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June 6, 2007 5:30 AM   Subscribe

The movie "Love Story": When Jennifer Cavalleri turns to Oliver Barrett IV and says, all emotional and teary-eyed, "Love means never having to say you're sorry," what, exactly, does she mean?

Famous tagline of a famous movie, but I'll be damned if I can make sense of it.

What's your take on the meaning of this? That lovers don't need to apologize to each other, due to the level of their shared intimacy? That apologies are communicated between lovers via body language?

I'm confused . . . Set me right.
posted by Gordion Knott to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It means never having to say you're sorry, because you're already forgiven.
posted by filmgeek at 5:42 AM on June 6, 2007

I have to side with filmgeek on this one.

I think it also has to do with the fact that if it's "real" love then they love you, faults and all.
posted by banannafish at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2007

Thirding filmgeek, and also adding that, at least for Love Story, Erich Segal just wrote a bunch of nonsense that sounded good, so really it means nothing at all.
posted by brina at 6:16 AM on June 6, 2007

That line's always driven me insane. It is, as brina says, a bunch of nonsense that sounds good but doesn't mean anything at all. Wouldn't love, consisting, y'know, of compromise and communication and all, involve more apologies as you'd be trying to work out issues, instead of ignoring each other and letting things get between you as you might for any other normal friendship?

The idea being paraded around is probably that Love is unconditional, and if you truly love someone, then whatever they've done has little bearing on your affection for them. (Whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you, etc.)

Which, again, seems ridiculous, but what can I do?
posted by Phire at 6:19 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Narcissitic self-indulgence. An pathological love for oneself is temporarily projected onto another as a detoxing expediency. Excusing them means really excusing oneself within the context of overwhelming entitlement. Arrogance, plain and simple.
posted by meehawl at 6:20 AM on June 6, 2007 [5 favorites]

Like others, I have always bristled at that line. Well, at much of that movie, really. Whether it means, "Since I love you, you don't need to ask for my forgiveness, it comes automagically," or "If you loved me you wouldn't do something that requires special dispensation" -- the two ways I have heard people interpret it -- either seems like a destructive and sentimental idealization of real-world, real people with real emotions and failings, love.
posted by aught at 8:29 AM on June 6, 2007

That line is such bullshit. No woman has ever let me get away with not saying sorry. Even when I'm in the right, I'm still expected to apologize to calm the waters.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:48 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

In "What's up, Doc?", which Ryan O'Neal did 2 years later, Barbra Streisand turns to him at the end of the movie and says "Love means never having to say you're sorry," and he looks at her and says "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Funny movie.
posted by emyd at 8:55 AM on June 6, 2007

I suppose it means you can eat the plums she left in the fridge or possibly one of the ludicrous variations thereof.
posted by unSane at 9:25 AM on June 6, 2007

It means that speaker of the line won't ever be sorry for anything they do to the listener, as the listener only exists for the gratification of the speaker anyhow and their feelings don't matter.

Some people consider this to be romantic.

Stay away from them.
posted by yohko at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

That line bothers me too... Yes, real love should be unconditional in terms of accepting a loved one's faults and foibles, but it would be pretty hard to love someone who never expressed regret or remorse for anything.
posted by amyms at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2007

And if you love someone, won't you WANT to say you are sorry if you've hurt them?
posted by happyturtle at 11:05 AM on June 6, 2007

It means that love is unconditional, certainly not that the apology is somehow implied.

It's also a completely foolish idea, which is why that execrable movie has been the target of fun poked at it for decades.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:45 AM on June 6, 2007

It means love hurts and being in love is a get out of jail for free card.
posted by doctorschlock at 1:13 PM on June 6, 2007

I suppose the complete line should be, True love means never having to say you're sorry, but always wanting to.
posted by Megafly at 4:41 PM on June 6, 2007

You never have to say you're sorry, but often have to say "My bad" or "Whups."
posted by klangklangston at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2007

If that line means they don't have to be accountable for their actions, it's bullshit.
posted by brujita at 11:08 PM on June 6, 2007

Lines like that are funny. Taken entirely out of context, it is so easy to cast them aside as total crap. I just wish I could remember at what point the line came up. My recall for that film isn't the best (I saw it during original release, I'm that old*).

Was it when she was dying? Was it after the big fight? A heart-felt moment when words uttered mean everything they say, but only in context? Or was it like the time she claimed he "wouldn't have enough sense to buy her coffee"?

Let's make fun of an old but popular film because the tagline sounds all cheesey! Wee! We'll just ignore the fact the film was also a social statement against classism.

I'm young enough that I only saw it to see what the fuss was about. My older sister went several times, and I'd never seen anyone go to the same movie more than once, at that point.
posted by Goofyy at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2007

What it means: nothing, gibberish.

What it's supposed to mean: that in true love, it is not necessary to say that you are sorry, because the other person knows that anything you would do to them that was harmful or detrimental would obviously be by accident or unintentional, so saying sorry is unnecessary, as they already know it to be accidental, and your forgiveness is already granted.

Or, something.

I know I've told a beloved before that when they apologized for something it was not necessary as I knew their harm was unintentional. I'm sure most people have said "you don't need to apologize" at some time.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2007

Hey, this isn't closed yet. Found it on a search.

Here is my six-week-late contribution:
Love means never having to say you're sorry.

You do anyway, when you fuck up, but the love is going to continue no matter what. "I'm sorry" can mean various things at various times -- "oh, I fucked up", or "oh, that is sad, and I wish I could do something about that," etc. When it's because you spilled a drink or something, yeah, that's plain old sorry, you fucked up, oh well.

When it's because your girlfriend is dying of cancer, and your instinct, somewhere back in your mind, is to say "I'm sorry"... you don't need to. "What are you apologizing for," one might guess that Jenny is thinking. "Is it because you don't feel like you've done enough for me?" Because that's something you never need to say you're sorry for.

Oliver tells the line to his father at the end of the movie. I feel like this is because Oliver finally realizes that his father loves him, and vice versa, and what is his father apologizing for? His father did everything he could, everything he was asked to do, and then flew there when he figured it all out. He doesn't have to say he's sorry. Oliver knows his father is doing all of this out of love, and there is nothing to apologize for.

I am biased, because the girl I love unconditionally despite our tumultuous, unbelievable, nonsensical relationship and I both really love this movie. I saw it when I was in my teens sometime, maybe 14 or 15, and it was the first time I really started to get what I thought love should look like.

It's not about never feeling sorry for anything. It's about not having to say it. They are different things. It's about replacing facile apologies with action and emotion and love.

The above may be all wrong, but it works for me.
posted by blacklite at 2:26 PM on July 14, 2007

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