The Notebook Problem

Why All Women Love the Notebook!

notebook movieby Jonathan Hilton

It astounds me that no matter who you meet, their age, economic background, political leanings or any other dynamic that you can think of, all women seem to be universal in their love for the movie, The Notebook.

I spent a little time to try to understand this phenomenon.  I think that if I can understand this fascination then, perhaps, I will be on my way to finally understand the fairer sex.  It’s the classic story, rich city girl Alli Hamilton meets poor country boy Noah Calhoun and they fall in love, Noah promises to build her a house, and even though they are separated by unforeseen circumstances for many years through trials and tribulations.

Even though Alli blows Noah off he still carries a torch for her through his stint in world war II and losing his best pal.  Alli moves on to find another guy to marry who her parents like much more than Noah.

He still carries his love for Alli even though every normal person would have long forgotten her and her foolish ways. It just seems that all women secretly long to be so important to someone else that they build a house for them.

As our two lovers come back together, we see them pick up where they left off and realize that her mother schemed to keep them apart for all of those years.  They decide to stay together and have a happy life, and that is the story.  As Alli is in declining health, Noah reads the story of their life to them out of a Notebook, in the end dying together before she forgets everything all together.

What a Woman Sees In the Notebook

notebook movie

When a woman watches the movie, they seem to be very selective about what they see.

It seems almost without exception they see a man in love with a woman, who carries a torch for her even though she has apparently forgotten all about him and moved on to some rich guy.

They also see a guy who spends all of his money and time rebuilding a house which to them is a symbol of his everlasting love.  Women also see a man who is carrying around in his heart a quiet but sure flame for his true love, I mean why else would he build  her a studio in his house?

It is so lovely!   At the end of her life, he loves her so much that he comes back to spend every day with her at the nursing home, even though  she doesn’t remember it, and in the end, the last time that she remembers him, they hold hands and pass away peacefully together.

How sweet, they think, he really loved her and if only I could experience that kind of commitment from a man I would be happy.

It must be a universal theme because so many women say that this is their favorite movie.  I don’t see it on many lists of favorite movies for guys, though. Noah  Calhoun represents their ideal man, which no man can possibly live up to.

What a Man Sees when he watches the Notebook

The perception of a man is quite different than his female counterpart.  First of all

notebook movie

they look at a man who was totally mistreated by this woman, and still he was so whipped that he spent all of his time, going off the deep end, building a house for her, and only sleeping with women that reminded him of her.

When she finally does come back, he welcomes her with open arms, even though she has been out fooling around with rich guys and not thinking about him at all, or at least very little.

You wouldn’t be marrying someone else if you were still in love.  This guy can’t accept the truth or take a hint.  He pines away for her like a fool.  Even in the end, he can’t even die when he wants to, he has to check out of this life on her schedule.

Totally, and completely whipped.  Who would want to live like that?  The Notebook totally disregards the male perspective and perpetrates this female dream, that if a man truly loves you, you can treat him like crap and he’ll still build a house for you.

The real problem with this is that when they are faced with a real relationship, they measure every guy compared to the dude in the Notebook.  It is not realistic and those guys do not exist, and the sooner you understand the difference between reality and the movies the happier we all will be.

Birds Have Meaning In The Notebook

From the opening scenes to the end of the story there is a constant present of birds throughout the movie.

Birds have traditionally been seen as vehicles of messaging or of foreshadowing of things to come.  These birds represent the story of Noah and Alli from the start to the end of the movie, at one time they even say, “I’m a bird.”,  and Noah replies, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird too.”

I think that the overall representation is that the birds throughout the movie show the perceived timelessness of their love.  All of this just contributes to the myth that for every heartbroken Alli Hamilton out there, a Noah Calhoun exists just to make all of their inner dreams come true.

I suppose this could be the case. Perhaps I am so adamant because I have been hurt, or maybe even deep down I have a hope that love like this can exist somewhere.  Either way, I will probably start a new tradition of watching this movie I “hate” every Valentine’s Day until either something romantic comes my way or I turn into a bird.

31 thoughts on “The Notebook Problem”

  1. Ok, I can’t believe I’m writing a comment on this but I somehow feel compelled to…

    I need to also state that I have not actually seen the very beginning of this movie so I am going by your interpretation.

    I do see your point of view John, to some extent; however I do feel there are a few comments that need to be addressed… In the women’s point of view you state ” you wouldn’t be marrying someone else if you were still in love.” I believe and know there are plenty of women out there who marry someone even though they are still in love with someone else, for many different reasons. Maybe Alli married the rich guy to please her parents? Women by nature tend to make other people happy before themselves.

    You also mention Alli and Noah are separated by unforeseen circumstances for many years and trials and tribulations. Maybe she married because after so many unforseen circumstances she realizes its not meant to be. The timing will never work so maybe she is viewed as odd in her rich society. There are a lot of pressures in that type of society to behave a certain way. Is it possible the pressure of that plays into why she married the rich guy in the first place?

    I think the idea of a man promising to do something (build a house, not cheat, clean the house, etc.) and keeping his word is what all of us would want and expect. It goes both ways. We all expect people to keep their word. To be honest and truthful. Yes it does seem a bit far fetched that something that big (building the house) is within reality but the idea of a man or woman giving their word and keeping it, is something we all strive for.

    I don’t think all women expect men to be like Noah. But i’m sure they do expect a prospective husband to be truthful and honest, to keep their word. Afterall isn’t that what we all have in the end? Possessions come and go but our word is our own to do with what we may. Keep it or lie.. It defines what kind of person we are. And I’m sure most women expect the man to be a man who keeps his word. Even if it is as extreme as building a house for her.
    Some men actually believe their word is their word. It defines who they are. If they don’t keep their word then they have let themselves down. So…. if promising to build a house is his word theny he will keep it, no matter how foolish it may look like to someone else.

    I have to agree with you on the ending. Dying together is simply a movie over romancing reality. But isn’t that what movies are for? To take us to another place where we can escape reality. The movies are where things are expected to be perfect, over romanticized, extremely violent and unrealistically sexy. I’d love for you to talk about a movie where the women are impossibly sexy and leave no hope for us women to live up to the expectations of the men viewing it.

    To mess with your quote a little bit: It is not realistic and those (women) do not exist, and the sooner MEN understand the difference between reality and the movies the happier we (women) all will be.

    I hope this comes out the way I had hoped and I am not disregarding your observations. Just hoping you can see from my point of view as well.

    Looking forward to reading a response.

    Michelle Sheehan

  2. Thank you so much for your comment Michelle, I loved it. When I write something I often am just listening to the voice in my head, and it leads where it leads, after reading your comment I was compelled to think about what my reflections are and to explain a little to you about my thoughts about your comments one by one.
    First the genesis of this article, was the fact that it seems that many women, of all different ages, and backgrounds seem to list The Notebook as their all time favorite movies. I had been “forced” to watch it a long time ago, and decided to watch it again but to be skeptical and try to figure out what the attraction is. I am only blessed with the intelligence that God gave me so I am limited by that but I did my best. Now to address your thoughts:
    1. I concede that people marry people they are not in love with all the time, but I would argue that because it happens doesn’t make it right, and doesn’t make a person happy. I also understand that some people do try to make everyone happy. It was a thought that was in my notes that I felt compelled to include. I also agree that the “unforeseen trials and separation” could have caused her to get married to someone she didn’t really love or loved less than Noah.
    As for honesty, I whole heartedly agree with you. I have come to believe that you are only as good as your word and in any relationship it is vital to the success of that relationship. I think that when I wrote this I was thinking of one particular person whom I think was unrealistic and expected much, but gave little if that makes sense. I have done many seemingly foolish things for love, so I not only understand your comment about it, I have been a living example of it. I think that one of the reasons this movie bugs me is because I have loved, and although the expectations of the movie are unrealistic, I miss having that kind of passion in my life.
    As for reviewing a movie that leaves unrealistic expectations about women just name the movie and I will do it. It would be fun! I loved your version of my quote, I agree there are a lot of unrealistic expectations on both sides, from men and women, and honest and open communication by people could solve 99.9% of these problems.
    I completely understand where you are coming from, or at least I think I do. Again loved your comment and would love to hear your thoughts about some other things I have written. I think you have a great perspective!

  3. Thanks Jon for not black listing me from your page, lol.

    I really appreciate your honesty. I think there are a lot of us out there who miss having that kind of passion in our lives. I often wonder where that passion goes. Most people say the passion never stays, it’s just the way it is, they’re accepting in this belief before the passion even fades. I find this an odd thing to believe and accept. It makes me ask why? Why are people so accepting of the passion dying out? Is it because we let the day to day tasks in life take over and leave no room within ourselves? Is it because we become lazy and not give to one another therefore the passion dies out? I believe if you find a person who feels the same as you do and doesn’t want to let that passion die, you will both work at keeping it alive and it will live on.

    There are plenty of people who come and go from our lives that we give a lot to and they’re not accepting or understanding. They make us feel our actions are foolish. When really the actions are not foolish at all. The actions are just not appreciated by that particular person. At least that’s my school of thought.

    As far as naming a movie that has unrealistic expectations about women, I fear I’m at a brick wall. I can’t think of one at the moment. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. I’m sure I’m avoiding them at all costs to keep my self esteem at a normal level!

    I have to admit, I just watched “Bridges of Madison County” for the first time just the other day. It is now on the top of my movie list (just like many other women) and its very similar to “The Notebook” in the sense of romanticism, a woman in love with two men, etc. Chick flick outline all the way….

    I’ll take you up on reading your other things and if you’ll be so kind as to allow me to comment again, I just might!

  4. I liked the movie. I never know about it. I never heard about it.So I was browsing on helifix so check it, click it and started to watch it. The point although love is universal and this movie shows much of the feminine part of manipulating the man’s eternal love, nonetheless, it is also a story of man’s eternal love. He fall in love with her not knowing if she is rich or not. We all did when we were young. Going back to the movie, it was love in the first sight.In his character he showed us -men- to not to be afraid for and to love.

    It is a mystery. Why love so much stronger than pain and imperfection of the other. I kind understand why women loved this movie, because as a women they longed for the one, the one to be one’s and forever. Women desire to have belonged to someone. Even men do. But women’s desire are obvious, when they see a man stick to her wife thru thick and thin, they dream that too. I being man wound give everything to find a women that I love if I could find one now. But is this kind of story are real and can happen in real life. May be. Life is strange. Life is unpredictable…..but love is unstoppable. let’s hope that, for once not being labelled a beautiful movie and as a “womanish” movie, but instead hope for to find a true love that endure for ever.

    One last thing: love is not a mere emotion or a feeling but internal light that won’t stop from burning. Love is a dynamic, not just passive and motionless. it moves a person to its depth. Just remember, the Old man’s pain and anguish when they gave her injection, and then when she could not remembers him after all this years.It says it all.

  5. I don’t have a very high appreciation of this movie..haha! Nicholas Sparks is very good at writing these romance novels and plots and a lot of his movies have been adapted into movies but this one, I really can’t seem to get into. When I first saw it, I just made fun of it with my friend and rolled my eyes..haha. It is originally a very sweet story. I had this discussion with one of my good friends about romance movies. The one thing you can swoon over is about a guy that never lets go to his love and is willing to do everything unconditionally. Its what women wish and hope for in their dream guy and c’mon, add in Ryan Gosling as the lead role who is in my opinion nearing the drop dead gorgeous mixed with charming personality and we’re in business.

    And for exactly those reasons of why guys don’t like this movie is part of why I don’t particularly feel attached to it. There are bits of this story that I didn’t particularly like. I do remember the ending being touching when all is set aside. But I also am hesitant in actually seeing this one again ever since the theatre viewing, I’ve never found the desire to see it again.

    You look at this and you think about say, A Walk to Remember. I’d go for that one anyday because at least its geniunely sad but at the same time, its also bittersweet. This one I just don’t attach to. I can see how women would swoon over it and love it so much but for me, just doesn’t make the cut.

    1. Nice! Now I have a kind of spooky thing to tell you. I was looking for something random to watch last week. Because of your little Valentine’s blogging. On a whim I watch A Walk to Remember, I had never seen it before. Honestly, I loved it. I had no idea what it was about so I was really shocked when she was like, going to die. Heartbreaking. That should be reviewed by you!! Funny you would mention that one. Thanks for the comment and reading the ramblings and rants.

      1. It was on my list but it came up on a day I was not in a good mood so I skipped it..but I will double back to it soon :). I watched a good amount of movies this weekend and I’m scrambling to get all the reviews in. I’m working on one right now during break 🙂

          1. I had thought about replacing A Walk to Remember with The Notebook but I was so reluctant to do it. haha! It will go up soon..just I don’t want to overload anyone with movie review posts 😛 This week will be a busy one..I already have it all lined up..just need to get it all drafted 🙂

            I’m glad you liked A Walk to Remember though. When I first read the novel (before the movie), it was the first one where I cried while reading…dramatic stuff. Its just after a while, Nicholas Spark’s and his drama gets old. Its kind of like, C’mon, you gotta give me some happy endings eventually…So I stopped reading his novels pretty much

  6. Reading your post I was struck by one thing. I have not seen this movie. But a funny quote came to mind. I’m paraphrasing here it went something like this… Marx had it wrong religion isn’t the opiate of the people the movies are.

  7. I sobbed through this movie. So my views will be extremely biased. You have listed all the right reasons for women to love and men to hate this movie. But the book and the movie are such a wonderful ode to love that it is hard to imagine why it wouldn’t be accepted and loved by one and all. As odes most often are, this one too, is highly over the top and completely impractical. I would be hard pressed to find a guy like this in real life. If I did, he would probably be a stalker/ crazy psychopath not a lover who still holds a torch for me. But this movie was so poignant and moving because it was in some ways, very removed from reality. I would watch that movie, cry for the lead characters and then return to the real world where such characters do not exist. I think that is what most of us yearn for in the reel world-something that we don’t get to witness in our real world. 🙂

    1. Amba, you are right. You know that when I wrote that I was particularly frustrated with the fact that my life lacked that kind of passion. Even though this movie is unrealistic, the reason that it has such appeal is that feeling inside each of us that we would like to, for once, feel like we are that important to someone else. That is why people don’t like this movie, because they have never been this important. I understand that, and for you my friend you will find your equal before you know it. You don’t want to just settle for anybody. The best advice I ever heard when it came to love is this, make an honest list of what you are looking for, be honest and you only have to share it with yourself. Then spend your time becoming those things. As you become those things, you will have to attract them into your life. In base testing in my life I have found this to be true. But as a reader recently asked me, Who are you to give advice? That is a good point, but I give it anyway. Thank you for commenting my friend! I am always grateful to hear what you have to say .

  8. I am here to add my Philistine view on this. Romance movies literally make me want to vomit.
    I had to watch Bruce Lee’s “Chinese Connection” 5 times just to lift the melancholy mood from my living room. Sorry, but chick flicks just don’t do it for me, even though I am a woman. Romance novels do the same to me. They are unrealistic. It is like comparing a real person to their perfected photo-shopped photograph. It bothers me because I enjoy French movies and they often have a real human element to them when romance is focused on. Here, we tend to infuse them with saccharine and we lose the beauty of reality, which can be extraordinary if we focus on it.

    1. Love the unique perspective. This movie seems to be such a lightning rod of opinion and I can tell you that either someone loves it or it makes them sick. I enjoy both sides of this argument, because I can see them both clearly. I love your thought that in America we “infuse them with saccharine.” That is the best descriptive phrase I have heard all day. And so true, and the reason is that the more generic they make them the more appeal they feel a film will have and the more money they believe they can make. I agree that there is a beauty in life that comes from things not always being perfect, and what is perfect anyway? I am grateful for the thoughts and the contribution, please feel free to read and comment often. 🙂

      1. Thanks for writing back 🙂 Yes – the wabi-sabi of imperfection! In case you ever get to watch it, there’s a film called Roman de Mare, where the character of Dominique Pinon (who is not what you would call classically handsome), slowly becomes revealed to the woman he meets. By the end, his personality and integrity are such that he is stunning. No saccharine!

        1. I try to answer every note I get on my site. I remember what it was like when I wished people would read and comment on my thoughts. I am grateful for each and every one! I think that movie sounds interesting. Not classically handsome, I think I am going to put that in my description! 🙂

          1. Yeah, sometimes it’s difficult. I don’t post that often and usually spend time commenting on other blogs.

            Don’t do that! I’m sure you are on many ladies’ lists on here 😉

    1. Yes I do believe this is true! When it comes to the Notebook, very differently! 🙂 Thank you for reading this old post!

    1. lol, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Yes of course I have seen Sweet Home Alabama, that is for women. I just happen to make lightning glass for the fun of it! 🙂 Glad you stopped by. Was able to look at your blog for a moment, very interesting stuff. I am not sure if I believe in the soul mate thing. I mean seems to me time is running out on finding that. 🙂 Have a great day and comment on anything you have thoughts about! Loved hearing from you.

      1. It is never too late, in my experience.
        Even though I have lost everything material, I still have many blessings to give me hope for either a twin flame or soul mate to enter my life. Even one day with a beloved is worth the wait – I think that is the point of both of the movies. People have been reunited decades after wars tore them apart, people in comas do wake up after all was thought lost, and some love never dies. I enjoy the thought provocation of your blog posts!
        Blessings and hope, FE

        1. Thank you so much for the hopeful post. I agree that those are the best stories. When love comes from out of nowhere to save the day or the person for that matter. I have a romantic side that has seen these movies from the side of hope. I think many people look at them and dislike them because when they look at their lives they don’t see this love in their own life. I know that is the case for me. Yet maybe if I had a better attitude and believed then it would. You definitely need to comment more often! Thank you for brightening up my day!! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I believe you could be absolutely right, I am not sure my interpretations were accurate or not. I wrote this years ago, it was true for me at the time. That is what is great about any kind of art, there are going to be different interpretations by all observers. Rereading my thoughts, there was definitely a cynical tenor to this and I would probably not write this today, but at the time that was what I thought. Thank you again for taking the time to comment, I am grateful.

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