The Unnecessary Perpetuation of the ‘Boy Meets Girl’ Love Story
Over several thousands of years, love has burrowed its way into assumed behaviour, even warranting a whole day celebrated worldwide on the 14th of February every year. Similarly, art has tried to confront and define the concept of love since its popularisation. Now ubiquitous throughout popular culture, the ever-repeated ‘boy meets girl, boy loves girl, girl loves boy, they learn something ugly about each other, they realise that they need each other regardless of hardships they have to endure, they live happily ever after’ cycle does not represent modern love. Amongst the diversions away from heterosexual romance to homosexual, polygamous or purely sexual relationships in the modern age, art is still stuck in this antiquated idea of unconditional and transcendental love. If art is going to continue to advance towards realistic representations, there needs to be a radical confrontation with the ‘chick flick’ or Mills and Boon-like story, moving towards a more analytical viewpoint on the behavioural side of love, rather than some obsolete pursuit for some conceptual ideal.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, the annual inevitable throwaway film tie-in is being released. Endless Love (2014), starring Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, is just another adaptation of escapist fiction for middle-aged women pining for a return to young and innocent love. It tells the story of David Elliot (Pettyfer), an under-privileged hunk who falls in love with Jade Butterfield (Wilde) an over-privileged babe as they fall into days (and nights) of lust and quote-unquote love. Eventually, Jade’s parents disapprove of this affair, as David becomes dangerously obsessed with being with Jade. This epitomises the typical love story in almost every way, being very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. However, a problem that works of the romantic elites (such as the Valentine’s Day classic The Notebook (2004) (damn you, Nicholas Sparks) and the pornographic 50 Shades of Grey series) create is that they are sustaining the plethora of ‘love stories’ which are rarely about love. Instead, they are about lust, and it is here where the line between the two has been muddied by art’s view of love.
The kind of love where you can live with the same person, talk with the same person and commit yourself to them for the rest of your life, or “true love”, if you will, is not as interesting to the consumer as lust. Essentially, art has shaped us to believe that love is lust, some constantly passionate, larger than life feeling which makes us feel more alive. Lust is purely derived from some aesthetic origin or from unfettered sexual desire. The idea of ‘one true love’ is only applicable in a narrative sense of dramatic storytelling. In a world where sexual activity is rife from a younger age, it is misleading to engender a world where ‘eternal love’ is possible, while sex for pleasure is becoming more and more common. To popularise stories in which the lust of two attractive people becomes some predestined, divine connection is dangerous for the development of teenager’s opinions (especially girls) of what love is. It is this sort of exaggeration of love, showing it as some sort of ultimate achievement of life which can be detrimental, forcing girls or boys to fall in love for no reason and stay in abusive relationships. Therefore, art should distance itself from the simplistic storytelling device of the romantic interest.
While placing sex or a lustful relationship within your film or book may be one of the easiest ways to make people want to see or read it, it is not always presented in an idealised way. Stories often need characters to go through hardship, by inserting a love interest and compressing a relationship, eventually leading to a hard break-up, in order to develop and strengthen the characters. This is especially applicable to long-running serial dramas, such as Breaking Bad (giving something for Jesse to lose) or Dexter (as something to fight for). Conversely, episodic television series can benefit from analysing love or at least lust. A perfect example is an episode of Becker in which a side character who is blind after a car accident questioning whether he should stay in a relationship with a blind woman. Works of art such as this force us to look at why we are in relationships, whether it be for aesthetic values, interpersonal understanding or sexual satisfaction. At the episode’s conclusion, the woman breaks up with him after learning that he is blind. Such a subversion of the typical love story should set a precedent for more in-depth observation in other mediums, looking at the ugly part of love rather than the ideal.
Perhaps the ugliest form of art concerning love is the soap opera, as it constantly contradicts itself about what love is. Infidelity and secrets are what fuels soap operas and they feed off suffering and heartbreak or the antithesis of love. For example, Brooke Logan from The Bold and the Beautiful has been married 13 times, even having a baby with her daughter’s husband. Therefore, it often shows love at its most realistic (albeit, highly exaggerated and dramatized), yet, no matter how much infidelity people have endured they still believe in fateful love. The central couple of Brooke Logan and Ridge Forrester from The Bold and the Beautiful, for example, have been married 7 times, still protesting that they were ‘meant to be together’. While soap operas are unrealistic in their over-the-top presentation and acting, they set a precedent for more toned-down presentations of the devastating consequences of love which are inevitable, rather than the perfect soppiness of romantic art.
Art, at its purest, is the depiction of the ideal, as it aims to aesthetically please via the depiction of beauty. As art has been commercialised, this ideal has only been subject to more and more hyperbole. Love is also an ideal, and thus visual, aural, oral, written word or representations of other kinds of love have been attempted throughout the ages. However, as one’s idea of ‘love’ is constantly subject to change by one’s culture, experiences or other beliefs, artistic representation is instantly obsolete after its publication or release. Love or the widely held belief in ‘the one’ is only sustained by films and television shows. Yet, without it, perhaps, the world would descend into a chaotic world dependent on promiscuity. Whether one believes in ‘true love’ or not, the institutions of marriage, relationships and romantic love are too embedded in Western culture to be instantly eradicated. However, with the times of Whitney Houston being taken over by the likes of Beyoncé and Jason Derulo, it is evident that love has shifted from a romantic to a sexual origin. Therefore, art should try and gradually peter out the concept of love from popular art forms.
Relationships are never perfect, and thus, unconditional love does not exist (at least for an extended period of time). Therefore, art should reflect the imperfection of modern love and relationships, rather than repeating itself with the ‘boy meets girl’ formula. This idea continues to mislead countless numbers of people about what love is, which is not applicable to today’s world of homosexual, polygamous and promiscuous relationships. While art is the depiction of the ideal, art borne out of love should come from the deepest of feelings, rather than a recycled idea. While a picture of a heart and a sonnet from Shakespeare would correctly depict your feelings, it would not expose or describe them. So, perhaps, draw your Valentine a portrait or write them a short story and try to move away from the ideal of endless love. As Tom from (500) Days of Summer (2009) said, “What does that even mean, love?…It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything…People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not y’know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything.”
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