Posted by: Sarah | August 13, 2009

Love in Fiction

Warning:  Do not read if you haven’t watched and plan to watch the following movies and TV shows: Babylon 5, The Resident Evil Trilogy, Torchwood, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The X-Men Series, The Alien Quadrology, The Mummy,  The Mummy Returns, and Star Wars 4-6.

I would just like to say that Unrequited Love has got to be the crappiest literary device in fiction.

Way back in Medieval Europe when Courtly Love (the precursor to modern day Unrequited Love) was invented as a concept it was revolutionary because it showed women as something to be respected and cared for beyond her capacity to engender sons. This was a great intellectual leap from previous eras where women were barely recognized as human. Granted, though, this concept did not lend itself to poor women, only those who won the genetic lottery and had the great fortune to be born pretty and noble. Poor women were still no better than property, though, so they didn’t apply. The evolution from Courtly Love to Unrequited Love was slow and ponderous and the social landscape had to expand to enfranchise poor people, but the one is clearly the offshoot of the other. (Or at least, this is my rant and I say so for the purposes of this.)

My husband talked me into watching Babylon 5 a few years ago.  At the end of Season 4, Marcus rather stupidly gives up his life for Ivanova. Now, if this were absolutely necessary, I’d buy it. But the whole situation seems rather contrived. Gloriously victorious after a desperate space battle, their White Star ship crashes into random space debris. Which somehow wipes out the bridge of the ship (which is rather stupidly designed into the forward hull). And miraculously leaves only Marcus alive and untouched. Not the rest of the Mimbari crew, not even Ivanova, though she is badly injured, but strangely with only internal damage, possibly a fractured spine.

They NEVER say what is wrong with her. EVER. I feel sorry for the actors forced to spew this drivel. There’s one cure for her, but it requires Marcus to die for her. Ivanova has never given this man the time of day. I’ll even buy that he’s in love with her in spite of this. But the writers and the directors of this show seem bent on killing off this character tragically and stupidly. He’s been set up as a hopeless romantic. That’s fine. There aren’t enough hopelessly romantic male characters in fiction. But the whole set up of the scene that’s coming, (which I have not yet had the stomach to watch) is awkwardly written and contrived, even for Science Fiction. Now, the point I have is this. There is no point to having this be an Unrequited Love plotline. Absolutely NONE. There is no plotline, no logical reason for this to have occurred. Not to mention that, the Mimbari, who are the Eldest Race currently in existence in the galaxy at this point, can’t heal a spinal fracture or internal bleeding? They just wanted the tragic scene where Ivanova gets to cry over Marcus’ dead body! And she doesn’t even appear in Season 5! You don’t spend two seasons developing a love affair and have it die just because you want to torture the characters.

Resident Evil III did the same thing.  After watching it for the second time, there are a few places where they could have done at least a fade-to-black;  I think Alice deserved more than bloody kiss before Olivera bought the farm.

They used the tanker truck that was supposed to be EMPTY, mind you, to ram the hordes of zombies at the gates and go ‘splody.  Carlos got a John Wayne moment, a cigarette before death, but this character didn’t have to die.  In a movie with so many suspensions of disbeliefs, why couldn’t they have rigged the gas pedal?  Especially if LJ went out the way he should have gone and left Carlos healthy.  If you were going to do this to the only remaining survivors of Raccoon City, why bother bringing them back for the third movie?

Which brings me to another complaint about RE: III.  I hate how they let LJ and Carlos die.  Why did they have to make LJ a coward?  He knew he was dying, why didn’t he jump in the bus with his girlfriend and die with her?  Instead he takes the coward’s way out and stays with the caravan, thus endangering them.  And, he wouldn’t have bit Carlos.

Torchwood, arguably the most progressive show on television, (hey it’s British Sci-Fi, after all) even resorted to this crappy trope.  Owen was a smart assed, hard living, hard shagging, hard drinking doctor.  Tosh was a quiet, unassuming mouse of a brilliant engineer.  Now, given I have a similar penchant for smart asses and being rather unassuming myself, I can see where she’d start crushing on him.  But Owen remains utterly oblivious.  He doesn’t even want to add her as a notch on his bed post as he seems to try to do to every woman the group comes across.  He even succeeds with the only married/engaged character, Gwen.   Does Tosh do what any self respecting woman does and cry into her beer (or ice cream, if you prefer) and get over him?  No, she continues pining for him.

Really?  I don’t see the character having that low of self-esteem in other areas.  Why romantically?

And then, after Owen dies the first time, Tosh finally gets the courage up to tell him how she feels.  He even promises her to go on a date with her, because, you know, now he can’t DO anything.  But then of course, he dies a second time, and she dies the first time.   WTF?  I realize Torchwood was more about the characters than the monsters and crises they faced, but the sub-pot between Owen and Gwen was really dumb.  Even when he knew how she felt, he never showed anything for her at all.  Of course, they did wait till he was a undead and had no emotions, really, to have him become aware of her,  but really, not even a hug?

What I really want to know is, there seems to be a dearth of strong female characters in Hollywood who DO get the guy.  Not even Elizabeth Swan ended up with Will Turner, for crying out loud.  (Though they’ll always have the beach.)  Jean Grey (in the movie, not the comic book) ended up with neither Cyclops nor Wolverine.  Ripley ended up losing Hicks in a bloody crash because the makers of Alien 3 couldn’t figure out what to do with the character.  Buffy lost Angel, and then Spike, though not because they couldn’t handle her, more because the plot needed them to disappear, and she was rather stupid about the “muggle” men who loved her like Xander and Riley.  The exception to this rule seems to be “The Mummy” where they even let the characters get married for the sequel and have a *gasp* KID, and STILL be in love!   And Star Wars with Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa.

Are men so afraid of strong, powerful women they can’t even handle hooking up with them in fiction?  This, I doubt.  I know plenty of real, strong women whose men are head over heels for them and wouldn’t dream of straying.  So why can’t Hollywood emulate real life and actually let the Superheroines have something more than a chaste kiss, a hurried wedding ceremony, or romp in the hay?  Why can’t they have Happily Ever After?

I guess it’s not just crappy romantic subplots I’m complaining about; it’s crappy characterization all around.


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