Friday, May 17, 2013

Happily Ever After

Riding off into the sunset
Photo credit: Mirror Images by Rina
I participated in a project over at Fat, Smart and Pretty about what it means to be a selfish woman. Go over, have a look at what I said and maybe even join if yourself if you're so inclined.


So anyway, I got really behind on the Buffy season 9* comics once the kid moved in last year and I'm only starting to catch up right now. I bought the two most recently-released compilations which still leaves me way behind, but I'm catching up.

*The comics are now being treated as new seasons of the TV show. 

I'm pissed off because when I left off it looked like Buffy and Spike might be getting together. You know, so we could all move on with our lives, stop retreading the same ground about how a woman who's prevented six apocalypses somehow wants and deserves a "normal" relationship (as if that wouldn't bore her to tears), and they could have some happiness while saving the world. There was some lovely progress made in their relationship in the last few episodes of the TV series and then he died heroically only to be resurrected on Angel. So the characters never really got a chance to see how things might go with that healthy-ish relationship they were heading towards. And we've had over a season of the comic, and still nope.

Am I really annoyed because a comic book I've fallen behind on reading didn't go the way I expected? Not really. But I think this reflects a larger problem in pop culture. Writers, producers, whoever seem to think that happily ever after is boring. That after a couple gets together, there's nothing left to say from a narrative perspective unless they start thinking about splitting up.

The last year of my life proves that dramatic stuff can happen to happily married people. Not that parenting traumatized children would make for entertainment, because there's a lot of fucked up shit going down. But that's just a fr'instance. 

Just off the top of my head:

  • Nick & Nora did a splendid job of solving mysteries in The Thin Man movies and they were happily married. 
  • Amy & Rory Pond joined The Doctor on many adventures. 
  • The later Star Trek series could've featured loads of married couples since they allowed families on ships. I can only think of the O'Briens and oh, yes, Worf and Dax got married at some point.
  • That couple on Green Acres got into lots of wacky adventures
  • Wash & Zoe on Firefly
But how many more shows fizzled once Will They Or Won't They turned into They Did? Moonlighting did it most spectacularly, though Cheers managed to course-correct after letting couples get together. How have Castle and Bones fared? I don't watch them, so if you do, let me know in the comments.

And how many shows, etc. totally pissed off their viewers by drawing out the romantic tension for. fucking. ever? I'm looking at you, How I Met Your Mother.

It's this fetishization of riding off into the sunset together. Once you've found your soulmate, nothing interesting could possibly happen to you except for the possibility of losing that person. Not only is this total bullshit, but it feels steeped in sexism. Like it's a holdover from the days when women quit their job the second they got married and become full time homemakers and made it their mission to keep their home as peaceful and drama-free as possible for their man who went out into the world doing big, important things every day. But the husband's life is boring as shit too because he has a family to think of, so he's unlikely to take bold career risks or have a dangerous job (like spying).

Do I think that Buffy & Spike are totes made for each other? Eh, maybe. Would I like to see what some (non-fan fiction) writers can do with two characters with super powers who fight evil and get on each other's nerves while sharing strong chemistry and affection? Sure, that would be interesting. Am I sick of seeing happily paired off characters being stuck as boring supporting characters at best? Hells yes. Have I had it with fictional characters staying unattached because writers don't know what to do if they can't include a romantic subplot? Fuck yeah.

Definitely something to think about as I work on my own fiction.

What are your thoughts? If you can think of any TV shows, books, movies, etc. that feature married or paired off characters whose relationship isn't the main source of drama, please let me know.


  1. ooo lemme think...
    Ya know ... even House (a show I deeply loved) eventually paled and got boring for me in all this "will they/won't they/they did/they didn't" with Cuddy...

    While the following two examples the relationship IS sort of central to the story, I think at least it advanced the art of 'the relationship subplot':
    1. The Incredibles - I *really* like that one for it's a) fairly reasonable slice of life suburban family daily grind drama - AND being superheroes and how that all plays together. Definitely one of my favourite Pixar offerings for that reason.

    2.Desk Set - Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn - all kinds of reasons to love this one - including the backwards look at how 1957 looked at computers, that our beloved Kate while ostensibly a glorified librarian was still head of her department, was NOT a secretary, girl Friday. But also that she doesn't just cash in her career for the first marriage proposal to come along, in fact it's the expectation that she will that causes her to rethink her relationship with Gig Young (aka Mike Cutler). And while we don't follow the Happily Ever After of her relationship with Spencer Tracy you KNOW she didn't give up her work, but rather they became a formidable professional team. An amazingly advanced social commentary comedy film for 1957.

    Then there's Harry Harrison's James Bolivar and Angelina diGriz (The Stainless Steel Rat) ... While 'Slippery Jim' starts out single and the relationship is a subplot for a while - once they get married, it's a team effort ala Nick and Nora.

    And on the Nick and Nora vein - they did do it a bit in the 70's and 80's - first with McMillan and Wife, and then Hart to Hart

  2. and potential candidates for up for debate:

    True Lies - ok again the relationship is sorta central to the plot - we we do end with them riding off into the sunset on acts of daring do - together.

    Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) .. have only seen trailers and commentary on this one... but it does seem to have some potential.

  3. Now that you mention Tracy & Hepburn, I remember Adam's Rib. They were adversaries, but their marriage was never really in danger.

    I'll have to check out the others you mentioned.


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