Valentine’s Day: Redefining Love
The past few years have been big for reevaluating our culture’s definition of “true love.” With Valentine’s Day upon us, the cliché ordeal of a guy finding the perfect box of chocolates and roses for his girlfriend may not be obsolete (because who are we kidding, we love chocolate and flowers!), but it’s no longer this time of year’s standard, conventional idea. Disney’s newest movie Frozen captures the essence of redefining love and its connotations. The standard plotline for a Disney movie is as such: a damsel in distress meets her savior, Prince Charming, they fall in love, and they live happily ever after. However, Frozen seems to give its viewers a reality check; without dropping too many spoilers, it counters Disney’s past movies by pointing out that you shouldn’t marry a guy you just met, an empowered woman can save the day, and perhaps most importantly, love comes in all types. While the movie stays true to the theme of “an act of true love” needed to save our characters, it comes in a new form: not a true love’s kiss, but a sister’s sacrifice. “I noticed a lot of things different from the standard Disney plot,” said Adante Fuller Smith, third year. “It wasn’t about some typical princess and a handsome male protagonist, but instead highlighted the love between family and siblings.” What is so amazing about Frozen is that it is teaching young audiences that love comes in several different shapes and forms, and should not be confined to the prince/princess binary we so often see. “Movies like Frozen help counteract the messages that emphasize traditional gender roles of the past. Many Disney movies acted like such things were how life should be, but Frozen’s female characters were stronger and more independent,” Fuller continued. “I think this is a better reflection on the direction society is going in. It will especially benefit young girls.” Another big move by Disney recently? Debuting their first openly gay couple on Disney Channel’s TV show “Good Luck Charlie.” Though the lesbian couple only makes a brief scene, it has managed to set off plenty of opinions. “I think it’s silly,” said Sara Firestone, third year. “It’s the most conventional couple Disney could produce: two attractive white women. [This type of] lesbian couple is easier to accept.” While many have held this view, some take a different approach. “I was really pleased with the way that the show brushed over the issue with such a casual attitude,” said Olivia Dawn Woodard, second year. “I think they handled it gracefully. Obviously I was excited that the issue was brought up at all by Disney. Definitely a step in the right direction.” Inna De Leon, fourth year, agrees with Woodard. “I think this will definitely have a big influence on society, especially with Disney’s reputation, but negative reactions are inevitable. Personally, I’m proud of Disney for taking this big step,” De Leon said. Despite the differing views, many students have highlighted a main point: it’s progress. On a more local level, the University also plays an active role in supporting love just as it is, without boundaries or restrictions. The Love is Love Campaign is a university-wide effort to express support and appreciation of all loves, additionally providing emphasized support of the LGBTQ community. Beginning in 2009 as an effort coinciding with the week of Valentine’s Day, the campaign challenges the typical expected societal norms that have in the past-celebrated heterosexual love and stigmatized other forms of love. As we approach Valentine’s Day, this movement helps us remember that all love is equal, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Arni Mapili, head of the Love is Love campaign efforts, gave us a more in-depth answer to its meaning and importance. “It defies and challenges the ‘one-man-one-woman’ societal norm. In the past, Valentine’s Day has often been assumed to celebrate [only this type of love]. The Love is Love campaign aims to lend greater visibility to other forms of committed love and relationships, a visibility otherwise suppressed by mainstream heteronormative expectations and presentations of Valentine’s Day celebrations.” Beginning with actions as simple as providing free t-shirts on Grounds to students that support its endeavors, Love is Love has expanded as an effort in incorporating LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ members of the UVa community, joining together in support of equal love. “Traditionally, we have asked that all members of the UVa community who have received a Love is Love t-shirt all wear the shirt on Valentine’s Day. This show of support can especially be refreshing and encouraging for LGBTQ members of the UVa community who are either closeted or questioning. It also symbolically expresses the long-overdue celebration and appreciation for relationships that defy and challenge the one-man-one-woman norm,” Mapili concluded. We are not the only ones excited about Love is Love’s success in engaging our community to be supportive of all types of love. “[The Love is Love Campaign] is awesome and reflects the shifting views,” said Wendi Chen, a first year participant in the Love is Love efforts. “We’re starting to accept queerness.” “I’m really excited about [this campaign] because it brings attention to the queer community on a day that usually only celebrates heteronormative love, even though there are many other types of love that are just as legitimate,” said Acacia Dai, another first year participating in the campaign. Free shirts are available at the LGBTQ Center, located on the lower level of Newcomb Hall. All are welcome to join the campaign’s group picture at the steps of the Rotunda at 4 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. I asked plenty of UVa students what love means to them. Though the answers differed, the question was posed in the same way to all parties, and note that in none of them, a definitive sexuality marked what it had to mean. What does ‘love’ mean to you? “Love? It means to learn to sacrifice for another… meaning you would try as hard as you can, even if it seems daunting, to support, to communicate, to keep each other on the same level. Learning to let go of others’ flaws and accept them as who they are.” – Peter Kim, fourth year “Love takes many different forms. Regardless, the important thing is caring for someone else and trying to help them succeed.” – Vicky Abiola, second year “Love is knowing someone will be there for you, even when you can’t be around yourself. Love is being able to wake up and know that someone is happy, just because you’re alive.” – Sarah Firestone, third year “When you put forth someone’s life before your own, thinking about others before you think about yourself; selflessness.” – Kevin Phung, first year “I think love is a selfless desire to care for another person and make them happy.” – Olivia Dawn Woodard, second year “Love is knowing someone’s flaws and still continuing to prioritize their best interest.” – Kelly Carson, second year “Someone who will always be there for you, if you get lucky.” – Inna De Leon, fourth year “I think love means having deep, personal connections to other people, and caring about them in spite of their human flaws, and being willing to go out of your way to understand them and make their world a little better.” – Acacia Dai, first year “Love, to me, is unconditional support. Love is not judgmental or dependent on particular circumstances and it perseveres through all difficulties. Love is being accepted for who you are, and that being more than enough; not being pressured to be something that you aren’t, but simultaneously being pushed to be the best and fullest person you can be.” – Torrie Taft, second year “Love is having no awkward silence because you’re comfortable with each other, even in silence. Love is truly wanting to put someone else before yourself, whether it be family, friends, lovers, pets…” – Adante Fuller Smith, third year Love is Love Rotator photo by: Felisha Nguyen & Greg Lewis.
By: Kiana Williams