A few weeks ago I was in Los Angeles, alone with no plans on a Tuesday night. When I checked the movie app on my phone and saw that a screening of Purple Rain was playing at LA Live, I bought a ticket without thinking twice. A few hours later I was sitting in the dark with my fellow Prince fans, watching the late, great, Purple One come alive on screen. We sang along, laughed in unison at the awkward moments and some of us even danced in the aisles. My Mom and I are big Prince fans, so his passing ten days earlier hit us hard. But, that night I felt pure joy and gratitude – like all of us were in this together.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Purple Rain follows “The Kid” (Prince) a young, talented musician, tormented by an abusive situation at home. When The Kid meets Apollonia, a beautiful, aspiring singer, he has to contend with a burgeoning romance, a rival singer and his own personal demons. The movie itself is a bit goofy (it was made in 1984 so there’s a lot of eye-liner and stilted dialogue) but the musical performances are utterly flawless. As a cultural artifact, it’s a beautiful thing.
Originally I planned on writing about how Prince’s music has affected my life – how songs like Little Red Corvette provided the soundtrack to my sexual awakening and how seeing him live for the first time in 2011 made me believe in the healing and transcendent power of music – but, I’ve already covered that ground. So, I’ll say this –
Ladies and gents, we need to talk about Purple Rain.
Watching Purple Rain again as a sex and relationship writer, I couldn’t help but remark on some of the important things the film can teach us about modern love and dating. So, in an effort to keep things light, here’s a few of my favourites.
1. No one likes a lurker.
Well, unless that lurker is Prince. Generally, I would say that lurking awkwardly behind a woman, wearing sunglasses in a darkened night club is not a good move. Neither is disappearing into thin air as soon as she turns around and says, “I really liked your song too.” But, Prince makes it work.
In fact, there are a lot of dating moves in Purple Rain that are a bad idea, like stealing a woman’s jewelry or having sex in a room filled with clown dolls (Don’t worry – I’ll get to that in a minute.) But, what you need to understand is that different rules apply to Prince.
Because, Prince is magic.
2. Eye Contact is everything.
Before there was Facebook, Tinder and sites like flirtfair.ca, singles relied on smoky bars like First Avenue, awesome guitar solos and eye-contact to impress the opposite sex. Lots and lots of eye-contact. Prince is king of the sex stare. The way he looks at Apollonia is so direct it’s almost unsettling, but it lures her (and us) in anyways.
FYI, I attribute Prince’s sex stare to why I spent most of my twenties serially dating really intense dudes with big brown eyes.
3. Beware of men who play with puppets.
Although Prince’s vampire mini-me is kind of adorable, there’s something a bit creepy about guys who use puppets to express their feelings (pro-tip: I wouldn’t recommend adding “ventriloquism” to your Tinder profile.) But, because it’s Prince we also let this one slide. Just remember – you’ve been warned.
4. If a guy asks you to “pass an initiation” and “purify yourself in Lake Minnetonka”- keep your clothes on.
Take it from Apollonia – it’s never the right lake. Also, when your boyfriend drives off on his purple motorcycle and you’re left naked, without a towel, it’s a real bitch getting back into your leather pants.
5. Stay away from Morris Day (&/or guys like him.)
Sure, Morris Day is really good at dancing “The Bird” and manages to keep his light coloured suits really clean despite spending most of his working hours in a bar, but his character in Purple Rain is bad news. First of all, he has some of the best/worst/creepiest pick up lines ever.
For example, “Your lips would make a lollipop too happy” (shudder) and everyone’s favourite, “I have a brass waterbed.” Morris, that doesn’t even make any sense, but if I had to visualize your bedroom it would look something like this. (photo credit)
In addition to mentioning his bedroom furniture, Morris also tells Apollonia, “I’m going to make you love me” which, he attempts to do by opening his white coat and repeatedly thrusting his pelvis while making bird noises in a darkened alleyway.
You know, all totally normal stuff men do to attract beautiful women. I think Apollonia’s expression says it all.
Failure to stay away from dudes like Morris means that you may find yourself cornered by a pelvic thrusting lothario or literally, thrown in a dumpster. However, unlike in the movie, a guy in high heels won’t show up on his purple motorcycle to save you.
Instead, it’s all about the strategic nipple flash.
If only Morris Day knew. If you feel like you’re losing your girl, flash a nipple. It worked for Prince. However, it also doesn’t hurt if you sing a knee weakening rendition of Beautiful Ones while you flash said nipple. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go take a cold shower.
6. Closed mouth kissing is weird, dude.
My sister and I rarely see eye to eye, but when we watched Purple Rain for the first time together we were in agreement about one thing: “what is up with the kissing?” Prince is/was an incredibly sexy human being, but he kisses Apollonia like I used to make my Barbies kiss my lone Ken doll. I’d mash their permanently closed mouths together and move their heads around a bunch (probably because my only point of reference was Purple Rain.)
For the record, I’ve dated guys who wouldn’t open their mouths or relax their lips while kissing and it’s frustrating. I can’t help but watch this movie and think, “relax your lips” – especially since Prince’s lips are a work of art.
I want to believe the reason for this comes down to shyness. As a musician, maybe Prince was uncomfortable with the love scenes? But, then there’s the bed scene where Prince clearly gets a handful (and then some) of Apollonia (cue: cold shower #2) so, I don’t know.
In the words, of Prince, “Purple Rain, you make me so confused.”
7. Remove all clowns from your bedroom (Unless you’re into that. Then, carry on.)
We also need to talk about the clowns. Prince’s character in the movie lives in his parents’ basement. Inside his living space we see the following: music stuff, some pseudo Warhol-esque prints, canning supplies and clown dolls.
His movie bedroom kind of reminds me of the summer I spent dating our neighbourhood’s weed dealer – a guy who also had a finely honed sex stare, lived in a dingy basement suite and collected plush tigers (which, almost seems less creepy, but not really.) There was a period in the 80’s when these clown dolls weren’t considered totally terrifying. We are no longer living in that era. TLDR: if Bae’s apartment looks like a casting call for a miniature circus, run.
8. Parents give really grim dating advice.
When Prince’s movie Dad tells him, “never get married” my heart breaks a tiny bit – partly, because this is a really heart-wrenching moment in the film but also because I’ve heard similar advice from my own relatives. While they likely have good intentions, it can be incredibly disheartening to hear these kinds of things from our parents. It’s also important to keep in mind that none of us are destined to repeat their mistakes.
9. But, sometimes we repeat our parents mistakes anyways.
Sometimes we really are like our father/mother (too bold/never satisfied) and we end up repeating the same relationship patterns we witnessed growing up. This becomes abundantly clear when “The Kid” slaps his girlfriend and then struggles with his feelings during a montage set to When Doves Cry. But, here’s the thing – regardless of our past, we’re all capable of having healthy relationships. In order to get there though, we need to sort through our personal shit first. Whether that’s through an epic guitar solo or psychotherapy, we all have emotional baggage that we need to unpack.
10. Relationships are weird and wonderful.
If aliens were forced to watch Purple Rain, I’m pretty sure they’d think it was a weird movie – because it kind of is (remove all of Prince’s iconic musical performances, and you’re basically left with the plot line of a horror film where a socially inept dude lives in a basement, makes a lot of really intense eye contact and pops up places he’s not supposed to be.) But, for those of us who are familiar with Prince, watching Purple Rain is pure love. In fact, Purple Rain is a bit like any relationship. Moments of joy and beauty are interspersed with truly cringe worthy ones and shit you just can’t explain (like weird kissing, puffy shirts and clown doll collections) but that (for whatever reason) you adore anyways. We accept the imperfections, because taken as a whole, it’s magical.
Rest in Peace, Prince.