns (the fact of which invites the lamest bullying tactics from the edgy kids — “Heh. Nice cardigan, Jamie!”), and has bangs. Everyone go home. Case closed. SHE HAS BANGS. She also makes her own telescopes out of cardboard. She collects inspirational quotes in a leather-bound hardcover journal like an IRL Pinterest. But if you need more proof that Jamie is the MVP of MDPGs: she sings in the school play and compels Landon to fall in love with her on the spot, and she does this WITHOUT bangs. This is true: MPDGs store energy reserves in their hair. That Jamie doesn’t even need tufts of curls constantly flying into her face — because MPDGs are usually so clumsy, y’all — is a testament to her true power. -Leann
- Nicholas Sparks MIGHT hate love? My working theory of this film is that it’s really about the impossibility of sustaining honest long-term relationships. Sure, Landon and Jamie LOOK like they’ve got a great thing going on, but is it built to last? They don’t have to worry about building the foundation of an actual long term relationship because it’s not going to be long term! Which makes the whole thing very suspect–like their relationship is only perfect because it was so brief. And I know what you’re thinking, “but this is a story about a young woman dying of cancer, their relationship had to be brief.” I’m not saying people who know they’re going to die young can’t have real relationships–of course they can. I’m saying that in the context of this movie, Landon and Jamie have the only successful relationship, making long-term partnerships look like a fantasy in this world. Would these kids even have bothered to get married if it wasn’t on her bucket list? Are ANY of the adults in this movie married? The minister’s wife died young like her daughter, and Landon’s mom and dad were divorced. I’m telling you, this movie is low-key the most cynical thing I’ve ever seen. “Marriage is a fairy tale for moony-eyed teens!” Nicholas Sparks chortles from study of his mansion, paid for by his best-selling fairy tales for moony-eyed teens. -Eryn
- You should not expect Sandy Cohens, aka parental involvement, in every teen movie
The teen genre isn’t generally too interested in the realities of teenage life. In high school, some of my biggest dramas involved asking my parents for a ride, losing my older brother’s TI-83 calculator, and eating at the Cheesecake Factory. Marissa Cooper did not have these problems. Teen protagonists must rely on their individual agency outside of parental intervention to resolve their challenges and conflicts. So it’s no surprise in A Walk to Remember that Landon must learn how to be a better student, friend, and son entirely on his own in order to earn Jamie’s love. As per usual with most 90-minute films, Landon’s transformation happens in one montage sequence. Lame. -Leann
- The way to a girl’s heart is through her cardigan. I’m a librarian, and I hate to be a stereotype, but listen: I collect cardigans in every color of the rainbow and wear them to work every day. CRUCIAL for a work environment where they keep the air chilly but you also have to get up and haul around 40-pound boxes of archival records every now and then. Layering–so important. The cardigan is a beautiful, essential, underrated item of clothing. A girl deserves to have more than exactly one cardigan! Date someone who buys you cardigans. -Eryn
5. Shoulder blowing is not a thing and please don’t do this.
Landon was actually a decent first boyfriend who came up with fun dates and acted pretty mature and grounded given the fact that his girlfriend, was, er, dying. But the scene of him blowing on Jamie’s shoulder after giving her a temporary tattoo is just NO. Nooooo. I can feel a phantom gust prickling up my own shoulder as I type and AAAAAHHHHHHH NOOOOOO. -Leann
6. No, honestly, Landon is a pretty great boyfriend. (Shoulder-blowing aside, obvi.) I maintain a healthy skepticism toward fictional boys, but I have to begrudgingly admit that Landon’s like, pretty alright! He doesn’t try to change Jamie’s quirky ways, he makes a good faith effort to take an interest in her interests, he stands up to bullies for her, he named a star after her, he BUILT HER A TELESCOPE?? What. the. heck. He even started listening to Christian Rock because of her and, oof, I mean, that genre is a very mixed bag, so that takes some dedication. So, yes, he also puts her on the highest of pedestals and believes she some kind of flawless angel which is very #problematic, BUT. With all the mediocre dudes pop culture expects us to believe deserve the amazing ladies they date, Landon’s whole-hearted dedication to Jamie that never turns creepy or possessive (like mostly???) is sort of nice. -Eryn