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Lars and the Real Love, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

Love is easily described in our society as an immutable, intense emotion.  The idea is timeless and ubiquitous; the praise of its power can be found in all of the world’s major faiths, including Christianity, which tells us that “these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).  The presence or absence of love in the human journey correlates to our abilities and desires to create relationships with one another.  As these relationships can mean expressing different “loves,” like the model explored in C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.  Lewis dissects the concept of love into four categories – affection, friendship, romance, and unconditional love – that require various levels of commitment to and understanding of one another.  In any of these facets, Lewis reveals, it is evident that love is not something we can decide to experience or not experience, because “we need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves” (Lewis 3).  The film Lars and the Real Girl illustrates this idea by examining a life that is essentially devoid of love.  The central character, Lars, is a man that is, on the surface, socially inept and awkward, someone that is so detached from his society that he satisfies his need for affection by maintaining a romantic relationship with a life-sized doll.  Through Lars’ journey, we see how Lewis’ layers of love enrich the human experience, and how acceptance, understanding, and sacrifice are the key components to loving the world around us.

At the beginning of Lars and the Real Girl, we meet the Lars, who initially appears to be a man who is painfully shy and reserved.  The first scene centers around an invitation to breakfast after church from Karen, his sister-in-law, and Lars makes a strong effort to avoid her and his brother Gus, but eventually promises to join them later.  But when he returns, he hurries back to his garage apartment to sit in darkness and solitude. The film also uses the opening to illustrate how Lars is seemingly unable to have a positive, “normal” interaction with anyone he comes in contact with, like his church congregation and his coworkers, who also appear to accept his unusual attitude.  In The Four Loves, Lewis writes that “…pleasures can be divided into two classes; those which would not be pleasures at all unless they were preceded by desire, and those which are pleasures in their own right. (Lewis 9)” For many people – especially those in a close-knit community like Lars’ – spending time with friends and family is one of the strongest ways to convey storge, or Affection, the level of love that Lewis describes as “…the humblest and most widely diffused of loves (Lewis 23).  It is an emotion that is based in simple familiarity; being with others that share a common tie with the self; like relations or neighbors. Although this love is easily given and requires the least of our consciousness, it doesn’t take away from its importance.  To illustrate this point, Lewis gives the example of the relationship between a mother and an infant.  From birth, the two share a love that is rooted in base instinct: the mother must give birth to the infant or die (a “Gift-love”) and the infant must feed from and depend on the mother to survive (a “Need-love”).  Although this relationship is simple and natural, it can evolve, for example, a mother also develops a Need-love by choosing to nurse her infant and avoid his suffering, and a baby.  Lewis describes this paradox as “…a Need-love [that] needs to give.  It is a Gift-love but it needs to be needed” (Lewis 23).  If Lewis’ levels of love are to be thought as building upon one another, then Lars’ inability to be comfortable around others stem from a lack of understanding the nature of Affection.  In a dinner conversation, Gus and Lars talk about Lars’ emotional similarity to his father, a man who lost his wife during Lars’ birth and was very sad and withdrawn during Lars’ childhood.  Moreover, Gus left home as soon as he could to escape the overwhelming sadness of their family life.  Left with no siblings, a dead mother and emotionally absent father, it is easy to understand how Lars may have missed out on the simple lesson of learning how to identify and reciprocate Affection.  Affection, according to Lewis, extends beyond the fulfilling needs for survival.  Even though anyone or anything can be an object of Affection, one must identify a need for others in them in order to return the sentiment.  It is clear that Lars feels alone, as some being who doesn’t fit into the world around him.  While he does attempt to return common courtesies – like telling his office receptionist that she looks pretty, or giving Karen his favorite blanket (knitted by his mother before he was born) when she came to visit him in the cold – he does them with a total absence of sincerity; the actions are virtually robotic.  Without the foundation of truly understanding how to function as a part of his society, Lars can only see himself as someone who isn’t loved; no matter how much effort his neighbors make to include them in their lives.

As the loneliness of his life grows, Lars takes a first step in reaching out beyond himself. He goes online to find a girlfriend, and finds one in the form of an anatomically correct sex doll named Bianca.  Lars treats this doll as he would a real woman; he talks to her, eats with her, and carries her around town in a wheelchair, introducing her to his coworkers and neighbors.  Lars and Bianca spend their days together, and we begin to see a completely different Lars.  He cares for Bianca, wanting to answer her questions and make her happy.  There is a genuine concern for her that signals the forming of a friendship, or what The Four Loves calls philia.  Lewis says, “few value it because few experience it” (Lewis 40).  Friendship requires someone to reach out for another, not for the purpose of survival or reproduction, but to share a bond in common interest.  The film suggests that Lars is an intelligent enough to understand that Bianca isn’t like a real person, but he feels that she cares for him in a way no one else does.  For example, Lars takes Bianca out to a lakeside where he and his brother used to play, and he sings to her from a tree house as she looks up at him. After he’s done, he tells her that she should “see [him] chop wood, too. [He’s] really good at it” (Lars and the Real Girl).  This is something that only a friend would tell another, because they trust that they truly would be interested in watching them do something well.  Lewis says that Friendship is the “least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary of loves.” Because we don’t need Friendship to live, it is the love that is based solely on the basis of free will.  Lars made a choice to bring Bianca into his life, putting aside his fear of opening up to anyone.  Bianca’s friendship has allowed Lars to step out of his self-imposed shell, and as his time with her progresses he becomes more outgoing.  A clear example of this is Lars’ appearance at his coworker Cindy’s party.  Before knowing Bianca, Lars would have never been able to be around so many people, but her presence gives him confidence.  The invigorating power of love is also illustrated in the Bible, notably in Jesus’ allegory of the vine.  In this lesson, Jesus tells his disciples that their relationship is much like a vine and its branches.  If the branches (disciples) stay connected to the vine (Jesus) then they will prosper and bear fruit (love, freedom, etc.).  This relationship, Jesus explains, is the way to receive the love of God, a love that is above all other loves. He also reveals that to not choose Friendship is to also not choose the love of God, by preaching to “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1).  Lars’ darkness came from his unwillingness to connect.  With Bianca, he is now able to experience the power of being with one another, and soon he begins to hunger for it.

As his relationship with Bianca progresses, Lars discovers that the happiness he has created for himself has begun to pale in comparison to the opportunity of happiness in the world around him.  Throughout their relationship, Lars has taken Bianca for weekly visits with the town doctor/therapist, “treatments” suggested by his brother for Bianca that are in fact therapy sessions for Lars.  In their conversations, Lars reveals the similarities that he and Bianca share – like having mothers who died in childbirth – that help us understand what her true purpose is in Lars’ life.  Bianca is helping Lars prepare for living in the world.  When Lars tells the doctor that Bianca “just wants to be normal, and to have everyone treat her normal” (Lars and the Real Girl).   This normal shouldn’t be interpreted as something mundane.  To Lars, to be normal is to be free from the sadness that has enveloped him his whole life.  In normalcy, Lars can find the love he has never known.

This love that Lars seeks is something that is beyond Affection, Friendship, or even romance.  It is the ideal of Charity, the love for God.  The Bible speaks of this love as absolute and unconditional, without bounds and powerful enough to provide for a person in every way. The apostle Paul writes that “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5), and in the Gospels Jesus teaches to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  This type of love does have a price.  It is imperative that in order to love God, one must love his neighbor.  Genesis tells if that God made mankind in his image, which means that people have special qualities in which others can see God.  To love each other – to choose to become a part of someone else’s life or to share passion and interests with someone else – is to love God.  That love supersedes loneliness, jealousy, anger, and all the other emotions that create fear.  Lars’ community chose to love him by accepting Bianca as a person, treating her with the same respect and courtesy that they would give an actual person.  The idea that Lars was just insane began to melt away, and conversely the fear that Lars had began to do the same.  Soon he began to understand that his relationship with Bianca was never going to be able to give him Anderson the same pleasure that being around real people did, and so it was important that he sacrifice Bianca to discover more about love.  One of the greatest catalysts for this sacrifice is Margo, a female coworker who Lars is especially shy around. It is apparent that Margo has feelings for Lars, but without the proper understanding of love, he is unable to show her how he feels about her, which is probably why he purchased Bianca; she was originally meant to fill the void in his life that should have been for Margo.  But as his confidence grows, he becomes less nervous around Margo, and more interested to forming a relationship with her.  Soon Bianca becomes ill and dies, and Lars mourns the death of his old life.  But beyond his sadness, Lars realizes an opportunity to move forward in a positive way.  At Bianca’s funeral he says that he “will get better with time” (Lars and the Real Girl).

Lars and the Real Girl takes the viewer on a journey that doesn’t just follow a man’s search for inclusion. It also mirrors everyone’s education in love.  The biggest difference between Lars and the average person is that Lars lacks something that many people take for granted more often than not: the idea that there is someone in the world that cares for us regardless of our faults or failures.  Lars is an example of how the fear of being accepted is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if we choose to not reach out because we are afraid of being alone, then we will be alone. The power of love is only as strong as we allow it to be, but when it is given one can only expect to reap a reward.

Works Cited:

Holy Bible:  The New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978

Lars and the Real Girl. Dir. Greg Gillespie.  Perf. Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul

Schneider, Patricia Clarkson and Kelli Garner.  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2007

Lewis, C.S.  The Four Loves.  New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991, © 1960

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