Is author Nicholas Sparks ruining relationships?Sunday, February 12, 2012 By Lindsay Esparrago
“Message in a Bottle,” “A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Dear John,” “The Vow,” “The Lucky One” ... What do all of these movies have in common? Well, besides being movies based on books written by Nicholas Sparks, they’re all heart-wrenching, depressing, sappy love stories made to make teenage girls’ emotions run wild. At least that’s what girls have come to believe. Sparks has published 16 novels in his 26-year career -- all of which have dealt with either cancer, death, love ... Or all of the above combined. That last topic, “love,” is what really brings tension to Sparks’ stories. The movies based on the author’s books are what divide the sexes into opposing camps. With Sparks having made $1 million from “The Notebook” alone, one must wonder what makes him so successful and popular in the book and movie industries. Girls seem to be drawn in and hooked by what he has to say. “[Sparks] talks about relationships, and when us girls aren’t in one, we live through the books and movies to make us feel better about ourselves,” senior Rachel Nelson said. Sparks gives girls something to look forward to in life and demonstrates that chivalry is not entirely dead. “He shows perfect relationships, giving girls hope that someday they will find their own Nicholas Sparks,” senior Haley Voyles said. Then there are the boys who are cajoled by girlfriends or female friends into watching the movies with them. Perspectives differ and cause controversy between genders -- making Sparks’ stories a battle of the sexes. Many boys claim Sparks is just helping girls’ imaginations create unattainable fantasies. “The stories attract women because Sparks tells them what they want to hear. It’s all so unrealistic,” senior Devin Miller said. “You’re never going to find a relationship like the ones he writes about.” Then again, not all guys agree with that opinion. Senior Lane Edwards sided with what many girls believe. “Guys like the sappy stories he creates, too; we just don’t want to admit it,” Edwards said. “There’s something about that goofy smile you get because of all the corny catchphrases.” So the question is, is Sparks setting the standards too high for how women should expect to be treated? Are these expectations for relationships hurting or helping today’s real-life love stories? Some girls believe that relationships such as the ones Sparks writes about are attainable. “Guys just need to stop being lazy and act more like the guys in the novels,” senior Kitty Malone said. “It’s as simple as that.” Some guys believe there’s some sanity in what Sparks has to say. “I think the story lines can be realistic. I guess people do crazy things when they’re in love,” senior Albert Johnson said. “I was actually interested in ‘The Notebook,’ and watched it when I was single.” Some share the belief that Sparks’ books should be used as guidelines for every guy wanting to be a successful “romantic.” “It’s a good thing for guys. It should give them pointers on what girls want... It’s called effort,” Voyles said. “I mean, my boyfriend quotes ‘The Notebook’ more than I do.” Others have given up on what they believe to be difficult-to-reach standards, suggesting that the books seem to be nothing but fiction: all imaginary and not at all possible. “It’s all fantasy. Girls have high expectations because of what they see in the movies,” senior Casey Bartholomew said. “We’re only in high school; you can’t expect much.” Debate exists about whether girls are at fault for wanting too much, or guys are to blame for not stepping up their game. “I don’t know any guy that would build a house for a girl after she leaves him... No girl is worth that work,” Miller said with a laugh, referring to the popular Sparks novel “The Notebook.” “Girls complain about being single, but it’s a two-way street. Guys shouldn’t have to do everything.” Still, there’s something to be said about the cheesy quotes and out-of-this-world actions that keep girls’ dreams from being crushed. “Love like the love described in [Sparks’] books may be rare, but it is realistic,” Voyles said. “This doesn’t mean everything will be perfect -- hard times and challenges are included -- but it’s worth it.” Sparks seems to have different effects on both genders, but no matter the situation, he finds a way to appeal to the “hopeless romantic” inside most girls and the “soft side” within many guys. To test this theory, why not check out Sparks’ “The Vow,” now in theaters -- perfect timing for all you Valentine sweethearts.