Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Can Geek Drama Have Lasting Relationships?

The final episodes of Arrow season 2 saw Oliver, shockingly, confess his love for Felicity. Oh, this blog entry has spoilers for shows you probably should have watched by now, including Arrow, Buffy, Angel, SHIELD, The Flash, Spooks, Battlestar Galactica and Alias. Now, Oliver’s confession was a bit ambiguous, I’ll admit, as it looked like Oliver had lied so that Slade would think Felicity was the one to go after. We knew Felicity had the hots for Oliver, but I had never really thought the series would go there with the whole Oliver and Felicity thing, it would just be an unrequited simmering passion for Felicity. I would’ve been fine with that, but no. They are now dangling ‘Olicity’ as a tease. The only thing is, that if Oliver and Felicity get together, my prediction is that it will end in tragedy. Or will end in a rejection, Oliver quitting her because he can’t handle putting her at risk, or Felicity quitting Oliver bcause she’s seen too much suffering and can’t handle what it’s doing to Oliver. I’ll probably be wrong and she’ll become a Goddess and have to leave to save the universe, or something random, but why have I become so cynical? Geek drama. Now, not all geek drama, I don’t watch all of what TV has to offer, but in a lot of shows I’ve watched I’ve noticed that people can’t be happy. If they do fall in love then it’s only a matter of time before heartache descends. Why?

For the Drama of it All

I’m as guilty as any other writer in this. Relationships make a good subplot. If you have two single people it’s about getting them together. If you have two people together you can pull them apart. Love, unrequited or accepted, are great inroads into defining characters. Nice little shortcuts. However, in my novels there are characters that I really like and I kind of wanted them to be happy in some way–I’m pretty mean to them for the most part in the main plot so I think they deserve a bit of happy on the side. I think all four of my novels have a main or side character achieve some level of happiness. Maybe I’m a softy. But in many shows I think love is used for the drama of it all, sometimes to the detriment of what a viewer has been invested in.

I don’t know what was behind the decision to kill Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I’m still not over it. Tara was definitely a catalyst for Willow changing and becoming bad, and I think she became a casualty to that end. Buffy is actually a big sinner in this, Buffy and Angel had a whole season about it, which in fairness was a huge and important plot, but Giles and Jenny, Xander and Willow never got it on, Xander and Amy, Willow and Oz, Buffy and Riley. Buffy was romantic-tragedy-massacre-fest. It even continued into Angel, with Angel and Cordelia and I think Gun and Amy? I can’t remember now. In Spooks, a show as mired in shock character deaths as Game of Thrones, the Harry and Ruth slow simmer romance was great. Surely Harry and Ruth could’ve had some love? It’s a show that needed some joy to balance out the torture, terrorism and betrayals. Nope. They are separated. Oh, but wait, they are brought back together for the finale–oh, one of them dies. Thanks for that. We couldn’t have had one bit of happy to end that show on? Nope.

Single Out of Necessity

I get that romance doesn’t fit some shows and charters and I’m fine with that. Take Doctor Who for instance. David Tennant’s Doctor and Rose. Now, I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, but while I enjoy the modern series my fan feet are planted firmly in the ‘classic’ or ‘old’ series. When kissing would only happen in the shows either side of Doctor Who and never in the show itself. And, you know what, I was okay with that. Doctor Who, like all my geek passions, has been an escape route from the complexities of real life. Then the Doctor began to kiss his companions. But, the romance between the Doctor and Rose just worked for me. But, I hadn’t thought it through. Just where would their relationship have gone? Commitment? Marriage? Restarting the Time Lord society with baby Doctors? Was Rose going to be the longest companion ever? I mean, the Doctor would outlive her, sure, but Rose could live out her days with him. Yeah. I should have seen the utterly gut wrenching finale of season 2 coming. But I didn’t and I was a mess like most of the other sensitive Who fans and teenage girl Tenant tag along fans. I got swept up in the romance and didn’t think through how romance and Doctor Who just do not mix. Love will not last. It doesn’t work. Doctor Who is meant to be otherwordly and mysterious, for the kids he was always meant to be the mad uncle or grandfather with a life you haven’t really been involved in and will probably never really know, and from a lot of what he’s said over the years he’s above so many ‘human’ concerns. Pair him up with someone and he’s what? Your dad? I think we will see a non-white Doctor, and a female Doctor. I’m fine with that. Don’t think it would even register a reaction in me. But hooked up and happy? Unless it’s very understated, or a mature established relationship, a Sapphire and Steele ambiguity maybe, then nope.

Single For the Fan Fantasies

Supernatural. How I love them. I mean ‘it’ not ‘them’. Yes, I mean ‘it’. Not ‘them’. Not those hunky pieces of handsome man meat Sam and Dean Winchester. No. It’s all about the monster of the week or the big bad of the season. However, I suspect that Supernatural has a fan base that are very focused on the Winchester brothers. Now, I don’t mean any disrespect for the show, I love it, it’s good fun, and a show doesn’t run 10 years on the gorgeous guys in the lead. It’s got charm, wit, horror, and hotties. A nice combo. But those boys. Mmmm. However, the Winchester lads have literally been through Hell, and even by season 5 I was getting trauma fatigue. It looked like the show was ending and it was left with Dean hooked up with a ready made family. In a way, although the writer’s strike had short-changed us half a series, this was the perfect way to leave the Winchester’s. Okay, one brother was out on his own, but the other had his happy. In a show as bleak as it can be silly this was as much as I felt we could hope for. Of course, Supernatural continued, and there were logistical problems to tying Dean down to one location because the brothers cover a lot of ground in their hunts, but it could’ve worked and I wish they had kept that side going for a few seasons, or forever. But no, and I suspect it’s because as much as the Winchesters are shipped in fan fiction the writers, like music producers who want to keep their boy band singers to appear single and of ambiguous sexuality, they fear that we won’t want to see our boys hooked up and unavailable to us. How they underestimate our imaginations. I mean we haven’t let the whole Sam and Dean being brothers get in the way… Come on, you know you’ve thought it.

A Narrative Dead-End

I think the issue that plagues many romantic relationships is that these will-they-won’t-they and attainment of love plots drive characters on through whole seasons. I think writer’s panic when they actually get to a point where they can’t keep their characters apart. So, the characters achieve their goals and get together. We have love, we have romance, ah it’s what we all wanted. But then… That’s exactly what I think the writer’s are thinking ‘Now what’. Now, I get doomed love has it’s appeal. You can’t give Romeo and Juliet a happy ending. But many shows aren’t tragic love stories, geek shows tend to be about higher ideals–saving the world, humanity, keeping order, fighting evil–all that stuff. Love is often a side story. As that’s the case, why can’t they stay in love? Look at Alias, it’s the classic tale of boy meets girl, spy girl is supported by handler boy, boy and girl get together, girl’s best friend turns out to be doppelganger and they fight, girl wakes up two years later and boy is married to someone else. That really f***ed that relationship up, and although they circled each other after that the magic and the innocence of it had gone for me. Buffy and Riley, not everyone’s favourite pairing, so that probably killed them, but that was a relationship that could’ve lasted but didn’t, so Riley had his descent and self-destruction.

Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck and Appollo is a bit of an anomaly (so, not the 70s version–unless anyone’s shipped that). That was a will-they-won’t-they, although they both had separate will-they-won’t-they relationships with other people, and by the time they did get the opportunity, they had both f***ed up their love lives and been through so much trauma in being kept apart I didn’t want them to get together. It was a doomed relationship from the start. Starbuck was wild, crazy even, while Apollo was too straight and conventional, it wouldn’t have worked, so in a way their non-relationship fitted their characters. But them being landed and stranded on a planet together there was that questionmark over them. One that I didn’t want answered–they had been kept apart, written as too differently for me to want it. Perhaps her just vanishing was the best… It was an end that fitted the mysticism the series built up, and I think it was actually a satisfying end, but if you think about it, it’s one way of writing yourself out of a corner–‘What do we do with these two characters that we’ve had circle each other for five years, they wouldn’t work out, we can’t leave them together. Let’s just have her vanish.’

Geeks Don’t Want Romance

I don’t think so. Geek movies and shows have often been criticised as being too male, with women just being there as eye candy. That’s true for a lot of geek history, but it’s maturing and there are plenty of shows that have strong female characters and leads–even if the shows they belong to can’t help objectifying them at times. But the argument that geek entertainment is for boys and romance is for girls is an old argument that doesn’t stand up. Star Wars is a great example, Han Solo and Leia–they both benefit from the romance and it adds a dose of humanity with the personal stakes at risk in their rebellion.

Can We Handle Happy?

I just watched season 1 of Marvel: Agents of SHIELD. Skye, Mae, and Ward–whatever romances were going on there were killed by what happened in the last handful of episodes. Fitz confesses his love for Simmonds–and now what? Last I saw he’s not with the crew and maybe suffering brain damage. I haven’t seen season 2 yet and don’t want anything spoiled for me, but can’t we have geek drama about the big things but have two people hooked up and happy together along for the ride? Are geek drama writers relationship-phobic? The only one I can think of in a series that I have followed is Babylon 5. Delenn and Sheridan, they fell in love, got married, had their moments of drama (a wife returning from the dead, and an unrequited aide trying to kill you will do that) but it didn’t take away from either of them being bad asses and facing down Shadows, Vorlons and rogue governments and empress, and becoming leaders of the universe.

If they can do that, surely Oliver and Felicity, or Barry and Felicity, or Palmer and Felicity (Felicity, you are a minx), or Fitz and Simmonds, can get it on in their respective shows and still fight the good fight. I’m married, so clearly relationships don’t bother me, and I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse, and I can’t imagine many geeks are opposed to love and happiness. Come on, lets have a bit of stability in the geek shows. I’m sure fans can handle it, and our heroes could handle it too, if it’s in their character to be able to maintain one that is. Just not Doctor Who, okay?

Can you handle happy in geek drama?

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