Cashing in on love seems cynical no? Taking advantage and marketing love, the purist of emotions which (in theory) shouldn't be commercialised. But alas as the marketing cycle goes on, the second the Christmas cards have been heaved off the shelves, up shoot Valentine's Day cards. Pink and red, hearts and glitter - as Darius Danesh once said; 'Can you feel the love in this room?' And despite what we hear on programmes like Sex & the City that Carrie Bradshaw's looking for real love, consuming love, we still buy into the concept of the fairytale, one which is frequently underlined by elegant Valentine's Day cards, luxury Christmas presents, grand gestures and a dozen red roses.
Let's not forget that 50 Shades of Grey - the blockbuster chick flick based on the erotic novel which opens on, yes Valentine's Day - is underpinned by extravagance. By private planes, yachts, mansions. We're not talking real life here, we're talking fantasy and fairytales. Prepare for features in the magazines and online on what to wear for Valentine's Day, masses of lingerie spreads and red - red roses, red lingerie, red dresses. It is estimated that Valentine's Day generates an estimated $14.7 billion (£9.2 billion) in retail sales in the United States - yikes. But it's not just one day a year, the ultimate money maker has to be the wedding industry. It has exploded into and the average wedding is now reported to cost more than £18,000 - and everyone wants a piece of the action.
"In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." Mr Darcy, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
No longer simple and easy, your dream day is running into thousands so convinced by marketing, fashion and trends that you must have the perfect, extravagant dress, the fancy castle, the foreign location. Uprooting friends and family to take them halfway across the globe to stand around with sand in their shoes, getting sunburnt wearing a designer kaftan whilst you exchange vows. Personalised favours, pricey photo booths and recently even Jimmy Choo released wedding shoes which could be monogrammed on the sole. Basically if you didn't get engaged on a yacht, married in a castle and honeymoon travelling the world on a private jet, (all covered by Vogue naturally) it's just not enough. I jest of course but weddings, the engagement ring, party, hen and stag dos have all become modern status symbols. Alas also with a competitive with who has the best - see the film The Hangover and Bridesmaids for the most ridiculous and extreme examples.
"Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,/All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine." Ophelia, Hamlet
TV shows like Don't tell the bride have excelled because they take the traditional female role of planning the whole day with military precision to give it to, deep breath, the man! Omg what if he fucks it up? What if he doesn't know which shade of satin princess wedding dress you want? What if it's not a bloody fairytale?!? A touch patronising to men, non? Yet, I suppose in reality men kind of lead the whole affair, as they are the ones with the power to propose in the first place.
"No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how." Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Yet the fairytale is a prison of our own making - women have been the perfect subjects for marketing around love. We've been told from birth that the prince is coming. Get in your tower, grow your hair and be chaste (but spirited obvs). Rapunzel was my favourite in her tower with her long hair ready for the prince to climb up. But there's Cinderella (you can't pull in those rags love), Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
"'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair to me.' Immediately the hair fell down and the king's son climbed up. At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her; but the king's son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought: 'He will love me more than old Dame Gothel does'; and she said yes, and laid her hand in his." Rapunzel by The Brothers Grimm
As we reach our adult years the fairytale is omnipresent in the media, films, books, the happy ending in Kate and William, Brangelina, George and Amal Clooney. Chick lit becoming chick flicks with Twilight, 27 Dresses, He's Just Not That Into You, etc. Even our own Facebook and Instagram feeds are an edited, filtered and probably photoshopped version of our lives - wedding pictures included. And yes 50 Shades of Grey with minimal plot and terrible writing features the normal average girl who is picked out by rich billionaire with a penchant for a red room of pain. Modern fairytale yah? Speaking of modern fairytales, we have seen years of fairytales flourishing at the cinemas - think Frozen, think big budgets and huge casts like Into The Woods - there is a lot of money to be made in repackaging well known stories with a little twist and a happy ending. If you want to watch the best truly ironic fairytale - try Shrek - where the norm is subverted for comic genius and a few true life lessons.
"Laters, baby." Christian Grey, 50 Shades of Grey
But in modern times its ironically harder to meet people. The Prince doesn't roam round on horseback looking to his Princess these days. That's why online websites - Match, Tinder, My Single Friend and so on - are flourishing. And for once, this seems to be marketed to men as much as it is to women. After all, on these websites one can't exist without the other. I do enjoy Match's marketing, it's been through many transformations. A few years ago they were playing a numbers game - 'we have loads of men but not enough women' and then two weeks later they would put out the opposite message. Then it moved to flowery commercials 'I'm so busy I can't meet anyone so match just fits in with my life I can chat to people on the app' - hmmm like Tinder? Tinder, the dating app that is free to use, obviously made Match reasses their USP and so this year they have a 'love your imperfections' campaign. The idea as they say in Sex and the City that your soulmate is that perfect piece to complete you.
“When I was a little girl I used to read fairy tales. In fairy tales you meet Prince Charming and he's everything you ever wanted. In fairy tales the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is. Then you grow up and you realize that Prince Charming is not as easy to find as you thought. You realize the bad guy is not wearing a black cape and he's not easy to spot; he's really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair.” Taylor Swift
So consider this. You do not find men dieting into their wedding suit. You don't find magazines for men on wedding attire. They don't need help or have arguments about stag dos. Their friends don't continually ask how they're getting on with their love life. Men don't wonder when they're getting married or spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about it. Maybe the proverbial glass ceiling has love hearts all over it? Anyway to finish off I probably should reveal I'm not a TOTAL cynic. Yes dear readers, I am a closet romantic and my birthday is actually on Valentine's Day. Yep a genuine Valentine's Day baby - doesn't get anymore love filled than that. Now, where is Prince Charming? Watch the official 50 Shades of Grey trailer -
Watch Into The Woods trailer -