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Film Clips, Chapter 3


Part I

Jenna McCarthy: What You Don’t Know about Marriage

TED talk, 11:17

After exposing the problem of getting motivated to marry (the wedding cake poses are hilarious!), Jenna McCarthy considers research findings on what makes marriage “happy” (Heath, pp. 50–51) and cites amusing tips. For example, which partner should weigh more for a happy marriage? How does winning an Oscar affect marital happiness? Many of these studies are motivated by social trends mentioned throughout chapter 3. Despite the earlier cynicism, McCarthy argues for the benefits of marriage and of trying to stay married (pp. 52–53). Warning: one profanity is used.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. McCarthy cites a number of quirky research studies on happy marriages: How seriously should we consider this research in our own lives? What social trends underlie the reasons why such studies might have been undertaken in the first place?
  2. What are some of the “legal (and social) benefits” of marriage McCarthy alludes to in this TED talk?
  3. What variations of the studies cited by McCarthy would make them more broadly applicable? For example, not all students are in the running for an Oscar, but they can develop research questions on how occupational success affects marriage.

Part II

Thoroughly Modern Marriage

CBC Doc Zone, 45:12

This Doc Zone feature is an excellent overview of the social trends in wedding rituals (Chapter 8) and marriage in Canada (Heath, pp. 47–49). The changing value of marriage as a “capstone” of personal achievement can be linked to individualization discussed by Heath (pp. 50–51) and to changes in the historic role of intimacy and marriage in family life. The documentary includes clips by historian Stephanie Coontz (p. 46), whose ideas can be linked to the rise of the pure relationship and confluent love (pp. 50–51). There is a lengthy examination of common-law marriage in Canada and especially in Quebec (pp. 47–49). One cross cultural glimpse (p. 54) at Mennonite marriage in Canada reveals a favourite recommendation, to “Think clearly before marriage and have your eyes half closed after.” Helen Fisher’s neurological work on sex, love, and commitment is referenced here (see her TED talk Why We Love included in this collection for Chapter 16) as is Cherlin’s evaluation of the success of new trends like open marriages, commuter marriages, and “living apart together” (pp. 61–62). The documentary ends with Coontz and Cherlin’s positive pronouncements on the future of marriage which can be used in studying chapter 16.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Thoroughly Modern Marriage discusses trends and practices in Canadian marriages. How might the trends to hooking up, cybersex, and online dating (pp. 55–60) affect our marriage practices? Are these affecting sexual scripts in dating? Will they tangentially affect sexual scripts in marriage?
  2. What are the benefits and issues with cohabitation in Canada today? Do you consider cohabitation to be a framework for your relationships? Do you see this changing over the next 20 years? Why?
  3. Heath (and the documentary) discusses how cultural values like individualism (p. 50) and the “democratization of intimacy” (p. 51) are transforming marriage in Canada. How do the new forms of intimacy such as living apart together, “families of choice,” and choosing to be single fit into our cultural values and frameworks? Are these threatening our traditional understandings of marriage?

Part III

Inside Bountiful: Polygamy Investigation

16x9 Global News, 29:31

Following court challenges to Canada’s law against polygamy (Section 293 of the Criminal Code), this film documents life in Bountiful, BC for Winston Blackmore, his 15 wives, and his more than 100 children (Heath, p. 55). The first part of the documentary details how Blackmore’s family has been modernizing since the mid-2000s. The second part details the split between Blackmore and Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints’ leader Warren Jeffs after Jeffs was arrested for child sexual assault in 2006. Despite the modernization since, life is still guided by strict gender roles and for women, by getting along with multiple co-wives (shown in the third part). The statistical problem of the sex ratio for marriage also remains and begs the questions of “What about the ‘lost boys’?” “Where have the rest (of the boys) gone?” The final part asks whether or not polygamy is a crime or a right of faith. It details the legally questionable activities of Bountiful and FLDS leaders between over the past two decades.

Alternative Link


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. The law against polygamy in Canada (Section 293, Criminal Code of Canada) is challenged by communities like Bountiful, BC. Should it be upheld or struck down? Why?
  2. What are the benefits and disadvantages of polygamy for the co-wives involved? The children? The husband(s)? How do the arranged marriages alluded to in this documentary differ from those practiced in some sub-cultures in in Canada? (p. 54–55)
  3. Blackmore’s family is changing in the face of enormous pressures and litigation. How might social changes like sending co-wives to college change family dynamics?

For a more incriminating perspective on this story, see the Fifth Estate coverage at the time of Winston Blackmore’s trials in the mid-2000s.


Part IV

My Thai Bride

CBC, The Passionate Eye, 43:09

My Thai Bride provides specific examples of the growing “global marketplace of buying sexual labour” (Heath, p. 60). While the Internet and concepts like “hooking up” (p. 57) are aspects of this trend, the central focus of this documentary is on the commercialization of intimacy and marriage (pp. 55–57). Globalization is referred to here in the sense of easier travel and communications which makes finding and maintaining a relationship across cultures more accessible than ever before. In this video we see the prospects for cross-cultural marriage from the vantage of both parties: the white Englishman Edward who feels he has greater access to young attractive women overseas than at home, and the Thai bar girl Tip who feels she has few other avenues for improving life for herself and her child. The myth of “Yamo” and the hope that she will bring good luck and a good life to Tip’s family has resonance throughout the documentary. The outcomes of this arrangement provide a great application of social exchange theory (pp. 58–59). Racial stereotypes can be introduced as part of the sexual scripts (pp. 57–58) played out by Thai bar girls and Western tourists.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. How do racialized images (p. 59) and stereotypes of sexual scripts permeate the culture of sex tourism portrayed in this video? How are Edward and his Western friends drawing on racialized imagery to find the perfect spouse? Are the Thai bar girls doing the same?
  2. How are both Edward and Tip using gender typing and sexual scripts (p. 57) in developing their ideals of intimacy and marriage?
  3. Apply social exchange theory to Edward and Tip’s relationship. Would you say this shows democratization or a commercialization of intimacy (pp. 50–51, 55–56)? How?
  4. Edward describes being exploited by Tip while colonialism and disadvantage resonate throughout Tip’s story. Whose side are you on and why? How might this marriage compare to those of South Asian women in arranged marriages in Canada (p. 54)?