Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Love =/= Romance?

Song of the day: Do the Hippogriff - The Weird Sisters

So here's the thing. I hate romantic comedies. Always have, always will. Even Titanic, which is not exactly comedic, does not escape my wrath; while my cousin was watching it for the fifth time and still crying, I could barely last all the way through. That was the first and only time I watched it.

It's just the fact that there never seems to be any deviation from the formula: A man and a woman meet, instantly dislike each other (not always the case, but happens disturbingly often) and would rather eat a live snake than be in the same room as each other. Then something MAGICAL happens and suddenly they can't keep their hands off each other, no real explanation given aside from sexual tension. Which, you know, is far from impossible, but unlike what TV executives want us to think, wanting to have sex with someone and loving them isn't necessarily the same thing -_- It is what my friend refers to as the 'I hate you!' 'I hate you!' 'Love me.' pattern.

Theeeen something convoluted happens (it looks like one of them is cheating but they really aren't and the other doesn't give them a chance to explain/there is some stupid misunderstanding/one of them has to leave and doesn't want to 'hurt' the person by actually admitting that they, you know, love them/they get attacked by a rouge platypus and suffer extremely selective memory loss) and they want us to think oh no tragedy how will this ever be fixed aaaand then it's easily fixed in about the last ten minutes of the movie. Done.

At first, I wasn't quite sure why I disliked romantic comedies so much (a lot of genres are formulaic and that's often even a part of the charm). I thought that romance just couldn't carry a whole story by itself because it focused too hard on just those two (or more) people involved, but that couldn't be it because a lot of stories do that with no romantic intent involved. Then I thought it was just because I'm not a particularly romantic person (or so they tell me) or at least not traditionally so, and that's probably a part of it. That and western culture tends to... well, I don't want to say 'overvalue' romantic relationships, but that's essentially what I mean, at the cost of familial and platonic relationships (which are just as important as romantic ones.)

I was even under the impression that my aversion extended all over the romance genre, up until I read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. And that's when I realized that this story is essentially the formula of romantic comedies before it became a formula, only done right.

So let's do this as a case study:

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy meet, and their first impressions of each other are not very flattering (and for a good reason.) They assume that they know all there is to know about each other from those brief glimpses, and continue to happily despise each other for some time. Their Pride (Darcy) and Prejudice (Elizabeth) prevent them from realizing their mistakes.

Then, starting first and foremost with Darcy, they began to understand that their first impressions were erroneous, limited and incomplete (as most first impressions are). As he has, in the words of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries all 'the social skills of an agoraphobic lobster,' he is able to see her as she really is, but she is unable to see him, due to the aforementioned lack of social skills and also her prevailing prejudice.

It is only after he confesses her love to her (a scene which I love not just because of the excellent writing but also because of how she rejects him, which of course made perfect sense given what she knows of him so far) that she later gets the opportunity to see him as anything else but prideful, snobbish and lacking in empathy. This is primarily through his actions towards others, unrelated to her. She now knows that he is in fact a good man, if an awkward and slightly bad-tempered one. Then she begins to love him, as he loves her, and by acknowledging their mistakes and learning from them, they both become better people.

On top of that, a huge part of the charm is that it's not just a love story in the romantic sense of the word, but a love story about the whole of the Bennett family (in a familial way - not the creepy incestuous kind of way). You get invested not just in the leads, but also in the other characters and their trials and tribulations.

(And I will always love Jane Austen for writing Darcy as a genuinely good man that respects Lizzie's boundaries. Even after he confesses his love to her and she almost cruelly rejects him he doesn't bring it up again, up until the moment when he has reason to believe he does have a chance with her. And even then he promises never to bring it up again if her feelings towards him remain unchanged. And this is in 18t/19th century England, people! Contemporary so-called 'friendzoned' men could learn from this.)

And that brings me to the conclusion that romantic comedies are in fact not about love. They are about what society wants love to be - a whole lot less complicated and much more dramatic than real life tends to be. But think of the stories that could be made (that are being and have been made) if romantic comedies contained anything close to resembling real people.

Well, that's my two cents on the subject. Now excuse me while I go and explode from feels at all the new Spirk fic materializing on the internet.

P.s. Jane Austen will make it to the UK 10 pound note! Huzzah!

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