Imagine weddings that are just about the wedding with no thought of lifelong marriage following. That's exactly what UC Davis cultural studies and literature scholar Elizabeth Freeman has done in her new book "The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture."
Freeman says weddings -- as performances, fantasies and rituals of transformation -- are places for imagining and enacting social intimacy other than monogamous heterosexuality. In fact, the wedding has even become a way of performing a relationship between persons and objects, says Freeman, pointing to a recent television ad in which a bride promises to "love, honor and obey" a car in order to own and drive it.
"The Wedding Complex" covers the debates over gay marriage and its relationship to weddings. It also looks at the history of Anglo-American weddings and analyzes how movies, television shows, novels and other cultural expressions depict weddings and what they mean for gays and heterosexuals.
Freeman finds that weddings can be a means to re-imagine belonging through friendship and kinship forms lost to history and not recognized by modern marriage law.
"Some of the richest contemporary images of weddings have little to do with gay or straight unions," Freeman says. "Instead of featuring an ordinary couple with extraordinary accessories (as in the scuba, nudist or bungee-jumping wedding spectacles of the 1970s and 1980s), quite a few mass-mediated wedding spectacles of the last decade or so dramatize ties altogether outside of, beyond, or even antithetical to couplehood itself."
Editor's note: To receive a review copy of "The Wedding Complex," contact Erin Hathaway of Duke University Press at (919) 687-3650, email@example.com