Nicolas Sparks and the Allegory of Pretty White People Who Struggle until Everything Works Out

I have to admit that I am really relieved. While doing my morning Internet browsing, I discovered on the Huffington Post that it Turns Out Dressing Like Gigi Hadid Is Cheaper Than You’d Think.

And when I thought things couldn’t get any better, right there also on HuffPo, I read that the anti-pretty women-of-Hollywood (who is gorgeous!), Jennifer Lawrence, years ago before she was famous totally bombed her Abercrombie and Fitch photo shoot because she was sweating and making ugly faces.

I should add that some of my giddiness may be in the wake of watching The Longest Ride last night [1].

This is a film adaptation of a novel by Nicolas Sparks, which his web site teases in part with:

A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward — even life and death — loom large in everyday life.

Luckily, the movie stars two very pretty people, Britt Robertson (who, I checked, is not 12) as the Art Major and Scott Eastwood (the very pretty son of Clint) as the Cowboy (did I mention he is very pretty).

Once I realized the Art Major is in fact a college student and traditional college age (and not a local middle schooler, which would have been a much different movie), I was hooked to see how NC played a part in this love story.

I nearly stopped watching because early on the movie introduces an Old Man who seems about to die, and isn’t pretty at all. Luckily, we soon get flashbacks and discover he is pretty as a young man and falls in love with a very pretty woman.

I am kind of fuzzy on some of the details, but I do recall that the flashback pretty people have bunches of sad stuff happen (he even goes to war and seems to lose the ability to father a child while retaining the ability to have sex), including the pretty flash-back woman leaving the Old Man when he is young and pretty (although she comes back).

Mixed in with the pretty flash-back couple, and I was really getting confused, the Art Major and Cowboy have very clean shower sex (because she falls in the pond!), but also lots of really sad stuff happens.

The Cowboy rides bulls for a living and keeps having accidents that really are going to kill him if he doesn’t quit. His mother (played by the used-to-be-very-pretty Lolita Davidovich) keeps warning the Cowboy but it seems he has to ride those bulls!

Some people may miss that this film adaptation has some really important literary qualities. The Art Major and the Cowboy are very pretty people, but they have real struggles nonetheless.

The Art Major has to choose between her blossoming art career and the Cowboy, symbolically represented by New York city and North Carolina, and the Cowboy just has to ride those damn bulls, symbolically represented by his riding those bulls in slow motion with cut-aways to a slow-motion timer. The Cowboy’s dilemma is masterfully reinforced by his mother constantly mentioning the folly of a sport that lasts 8 seconds and nearly kills the rider every time.

[One interesting side not, possibly coming to my mind because of my comic book background, is the Cowboy has amazing powers of recuperation. I wonder if the novel explains something like Wolverine or Daredevil’s use of meditation?]

I hate to post spoilers, but the most powerful thematic element of the film is at the end when the Art Major and the Cowboy are reunited after the Old Man dies. And, here is the real tear-jerker, the Old Man’s will has a twist that leads to making it possible for an Art Major and Cowboy to be together (and millionaires)!

So I guess, after all, my morning glee probably has far more to do with watching this movie than the wonderful Gigi Hadid and Jennifer Lawrence news on HuffPo.

In fact, the more I think about it, I may need to post a comment at HuffPo about their sexist columns: Why no article on how I can dress affordably like Bradley Cooper?

[1] By the way, I was raised in the South where we are raised to slow down and stare at accidents. I was skimming past all my U-verse channels and paused when I realized is set in North Carolina, and a couple hours later, I had watched the whole thing.

Originally published at on January 3, 2016.

Written by

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store