Feeld is proud to be a place where people can explore different relationship structures. This week, we wanted to turn our gaze towards monogamy: a mainstream idea that needs neither an introduction nor a defense, but which could benefit from some inquiry towards a deeper understanding. What is monogamy, and who gets to define it? Who practices monogamy, and how do individual experiences change our collective understanding of it? What are the cultural histories of monogamy, and in what ways are they evolving? What are the benefits of it, and which boundaries are upheld by its limitations? The week to come offers a dedicated deconstruction—as well as an open invitation to reconsider—the concept of monogamous commitment.
The list below was curated by Teo Bugbee, a film critic, writer, and union organizer, who selected their choices with an eye for the many ways that movies can express all the emotions associated with love: the infatuation and intimacy, of course, but let’s not forget the stomach-dropping risk, the heart-stopping fears, the flushed cheeks of a returned gaze, sweaty nights that become sweet mornings. There’s a lot of feelings inside just the one often lumped under the genre of “romance,” which is why the list of movies recommended below include a very flexible idea of what monogamy means. Sometimes it’s an emotional fidelity that stays unbroken even throughout other relationships; other times it’s uninterrupted affection over an entire lifetime; or perhaps it’s a friendship so intense it defies any single definition. Most likely it’s some combination of all of the above.
Often pop culture prizes the promise of “happily ever after” at the expense of showing, well, what comes after. It’s as rare to see the reality of a monogamous relationship depicted in a movie or television show as it is to see the alternatives to monogamy—the transcendent beginnings or bittersweet endings are for the movies, while everything in between, it seems, is relegated to real life.
None of the films listed below are straightforward endorsements of monogamy, nor are they rejections of it. Instead, they’re a mix of fun, sexy, sweet, sad, weird stories featuring characters who are very much the same—some intended to be recognizable, others entirely celluloid fiction. They may be ambiguous or straightforward in what they say, but they all show what they mean with real honesty. Which are your favorites?
Addams Family Values, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (1993)
The Birdcage, directed by Mike Nichols (1996)
Blue is the Warmest Color, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche (2013)
Bound, directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (1996)
Crash, directed by David Cronenberg (1996)
Cry-Baby, directed by John Waters (1990)
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, directed by Aditya Chopra (1995)
Edward II, directed by Derek Jarman (1991)
Frankie and Johnny, directed by Garry Marshall (1991)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, directed by Howard Hawks (1953)
The Great Muppet Caper, directed by Jim Henson (1981)
Happy Together, directed by Wong Kar-wai (1997)
The Handmaiden, directed by Park Chan-wook (2016)
Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins (2016)
120 Beats per Minute, directed by Robin Campillo (2017)
Pink Flamingos, directed by John Waters (1972)
Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (1991)
Tropical Malady, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2004)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis (1988)
Young Frankenstein, directed by Mel Brooks (1974)