Monday, April 27, 2009

Stalking in Seattle?

A first-time viewer (congratulations!) was sharing her impressions of Sleepless In Seattle with me recently, and she raised an objection to Annie Reed's conduct in the film: "Isn't she kind of a stalker?"

Well, yes and no.

Yes, Annie Reed goes to some lengths to track down Sam Baldwin and his son, but I would argue that her actions only seem extreme because she has the means to conduct a more thorough search because of her profession.

At first, Annie is satisfied to write a letter to Sam and Jonah, as hundreds of women across the country have done. She throws away her letter and attempts to forget about the whole thing, but a viewing of An Affair to Remember and a conversation with her friend Becky, followed by some pier-side soul-searching (paired with Sam's dockside contemplation in a wonderful bit of editing) leave her convinced that she can't move on yet. And unlike the other women who are convinced that they are meant to be with Sam Baldwin, Annie is a reporter and knows how to track people down.

The next day at her office, she makes some phone calls to get Sam and Jonah's last name (unknown by her until this point) and searches a database of national newspapers for mentions of a Sam and Jonah Baldwin, eventually determining that Sam Baldwin is an architect who formerly lived in Chicago and who lost his wife. She then faxes a request to a detective agency in Seattle to get a photograph of Sam.

This may seem extreme, but what if Sleepless In Seattle took place in the present Google-age? It wouldn't take much work nowadays, I'm sure, for anybody to figure out Sam and Jonah's last name and to find out where they lived. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes of Googling. If the movie took place in the present day, all those women with the inclination to find out more about Sam and Jonah would have been able to. Annie's actions only seem extreme because of the limited means she had access to. Rather than searching the Internet, she had to make a few (dishonest) phone calls; rather than a Google image search, she had to call a private detective.

But is Annie's conduct a violation of Sam's privacy? This gets tricky. I'm inclined to argue that it is not. As soon as Sam agreed to be interviewed on Dr. Marcia's radio show, he became emotionally involved—even if he was unaware of this involvement—with everybody listening to the show. To some extent, a relationship was formed. It's something to think about, now that impersonal communication has become even more widespread. What sort of relationship am I establishing with the people who read this blog? To what degree am I obliged to my readers emotionally? And to what extent are they indebted to me? Once communication extends beyond the face-to-face, the directly personal, what constitutes a relationship?

These are just some more big questions that Sleepless In Seattle raises and invites us to consider.

P.S. Though I object to the following "trailer"'s disrespectful treatment of Sleepless, I recognize that it might hold some comedic value for my readers. It is for them that I include it here:

No comments:

Post a Comment