Unlikely Couples

Movie Romance as Social Criticism


Thomas E. Wartenberg

First Edition • July 1, 1999 • 280 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813334394 • $48.00 USD$56.50 CAN

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In Unlikely Couples, Thomas E. Wartenberg directly challenges the view that narrative cinema inherently supports the dominant social interests by examining the way popular films about unlikely couples (a mismatched romantic union viewed as inappropriate due to its class, racial, or gender composition) explore, expose, and criticize societal attitudes, boundaries, and prejudices. The films under consideration — including King Kong, Pygmalion, It Happened One Night, Pretty Woman, White Palace, Some Like it Hot, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Mississippi Masala, Jungle Fever, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Desert Hearts, and The Crying Game — are examined both individually and as a whole to illustrate how the genre uses the figure of a transgressive couple to explore tensions in genre’s use of the figure of a transgressive couple to condemn social hierarchy as well as to raise a range of significant philosophical topics.


Thomas E. Wartenberg is professor of philosophy at Mount Holyoke College and was chair of the film program there from 1991-1999.

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