Tuesday, 11 June 2013

What is a Love Story?

Ask a selection of people to name some of the best romances or love stories of all time and you will likely hear some of the following among their answers. Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, and Gone with the Wind.

I'm sorry, but by what definition are any of these stories romantic?

Now, I do understand the power of a brooding hero, as well as the appeal of all consuming love/lust/infatuation/obsession, but these stories all clearly show the destructive nature of these emotions and in no way glorify the relationships.

Which is why I simply don’t understand why so many people classify them as love stories. What's more, I don’t believe that the authors ever intended for these to be love stories or romance stories.

Let’s start with the worst of that bunch, Wuthering Heights.

Has there ever been a less appealing collection of characters in a novel? I don’t think so.

Yes, Cathy loves Heathcliff and vice versa, but she rejects him because he isn’t rich enough. From that point on, it is a battle of wills to see who can destroy the other first, and not just between Kathy and Heathcliff, everyone around them gets caught in the crossfire too (or indeed, does their fair share of bad deeds). The pain and misery these two inflict on each other and everyone around them is positively loathsome.

Wuthering Heights is a lesson in the destructive nature of obsessive love and it far more resembles a hate story than a love story.

Romeo and Juliet.

Now this is about two children who are so totally infatuated with each other, that they end up dying for that love.

WTF! Leaving aside issues of them being children, they are willing to die for their love; they both commit suicide when they believe the other has died.

I don’t know about y’all, but I want the people that I love to go on without me, not to kill themselves if I died.

Besides Romeo and Juliet don’t love each other, they are infatuated with each other. They don’t even know each other a week when they die and it takes time to get to know someone. Once you’ve lived with their leaving the toilet seat up constantly, farting in bed and not killed them for saying “you know?” constantly, then you can claim to be in love. If he or she is just “the dreamiest person ever” then that’s inflation, or perhaps lust, but not love.

Look at those pictures below. Do you honestly think a love story staring those kids (middle and left) would be an epic romance? Because they're both 13 years old, the age of Romeo and Juliet.

Now, some people argue that Romeo is older than Juliet, since his age is never specifically stated. Many seem to think he is at least 20. Does a 20 year old wooing a 13 year old seem any better, or worse? 

All in all, Romeo and Juliet seems to be a story about infantile infatuation in stupid young people, or a predatory older man. Not exactly something to aspire to.

Gone with the Wind.

Is that what love looks like?
Don’t get me wrong, I love this story and watch the film about every 5 years or so but I still don't believe it's a love story.

Rhett loves Scarlet (and I believe he loves her warts and all, proper love, if you will) but she loves Ashley, who doesn’t love her.

Yes, Rhett and Scarlet get married and yes they have a child, but there is no love in that marriage, it’s a power game between them (slightly more so on Scarlet’s side than Rhett’s).

Then consider that the only time they have sex, Rhett rapes Scarlet. Apparently she sees nothing wrong with that and wakes the next morning smiling and happy (and preggers) warming to the idea of Rhett as her husband (yeah, as you can guess, I love that plot twist. NOT).

Meanwhile Rhett (I think, appalled by his actions) finally begins to distance himself from her.

Obviously, neither of them can be honest and after their daughter dies, they end up truly hating each other and doing their best to hurt the other.

To me, an integral part of love is respect and honour.

As I said, I believe Rhett truly loves Scarlet (despite being an arse and raping her) because when Ashley’s wife dies, he leaves so that she can have Ashley. He does what he thinks will make her happy, not himself. She realises too late that that she does want Rhett but she’s already done so much against him that he can’t believe her.

Still however, by marrying a woman who doesn’t love him, he isn’t respecting himself. He deserves better and because he doesn’t have a woman who loves him, they both end up hurting each other.

Gone with the Wind is an engaging, epic story, a wonderful snapshot of a period of American history, and a character study in how unrequited love affects different people.

But it is aanother hate story, not a love story.

Perhaps someone who likes these stories as romances can enlighten me, because even as a child and teenager, I never found anything romantic in these relationships. What is the draw of these tales? Star crossed lovers? Brooding hero's? 

*The images of both 13 year old children and the 20 year old man, were taken from news stories.