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Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date

It’s the classic Victorian love story scene — a couple lounging in a rowboat, on a lazy summer afternoon in the middle of the lake, while he woos her with poetry by Byron or Keats.

A lady and her suitor are having a romantic date on a rowboat. This was a popular dating image for the 19th and early 20th century upper classes, as it provided a chance for couples to be alone together, but still in plain sight to avoid accusations of anything sexual happening.

The typical image is the lady sitting under her Parasol of Prettiness in a mildly Pimped-Out Dress, while the gentleman sits on the other side, wooing her in various ways.

Now "old fashioned" in the title means it. This isn't quite a Dead Horse Trope, but spoofs of it far outnumber straight uses these days, usually with at least one of the participants falling into the water if the boat doesn't sink. Also, the "Tunnel of Love" rides in amusement parks was sort of a play on this trope, using the dark to allow couples to have intimate contact with nobody actually seeing anything. Another popular variation is a date in a Venetian gondola (with the bonus that you can pay someone else to do the actual rowing).

A Sister Trope to Serenade Your Lover, Courtly Love (another romance ideal), Married at Sea (taking this to another level).

Compare The Gay Nineties, Chaste Hero, Celibate Hero, The Ingenue, Purity Personified, Princess Classic, Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose, Umbrella of Togetherness.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ranma ½, Ukyō and male!Ranma go on a date involving row boats. Ryōga and Akane are also on a date, and fighting ensues.
  • Played with in Great Teacher Onizuka. Onizuka plays hooky to take a stressed out Fuyutsuki rowing, but he claims he does this all the time by himself when he's feeling stressed. And then the boat turns out to be leaky.
  • In Octave, Yukino and Setsuko go on one. Since they're both girls, they janken to decide who rows.
  • In Love Hina, Keitaro takes Musumi on one, though not with the intention of taking her on a date (he had originally meant to use it to talk to her in private, but instead realized it looked more like they were on a date).
  • Glass Mask has put Maya in this situation twice, firstly with Yuu (a straightforward example) and later with Hayami (she was partly coerced into the boat, but it plays out like a romantic scene).

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Seen during the love montage in WALL•E when WALL•E takes the inactive EVE on a boat through some trash-filled water.
  • Invoked in The Little Mermaid as part of the song "Kiss the Girl".
  • A date in Tangled didn't start out this way, but ended up being so. Flynn took Rapunzel on a boat to see the lanterns she had always wanted to see, and their talk in this moment turned it into a date. Also in the song "I've Got a Dream" the Big Nose Thug references this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spoofed in the film Some Like It Hot, due to the twists already happening in the plot, like Disguised in Drag.
  • Briefly seen in the "That's How You Know" montage in Enchanted, complete with the parasol and a mariachi band on a couple of other boats.
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, Sigerson Holmes and Jenny Hill go for an outing in a rowboat. Since this is a comedy, Sergeant Sacker comes along as the rower and his accidental mistakes with the oars repeatedly cause Sigerson to be splashed in the face with water.
  • Spoofed mercilessly in the Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers, where Groucho has a rowboat date with the College Widow, who is trying to seduce him to steal information about an upcoming football game. The dialogue is anything but chaste, and the date ends with her falling into the water and Groucho wisecracking rather than saving her. Also, she was the one doing the rowing while Groucho sat under the parasol and sang to her.
  • Alfalfa and Darla do this in the 1994 film of The Little Rascals.
  • In Kind Hearts and Coronets, Ascoyne D'Ascoyne takes his mistress punting, although his intentions are anything but chaste. When he moors his boat to have his way with her, Louis unties it; causing Ascoyne and his mistress to be swept to their deaths over the weir.
  • The Laurel and Hardy film Men O'War ends with a double version of this: Laurel and Hardy take their new girlfriends out on a boating lake. The resulting Escalating War sinks every boat on the lake.
  • Two couples have a date on a row-boat in Bridget Jones' Diary at the same time. They know each other but are not really on friendly terms. Mark and Natasha are dignified and discuss their case as they are both lawyers. Bridget and Daniel have more fun. She recites John Keats' poem "To the Autumn" (Daniel specifically forbade Keats), and he tries to outshout her with a dirty limerick. He then parodies the iconic "I-am-King-of-the-World" scene from Titanic, and unsurprisingly falls into water. He doesn't want to be the only one wet and tries to swing the boat with Bridget as well. Prim and proper Natasha is horrified ("How childish!"), but Mark looks as if he envied them.
  • Shaggy fantasizes about going on one with Velma in Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.
  • From Russia with Love opens with a couple in the middle of one...then pans over to James Bond and Sylvia Trench making out near Bond's car.
  • "De Lunatico", a poem from George A. Baker's 19th-century Point Lace and Diamonds, subverts the trope by applying it to an elderly couple:
    You're no more a maiden fair, and I no lover, young and glowing;
    Just an old, sober, married pair, who, after tea, have gone out rowing.

    Literature 
  • Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane go punting in Gaudy Night, and the scene is retained in the 1987 BBC television production. Such boating excursions are traditional at Oxford, where the story is set. The modern twists on this are their practical discussion of Harriet's poison pen prankster investigation and the "spot of celibacy" Harriet is maintaining, despite Wimsey's numerous proposals of matrimony.
  • The tunnel of love version appears in the sci-fi novel Against a Dark Background — you can bail about beforehand, but the tunnel is so long that having sex is pretty much all you can do other than sit in the dark and be bored to death. The protagonist's Love Interest gets her to go into the tunnel with him by promised to reveal a wish he'd made earlier (which of course was his wish to make love to his beautiful superior officer).
  • Laurie proposes to Amy during one of these in Little Women. Years later in the final sequel Jo's Boys, Tom begins his acquaintance with his future wife by overturning their boat. The story gets turned into a dramatic Rescue Romance as it spreads.
  • In Daisy Miller, Daisy tries to get Winterbourne to take her on one of these.
  • One time in Adrian Mole, Pandora describes visiting a high-class guy of about her age, and how he took her out on his rowboat and recited poetry to her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Hercules The Legendary Journeys, that is a Whole Plot Reference to Some Like It Hot, a guy sees Salmoneous in drag, and pictures doing this date with him.
  • In Scrubs, J.D. has an Imagine Spot where he's on such a date with Elliot, and even throwing her lover in a lake.
  • In To the Manor Born, DeVere invites Audrey for what she thinks is a date, ending with the two of them together in a punt. When she discovers he's actually using her as an extra in a grocery advertisement he's filming, she takes her revenge by setting the punt adrift in the river, with him on board.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. Trip Tucker should have known better when an alien woman takes him into a virtual reality simulation involving the two of them in a rowboat — it leads to a Mr. Seahorse situation.
  • Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor and Romana are shown punting on the Cam in "The Five Doctors" (using footage shot for the unfinished serial "Shada"). Tom Baker and Lalla Ward did eventually marry in Real Life.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of the "Rocky Jones" epics had the original title The Gypsy Moons. A framing sequence posits that that is the title of an old-timey turn of the century popular song, which Crow and Tom Servo sing (using every possible rhyme with "moon"), serenading Gypsy on a stage set depicting such a rowboat date.
  • As Time Goes By. Jean tries in vain not to laugh as Lionel proves so inept an oarsman they end up having to be towed back to shore by another boat.
  • Cranford: Mary Smith's embarrassing, overwhelming and match-making step-mother tries to invoke this trope and forces Mary to have a boat date with Dr. Harrison at Lady Ludlow's garden party. Mary doesn't want to get married and knows that Dr. Harrison likes Sophy Hutton. However, as Mary is his favoured surgical assistant, they're on very friendly terms and have a pleasant conversation about Sophy and Cranford.
  • In an episode of Person of Interest, Reese and Shaw pretend to go on one as an excuse to scope out their new number. Shaw isn't the least bit happy that she's not allowed to row (as that would be suspicious), but given that Reese is a Launcher of a Thousand Ships, it's safe to say that several shippers were quite pleased.

    Puppet Shows 
  • An episode of The Muppet Show has a Wayne and Wanda sketch where the two are enacting such a date while singing "Row, Row, Row." It's one of few Wayne and Wanda sketches that make it to the song's chorus. Of course, as soon as they do, the boat springs a leak and sinks.
  • In an Imagine Spot in The Muppet Movie, Miss Piggy pictures herself doing this with Kermit.

    Toys 

    Web Original 
  • Spoofed in Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog: Captain Hammer and Penny go on one of these dates, except for a few minor details: It's a paddleboat (the kind where the two people work a set of bicycle pedals to turn a propellor), only Captain Hammer is in the boat (Penny is watching from the shore while Hammer waves at her) and he is pedalling in circles, super fast.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in Futurama, when Amy and Kif go on a date in a row-kite, which bobs majestically through the air, somehow suspended by their meager paddling.
  • Wheeler does this with Linka when they're investigating in Venice in an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Animaniacs: Dot pictures herself on one with Dr. Scratchansniff in "De-Zanitized":
    Dot: Deee-sgusting!
  • Papa Smurf goes on a rowboat date with Flowerbell the woodnymph in The Smurfs episode "Papa's Wedding Day", where he sings to her, "You're Only As Old As You Think You Are".

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