Money don’t get everything … it’s true!

Elton Wong

Our modern conception of romance is weird. On one hand we uphold the ideals developed in the European romantic period, in which poets like Shelly and composers like Chopin rebelled against the rationalistic scientific mindset of the day.

The artists and thinkers involved in this movement tried to place emphasis on human creativity and emotion instead of strict logic and structure.

Chopin rejected traditional harmonic and melodic practices, and his music has a lyrical, chromatic quality that became an important element of romantic music.

Shelly redefined poetry stylistically and thematically. Our present attitudes toward romantic love owe much to this period, inasmuch as romantic love is associated with rebellion, creativity, and the like.

On the other hand, we’re still dealing with holdover from the traditional views of marriage. In the past, marriages were almost always arranged by parents for economic reasons.

Ideas about true love certainly go back a long way, but the idea of love having anything to do with marriage is a relatively new one. In addition, it’s an idea that apparently hasn’t caught on completely.

This was especially evident last night, when Fox aired “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire.”

Fox is the same network that brought us “World’s Scariest Car Chases 4” and “When Good Times Go Bad,” the latter of which was devoted to carnival rides malfunctioning and killing people. That can’t make for good karma.

In case you haven’t heard of this latest game show, it was basically like a Miss America contest, except the winning lady got to marry a multi-millionaire, whose identity was not revealed until the end, when the actual marriage happened.

Other than this detail, the show was true to the beauty pageant paradigm, in that it pretended to be about personality and intelligence, while still requiring the competitors to parade around in bathing suits like prize hogs.

Throughout, Mr. Multi-Millionaire sat backstage and watched the women on a TV screen. Thousands of women volunteered to marry the millionaire, based on no information other than the fact that he was a millionaire.

It seems that the Beatles were wrong. Money can buy you love.

I saw “Anna and the King” over Christmas break. It was a movie about the King of Siam and his relationship with a teacher, played by Jodie Foster. The King had about 50 wife/concubines and 70-odd children. To quote Chow Yun-Fat from the film, that’s “not as many as the Emperor of China, but he didn’t spend half his life in a monastery.”

I’m now beginning to wonder when this sort of thing is going to start happening in our society.

I guess polygamy is illegal, except for the Mormons a while ago. But money still equals power.

There’s nothing stopping Fox from airing, say, “Who Wants to be a Concubine,” or “Who Wants to Make Babies For Some Rich Guy.” OK, that’s pretty offensive, I admit.

But at least I’m not the one making women wear swimsuits on television so that I can marry one of them.

In addition to the fact that money helps one attract a mate, the forces of commercialism have intruded into other aspects of courtship and romance as well. Take diamonds, for example. They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend; there’s nothing more traditional than a diamond ring.

It turns out that diamonds were not particularly valued until DeBeers launched a wildly successful advertising campaign around the turn of the century.

The rule that one should spend two month’s salary on a diamond engagement ring was also hatched by diamond sellers; the point was that a diamond allows a woman to display her fianc‚’s financial status on their finger.

In fact, the reason diamonds are so expensive in the first place is because suppliers purposely limit the number of gems they release from their warehouses every year, so they can keep the prices high.

Valentine’s Day, as all know, has become increasingly linked to certain patterns of consumption, to the extent that it has basically become a corporate holiday. Valentine’s Day is much like black history month, in that it “celebrates” something that should be part of our lives all the time, whether in the academic or romantic sense.

It’s not impossible to keep a sense of perspective about the whole deal. I wasn’t able to spend Valentine’s Day with my own special girl, Aprille, because she lives in Iowa City, but I’m still going to spend some “delayed Valentine’s day” quality time with her this weekend.

Maybe it’s the whole long-distance relationship deal, but I think that spending time with your sweetheart is ultimately more important and valuable than fancy gifts and things like that.

Aprille, I may never be a millionaire, but I promise I love you more than any other boy ever could. I’ll see you this weekend, OK?

Elton Wong is a senior in biology and philosophy from Ames.