Wanted: Bad Love Stories

What’s better than a heartwarming saga of true love and finding The One?  Lots of things, actually.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a cynical person.  Far from it, actually.  I believe in soul mates and I definitely believe in love.  I’m a sucker for every cheesy romantic trope that you can name–love at first sight, kissing in the rain, you name it.  But there are different kinds of stories that the needs to be told more often:

  • relationships that don’t work out
  • relationships that end with good feelings and no drama
  • people realizing that they aren’t right/compatible for each other
  • star-crossed lovers moving on and finding happiness elsewhere
  • two people that are totally into each other but going separate ways to chase other endeavors
  • tales of almost-lovers
  • could’ve-been-but-didn’ts
  • a person realizing that he or she loves someone for the wrong reasons

Basically, the journey to true love and its failed trials are possibly the most intriguing thing to me right now.

Because even if that comely coworker or highschool sweetheart did not end up as your soulmate, your interaction with them has changed you, even imperceptibly.  So of course I’m interested in a character’s haywire date and regrettable ex-partner–that’s character development.  When a character is incompatible with another, a vital question is brought up: why?  That beautiful question opens a whole world of careful scrutiny of that character’s personality, their values, the nuances of their entire being.

I think it’s also important to portray the fact that true love isn’t easy to come by.  I mean, oh please–that attractive person the protagonist makes eye contact with also happens to be completely compatible with that character?  In this day and age, the first person you are drawn to is very unlikely to end up beside you on the altar.  And yet it is portrayed constantly in media.  It can build up a lot of frustration in the viewer if he or she doesn’t realize it’s utter bullshit.  

One TV show that obliterates this tendency is Parks and Recreation.  Boy, its early seasons were chock-full of romantic blunders.  Leslie Knope pines after a coworker she slept with ages ago, eventually realizing that they’re not meant to be.  She has a sincerely loving relationship with a policeman, but their courtship is broken off after he pursues his career in a faroff city.  Once she breaks up with a seemingly perfect man simply because “he is selfish and [she] is not.” Ron Swanson is frequently haunted by his two ex-wives. The examples go on.  The result is a very realistic and relatable show.  

I want to hear about that boyfriend you once had who was a complete jackass.  I want to hear about your childhood crush and your first kiss. Yes, I’ll listen with open ears about the beautiful story of you and your soul mate, including your extravagant wedding and happy family.  But I am fascinated by the people you’ve encountered on the way there.  

-M.L.

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