Dan and I were watching The Event one night. Afterwards, I turned to Dan and told him they should have had two of the main characters married instead of just dating. I would have pulled for them more. Then Dan pointed out something: most of the world does not see the romance or permanence of marriage anymore.
Dan’s words saddened me. I guess I’m one of those that still believes marriage can be the strongest human relationship in the world. Where a man finds a woman and chooses to love only her the rest of his life. Where a woman stands beside her man as his lover, friend, and ally. The kind of bond that if the woman went missing, the man will go to the ends of the earth to find her (cue music “I’ll Always Find You”).
I have a hard time believing in that kind of permanent love between two people merely dating. And even harder time believing that of total strangers. Yet that is the romance we see on the big screen or read about in books.
I know, I know, you’re saying that kind of romantic marriage is more fairytale than reality. And considering the amount of divorce, infidelity, and disrespect in marriages nowadays, it’s easy to see why. But isn’t the heartthrobbing, I-will-throw-myself-in-front-of-the-monster (even though I’ve only known you two days), let’s kiss (and do more) but I may or may not be here tomorrow kind of love just as fairytalish?
Why is it that marriage has to be unexciting, unromantic, or the big problem in a movie/book? Why can’t it be the romantic element? That together, the hero and heroine are stronger than they would be apart?
I love the opening scene to Star Wars: Survivors Quest by Timothy Zahn. We watch Luke Skywalker and his wife Mara Jade totally clean out the bad guys. But not just in that scene. They do that through the entire book. And Star Wars series. Apart, Luke and Mara are pretty good jedis. Together, unbeatable. They are a fictional example of a great husband/wife team. They love each other exclusively, watch each other’s backs, powerful in their own right, but even more so together. Why can’t we have more romance like that?
Or how about Spy Kids? The movie starts out with two international spies assigned to take out the other. Of course, they fall in love instead and choose to embark on the “greatest journey of all”: marriage (and kids ).
I would love to see more of this kind of romance when I read or watch a movie. A romance where marriage is a good thing, something to be desired. It reinforces my own desire for a good marriage, one worth fighting for.
How about you? Would you like to see more of this kind of romance? What books or movies have you seen marriage portrayed as romantic?
(Author’s note: this was originally posted June 2011. Since then I have read the Firebird Trilogy, another great series with main characters who are married).
I couldn’t agree more! Too often we view marriage on screen as the kiss of death. I think my favorite example of how it can be so much more would be the first two Mummy movies. Rick and Evie are simply intoxicated with each other in the first film, but in the second that passion has grown even more. Next to Luke and Mara, Rick and Evie are my on the top of my favorite couples list.
I think many of the unmarried romances come from the idea that marriage is the finish line — the guy has won the lady, and that’s that. The very same mentality that is pushing so many divorces, because couples suddenly wake up and discover it’s hard.
It also allows for the ubiquitous “sexual tension” that can be a secondary plot line. The breathless waiting for them to “do it” that has replaced “I do” in popular culture.
Finally, it leaves a bit of uncertainty for the writer to capitalize on — the fact that they haven’t vowed to stay together leaves the reader/audience waiting to see if maybe, they’ll break up. Again, this comes back around to the idea of marriage as the finish line.
This philosophy comes all the way from the fairy tales of “happily ever after.” It trickles down in many ways — popular entertainment is only one. Another way this comes out is in my generation of young people — many of whom are single. We have to fight the idea every day that when we get married, we will finally get our “happily ever after.”
The only way we can combat that mentality, is to change the messages we are sending as writers. So many Christian novels follow the very same model of guy meets girl, they have “___ tension,” (It’s a Christian novel, so Heaven forbid they “do it”) and finally, the guy pops the question, and they get married. End of story.
We need to be producing as many books about married couples and the tensions they do struggle with, and the romance and beauty of overcoming those together.
One series that comes to mind is Karen Hancock’s “Legends of the Guardian King” books. The epic follows the main characters to marriage, and then through their marriage as all the forces of darkness try to separate them, while they determine to find each other and stay true.
I’m also a fan of the Firebird books….. (That’s an understatement really, more like they’ve been my favorite books for years.)
Another great series that follows a married couple through the storms of life — not speculative — are Bodie and Brock Thoene’s “Shiloh” series and their “Galloway Chronicles.”
Finally, one movie that impressed me about showing the realities of marriage is “Marley and Me.” While I can’t whole-heartedly recommend it, it did an excellent job starting with marriage, and following the couple through the realities of life. I think what helped it was that it was based on real people.
Morgan L. Busse
Jennifer, I totally forgot about the Mummy movies. Yes! Exactly.
Morgan L. Busse
Excellent insight Joanna. Marriage is definitely seen as the “finish line”.
Morgan L. Busse
Another thought. Someone quoted Joss Whedon on facebook in regards to this post as saying (paraphrased) that stable relationships between characters are boring. Here is my answer:
In regards to Whedon’s quote, I think most people think stable relationships are boring because their own in real life is boring. Hence all the divorces, affairs, etc… But marriage doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you take the time to cultivate the friendship part of your marriage (which most people don’t). I love Dan and can honestly say he is my best friend. We absolutely love sharing life together. We have been through many up’s and down’s. In fact, I joke with Dan that I could use a bit more dullness in my life 🙂
Good thought, Morgan. I see a top-ten list challenge coming. How about Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man? At least in the movies they seem close and adventurous. Yes, I’m a dinosaur, but there’s rumored to be a new film on it’s way.
stupid apostrophe key.
Morgan L. Busse
Top-ten list sounds like a great idea 🙂
I have to say, I’m not a believer in “happily ever after.”
I do believe in love ever after, in hanging on past all reason, forgiving the unforgivable, fighting for the heart and soul and life of my lover, taking on the world side by side with him, the utter romance of carrying his children, the blessing of raising them together, and the insane adventure of living with a man who sees the world as his laboratory in which to experiment.
And I don’t have to lose him at death. Eternity’s next, and only God knows what an adventure that will be.
Our culture’s “happily ever after” formula is a trite and shallow substitute.
You know, Morgan, that Whedon quote is odd because in Firefly, Wash and Zoe were a stable married couple. And their relationship was the most interesting one on the show (Mal and Inara nonwithstanding…)
Yeah, I’ve been mulling that too. Although, Whedon set it up to be a rocky retrospective on *how* they got together, if the series had gone longer. Zoe didn’t like Wash at all on first sight. (It was probably the mustache.)
Great thoughts. It’s funny, though, I was just talking to my husband about this and how I was going to write some fantasy married couple on adventures like Indiana Jones/detectives/something 🙂 Of course, that was right around the time when the blogsphere exploded on the topic of how much sex should be in the book…
I think we all love the stories where the guy gets the girl (as long as there is plenty of adventure), and we experience those first in love feelings again and again. Kind of like a drug…hmmm… Not that they are wrong, but I think it does a disservice to love everlasting. We start to look at our marriages and begin to think, why don’t we have those feelings, we start to compare and become dissatisfied. It isn’t just marriage though. It’s life in general. We don’t want to work as hard for something anymore. Commitment to family, friends, etc is weakening. Perhaps that is why I love movies/books that show loyalty, honesty, virtues lived out in the face of adversity, etc. It makes me want to be a better person.
I agree with Joanna, we writers got to send a different message. Hold on as I look at all my story ideas….oops, none of them are about a married couple…back to the drawing board!
by the way: I LOVE the Mummy and the Mummy Returns for precisely that reason. The DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul, shows a marriage between the main characters later on in the series. I am Ocilla by Diane M. Graham also has married characters. I suppose it would be easier for adventure, fantasy, thriller, etc to have married couples as main characters verses the romance genre since the action isn’t centered around them exactly. Okay, I’m rambling now 🙂
I was going to mention the Donita K Paul’s Dragon series too as she does a great job portraying marriage. Loved the marriage of Wash and Zoe in Firefly (wish the series had continued). But no one has mentioned Sharon Hinck and The Restorer series, my husband was even impressed with the way marriage was shown in those.
Terry Goodkind, just to mention a secular author, has expolored this from many angles. The Sword of Truth novels have depending on the cast covered several forms of love: love at first sight, love for comfort, love of ones self (both destructive and healthy forms) love for a cause, love for a night, love of family, and love everlasting. I like how he presents each in such a way as to be compaired and contrasted with the others; and further reinforce Kahlan and Richard’s epically tested love. In this way short term love and sex was used to contrastingly support Richard and Kahlan’s vital and long-term romantic love. The Bible as viable instruction against also uses lust and lesser forms of love; notably David and Solomon…
The Whole Truth
Well it is the kind of women out there nowadays that have killed it altogether which is why marriage isn’t worth it anymore. Now in the good old days that was a totally different story since most of the women back then were the very best of all which they really did put the women of today to real total shame as well.