“When I was walking down the aisle, I was walking toward somebody who didn’t have any idea who I really was.”
Maggie (Julia Roberts) has a history of cold feet. She has left a slew of men scratching their heads at the altar, but this does not appear to worry her current fiance, Bob (Christopher Meloni). When newspaper columnist Ike Graham (Richard Gere) writes an unflattering article about Maggie, she protests and renders Ike unemployed. Desperate for redemption, Ike travels to Maggie’s hometown and attempts to get to know the runaway bride even better than she knows herself.
This one almost stumped me, Readers. I had not seen Runaway Bride before this post and it is tricky to uncover serious mental illnesses when they wear the guise of a romantic comedy, but then again, it’s nice to know even crazy people can live happy lives, right?
Part of what stumped me was that I was judging Maggie – and harshly, at that. Yes, she has left a multitude of men without a bride, but everyone in town loves Maggie. Even her exes seem to forgive her! I was focused on diagnosing her with some incredibly serious, destructive disorder, but her loving, consistent relationship with her friend Peggy (Joan Cusack) and lack of venom from her exes does not add up to anything volatile. Maggie holds a steady job, doesn’t dress to impress, and doesn’t appear to call attention to herself in any way that would point to a personality disorder. She doesn’t seem to have a drug or drinking problem, though she has to act as a nurse for her dad’s issues in this regard. Ike thinks that Maggie doesn’t know what she wants (based on a totally irrational argument about how she likes her eggs cooked which results in her choosing the most delicious preparation, poached as part of a Benedict). The truth, I think, is that Maggie does know what she wants, but she has been at the mercy of men – like her father – her whole life and maybe she doesn’t exactly know how to say it.
Maggie suffers from something called scopophobia. An incredibly strong fear of being stared at or watched, scopophobia is a phobia (obviously), placing it in the realm of anxiety disorders. Although it’s a little suspect that it took Maggie this many weddings to figure this out, phobias are not always so obvious to the people who have them. After all, plenty of people don’t like being watched or stared at when they do certain things; personally, I hate when people watch me open gifts.
Maggie, though, seems ready to marry Ike and is walking toward him when someone takes her photograph. Her turn from nervous bride-to-be to immediately fleeing the scene might mean that the camera triggered this phobia. Like most people with a phobia, there is a ritual that Maggie performs when she experiences this uncomfortable anxiety and in the case of Ike, she does what has worked for her in the past; she runs away. Maggie does really want to marry Ike, though, and finally she feels safe enough to articulate what her problem actually is; it’s not the getting married part, but the wedding itself that bothers her.