Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romances I Actually Like

In celebration of Valentine's Day, and in retaliation for having to read Pride & Prejudice, I've meditated upon those fictional couples I actually like. There have been a lot of questions as to what romances get me. Smut or formulaic romances seldom do, but I'm not made of stone.

Adam & Eve from Mark Twain’s
The Diaries of Adam and Eve

In unusual move for Twain, what began as a rampant satire (in this case of Biblical literalism) matured into a complex and vital relationship. I often joke about how Adam’s first record of Eve is, “I wish it would stop talking.” But just as memorable is his pathos upon losing her late in life. It is one of the funniest examples of the now-tired Men Vs. Women humor.

Nor was Twain the first to harness the couple’s potential; my favorite part of Milton’s Paradise Lost is Adam deciding to eat the forbidden fruit because eternity without Eve isn’t worth it, and he would rather suffer damnation.

Rose & Bernard from Lost
Give me the choice and I’ll always sit next to the older couple. Lovers in their sixities have a dramatically greater chance of knowing each other’s hang-ups, griefs and defenses. Couples in their tweens, in fiction and non-fiction, have the wearisome habit of not getting their shit together. Lost features a couple who actually met later in life, who already know how love can fail and intimacy can hurt, and who connect in a little more reserved, but regardless more mature way. I will take the fallout from Bernard’s marriage proposal over any RomCom model-turned-star bending the knee. They have faith in each other’s absence, can see through each other’s immediate anxieties, and have the necessary perspective to endure and help each other. Even when they go into typical romantic conflict (every couple in TV has to), their resolutions are adorable.
Joker & Harley Quinn
It is one of the most dysfunctional romances ever created, and is my unabashed favorite. It is not just an abusive relationship: this vibrant woman is in love with the worst person alive. You could expect nothing other than for him to be awful; he’s murdered hundreds just to mess with a billionaire dressed as a bat. I have a huge soft spot for unconditional love, and this is the most extreme case of testing whether unconditional love can and should last – and it does so with unnerving cheer. That Quinn is so assertive in all other matters, willing to deck police officers and superheroes for questioning her man, is a good wrinkle. A better one is how Joker responds when she turns on him, like the time she almost shot his head off.

Carl & Ellie from Up
The second cartoon pair on the list is also the most affecting short I’ve ever seen. Up’s six-minute silent film approach displayed a mastery over film that few directors with casts of living actors possess. It also displayed the tropes of life: of desires postponed, intimate knowledge of another, and the inevitable loss of age. As someone who has not cried at a movie since he was 13, I give this the greatest accolade I can: it almost choked me up.

Mickey & Mallory from Natural Born Killers

There is no warehouse large enough to contain all the movies in which one lover “needs” another. It is in this one where the stakes most validate that need. They may be the only ones who can bring each other any peace in a world that otherwise seems to harm them, and they’re both so damaged they can’t reason their way to constructive lives. If the film reflected reality more I might reject it, but as the notion of two such damaged people, they draw utter sympathy and I actually root for them to carve their way through America. Typing this reminds me that I’ve yet to watch Bonnie & Clyde. That’s probably happening soon.

Medullina Camilla and Claudius
from Robert Graves’s I, Claudius

I’m sharing this last one to deliberately embarrass myself. Camilla has a bit role in the novel, appearing a little simpleminded, but uncommonly sweet to the disability-riddled Claudius. The pretty girl who was seemingly too good for this cripple reminded me a lot of my girlfriend at the time. I remember being excited to tell my girlfriend about her, and even a little excited for the fight after I would sideways call her simpleminded. Unfortunately I kept reading, and a few pages later Camilla was assassinated. By the time she got home, I didn’t want to talk about the book anymore. It’s good, though.

So there you go: six romances I actually endorse. Have any recommendations for me?


  1. An interesting selection. I feel like I know more about you now. Possibly too much.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  2. The first couple I thought of when I saw the title of your post was The Joker and Harley Quinn. I like your explaination. You have a truly strange soft spot. :)

    1. I have talked about them before, and even narrated one take on their story, so I guess I had it coming.

    2. Ellie and Carl are probably my favorite of all time. They rival Darcy and Lizzie, which, as much as you may have hated P&P, were my childhood heroes in terms of a functional relationship. ^.^;;; Hope you are having a lovely and loving day, sir. <3

  3. No recommendations from me. I have a strong hunch you might not enjoy them :P

  4. We were just talking about that opening bit in Up today in my office. It was done so beautifully.

    And since Teresa and I agree so often on the romance thing, I'm sure you'd hate any of my recommendations, too, but if you have a soft spot for women loving physically broken men, you could read Jane Eyre!

  5. I've seen "UP" and "I, Claudius". I completely agree about the former, but don't remember much about the romance in the latter. I've got no experience with the others.

  6. No nominations here either. Perhaps Thursday Next and her husband Landen from the series by Japer many fs Ffffforde. No tears, but immense satisfaction that they do finally get together (again).

  7. I've never heard of the Mark Twain book, so it's on my reading list. My favorite couple is Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert. In spite of all of their duties, they managed to spend private time reading, writing, and painting watercolors together. By most accounts, they adored one another, although they had their fair share of spats and power struggles.

  8. Awww I always knew you had a soft spot John. ^_^

    I've watched Up and I Claudius as well as Lost, I like your choice of Rose and Bernard best. I'm intrigued about the Diaries of Adam and Eve, mentally adding it to my reading list. (But will I remember?)


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