Stranger Cat Valentine’s Day
As Valentine’s Day rolls around, I find myself wanting a good story about romance. One in which a happy couple lives years together and has a beautiful, happy life. It’s happened in real life, I can tell you stories of couples who were married over fifty years and still acted deeply in love. Yet, those stories are few and far between in pop culture. Why? We love conflict.
As any good writer will tell you, a story is nothing without conflict. The hero or anti-hero must come across some force or person stopping him or her from getting what he or she wants. Without conflict, we’d be staring at a movie with no real action or reading a book about a character going through the routines of their day.
To that end, every story of romance is rife with conflict. This is true of the Bible story of Jacob, who was in love with a girl named Rachel. He’s told he can’t marry her unless he works for 7 years. On his wedding night, he’s given not the woman he has pined over for 7 years, instead getting her older (apparently ugly) sister Leah. He has to work another 7 years to win his true love Rachel (oh, and still be married to the ugly sister).
Romeo and Juliet have more conflict then they know what to do with, so much so that they wind up dead at the end of their story. Sorry for the spoiler, but the story was told over 500 years ago, and anyway the ending is hardly surprising. Even Shakespeare’s comedy, Love’s Labors Lost, ends with no one getting the girl.
Even in television the happy couple story is hard to find. Most dramas deal with the unhappy: The Good Wife, Dexter, House, and Glee are just some of the more recent examples. Sorry folks, but Mr. Schu and Emma will always be a tragic couple.
Even sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory can’t have two main characters happily in a relationship for an entire season without breaking them back up. How I Met Your Mother does have a hopeful relationship in Marshall and Lily, but remember we had a bad breakup with them in Season 1. The rest of the show has been nothing but bad relationships for our main character, Ted (who not only got attacked at the end of one relationship, but was also left at the altar at the end of another).
Joss Whedon famously said about Buffy and Angel’s relationship on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that a happy Buffy and Angel would be “boring”. It’s almost cliché now that love in a Joss Whedon show is trouble. Characters in love either wind up leaving (forever) or dying.
Even in schmaltzy feel-good romantic comedies the actual “happy ever after” is the shortest part of the film. It’s the refreshing tacked-on scene at the end of the film that tells you that the emotional rollercoaster these two characters were on at the beginning ends and everything is smooth sailing from here on out. Once that happens, “there’s nothing to see here, folks.” We only care about the majority of the film that is dedicated to the “not working” part of their relationship.
Yet, I believe there’s room for the happy couple in pop culture stories. Consider how wonderful it is to see positive single parent families, especially positive single parent fathers like Rick Castle on ABC’sCastle. The same can be said for positive relationships like J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers.
If you haven’t watched Undercovers yet, the premise is two married spies who are called back into action after leaving the CIA to get married. While they didn’t work together before they were married, they’re finding that being married is actually an asset. They aren’t the perfect couple that never fights, but they are happily married. Most of their conflicts and fights are ones that would be normal to many couples, but they are a little more sinister when set against their spy missions.
So let’s have some positive couples again. Not to say that every day is sunshine and roses for our heroes (or anti-heroes), but that at the end of the day they are happier together than they had ever been apart. I think there’s room for that in our storytelling and on Valentine’s Day.
Sheldon: What exactly does that expression mean, “friends with benefits”? Does he provide her with health insurance?
– The Big Bang Theory