Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Love Stories I'd Like Rewritten, Please!

So, I spend a lot of time (too much time) thinking way too deeply about somewhat trivial details from TV shows and books.  The things I obsess over particularly involve relationships.  It's a hobby - I like to dissect and analyze people's motives and reason's for saying this or that and especially trying to interpret what various interactions mean. My favorite shows and books are those that include some long developing relationship between colleagues and friends where the romance may not be central but we get occasional cryptic nods to the character's true feelings for one another.  The most crucial part of the relationship however is how it concludes, how it is brought to fruition, and I'm not sure whether to be thankful or enraged that a good satisfying culmination must be VERY difficult to write.Thankful because the completely unresolved way many romances are left, leaves lots of room for endless (read: fruitless) speculation and analysis.  Enraged because IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! Anyway, I assume it must be difficult to write because I very rarely see it done well and there is nothing more completely frustrating to the chronic shipper then to sit through 9 seasons of a show and then get NO satisfactory resolution between characters.

What's the reason for this resolution cold feet symdrome? Frequently, my impression is that writers get spooked by including too much overt romance in their shows because there's usually a pretty large contingent of anti-shippers who think all that relationship hooey interferes with their sci-fi show or whatever.  So they keep it cryptic and on the down low and resolve things off stage so to speak.  I HATE this but am also unsure that I could make a convincing argument to the show runners to say SCREW YOU to a big chunk of their audience when it's easier to say screw you but here's a tiny bone to another part of your audience.

Another common reason is actors.  Either they don't like the idea of the characters getting together or one of the actors is no longer involved with the show by the time they wrap things up (i.e. they've left things too long).  Basically, some external real life thing impinges on the fiction of the show.  Again not sure how you get around it but it drives me crazy!

I have recently watched a show where I think things were handled pretty sketchily and this has prompted me to think back on all the disappointments. I plan to do a separate post of stories where I think it was done well but it may be a shorter list.   Did I mention I like to over-analyze?  I'm just sayin'. This might get a little long :0)  Here are the ones that drive me the most crazy:

Rose and The Doctor from Doctor Who


I've already gone on quite a bit about how I see Rose and The Doctor.  To sum up: I love this relationship and Rose is definitely my favorite companion.  The Doctor's feelings for Rose are likely complicated and not entirely comprehensible to us humans which is why I was okay with the solution the show runners came up with to satisfy the shippers.  Unfortunately, I really think they flubbed it.
Basically they created a Doctor human hybrid (what?  that's not weird or anything) who was basically The Doctor but mortal and with some damage.  We'll call him Doctor 10.5.  The idea is that Rose can help heal Doctor 10.5 like she did Doctor 9 and she in return gets to spend her life with a Doctor that can admit he loves her.  Anybody who does not watch Doctor Who is at this moment wondering what kind of ridiculousness has taken over television. It's usually pretty great. Trust me. Unfortunately, THE Scene at Bad Wolf Bay is kind of atrocious.  First it's rushed and short because everything in the universe is happening in this episode (the final ep. of season 4).  Secondly, David Tennant acts his socks off as 10 and then is wooden as a board as 10.5.  Doctor 10.5 stands there, barely even looking at Rose much less moving towards her, grabbing her hand, something and he reels off an explanation in a monotone about how he's mortal and he could stay with her. If she wants.  Way to woo there 10.5.  Then Rose brings the two Doctors together and asks them what they were going to say the last time they talked at Bad Wolf Bay.  Doctor 10 just looks at her sadly and says "Does it really need saying" while 10.5 leans in and casually whispers in her ear causing her to throw herself at him and kiss him.  WTH?  It is obvious that Rose and 10.5 are going to have the sex and the babies but god forbid he actually say he love her out loud because that would confirm that it is what number 10 was going to say to her back in season 2 and that would piss off the anti-shippers.  At least that's how I read it.  Me and the other 12 years olds that love Rose are going to go over to this corner and sulk now. Hmphhh.

Mulder and Scully from The X-files


Oh how I love this show and Oh how I LOVED dissecting the relationship of these two.  It may have actually been the first show that really sucked me in this way.  Their relationship both professional and maybe possibly romantic was so fraught with chemistry and angst and glances that could mean everything or nothing.  I especially loved Scully and would get so mad when Mulder was shitty to her, which he was on a somewhat regular basis. But it was also obvious that he needed her and respected her and his shittiness was frequently because he knew she would ground him and stop him from doing something stupid that he desperately wanted to do.  They were both so independent but also needed one another.
This was one of those romances that happened off screen at some point which is a frequent tactic.  It wasn't until the most recent movie (2008) that we see solid proof that the two are romantically involved and even then they were tricksy.  So why was it always so cryptic?  The writers didn't want to go there? Duchovny left before the show ended which made things pretty awkward.  I am glad that we finally got to see them together in 2008 but seeing them bored and struggling in a relationship that's been going on for years is not the same as seeing the first kiss or the first confession of feelings.  I still feel cheated.  Though all the analyzing and speculation was sure a pleasant way to waste some time.

Aang and Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender


I know, I know.  This is a romance between a 12 and 14 year old so it seems pretty silly to get all analyze-y and worked up about it, not to mention  they are cartoons. But it is just the sort of romance I really get into - The "Some Kind of Wonderful" type of romance.  Two good/best friends in which one of them is pretty much in love with the other from day one while the other remains somewhat clueless until one day the sun shines in and all becomes clear.  I think this is my favorite kind of romance(in addition to Some Kind of Wonderful by John Hughes, see Gilbert and Anne from the Anne of Green Gables series, Colin and Penelope from below if Julia Quinn hadn't flubbed it....).
In general I think the show developed things between Aang and Katara really well until about halfway through the third and final season - basically when it was time to start bringing things together.  Then they proceeded to do all sorts of inexplicable things.  They yell at each other a bunch and then separate during which time Katara inexplicably and for no real good narrative reason travels to back up Zuko while Aang and her brother and the rest of the gang are risking their lives at the real battle. Their only scene together in the last 3 episodes of the series is the very last scene where they utter nary a word to each and just exchange smooches.  Wait, what?  The last time we saw them they were screaming at each other - what just happened.  It was all so out of character.
I ran across a collection of short fan fiction vignettes called Flying Embers that pretty much fixes everything for me.  The author clearly has the exact same issues I had and wrote a series of short scenes, either additional or re-writes, for season 3.  Some of the things to be fixed:  a more substantial scene and discussion in Ember Island Players that had more resolution or at least better explanation of the feels, Katara would not have yelled at Aang about his reservations about killing the Firelord especially to defend Sokka who was actually being a jerk, no way would Katara have agreed to back up Zuko and not have been there for the battle against the Fire Lord, and finally there needed to be some dialogue accompanying the kiss at the end.  The above mentioned fanfiction writer pointed out that there was likely a gap of 6-8 weeks between the defeat of Firelord Ozai and the final scene which suggests that there was likely some off screen resolution between Aang and Katara and the kiss we see at the end is just letting the audience know that they are together.  This is a frequent and HUGE complaint I have with how many of these relationships are handled.  Also pointed out by the above mentioned fanfiction writer is that organically season three should have been about Katara's realization of her feelings - Aang's are firmly established from episode one but hers never are.  The ending as it exists does not fix that.

Captain Janeway and Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager 


I think Captain Janeway from Star Trek Enterprise is the bomb and I loved the idea of Chakotay, originally an enemy, developing a huge crush on his captain out of respect and because she's purty.  Their little flashes of affection for each other were great but like Sam and Jack below they were forbidden by a command structure to really act on their feelings.  Until the last episodes when they would finally come together and it would be satisfying and oh so right.
Or Chakotay could end up hooking up with Seven of Nine.  Out of the blue.  For no reason. Word on the street is that Kate Mulgrew who played Janeway didn't like the idea of them getting together.  Well poo on you.  Even if your reasons were based on a wish to keep the character a feminist icon.  I wanted a meaningful conversation and smooches.

Sam and Jack from Stargate SG1


This one is a killer. It shares something with both Janeway and Chakotay and Mulder and Scully.  They are unable to express their feelings because of it being all military and the chain of command.  Unfortunately, Richard Dean Anderson got bored with the show somewhere around season 7 and he slowly appeared less and less until disappearing entirely for the last two seasons.  Unfortunately the powers that be seemed to enjoy playing with the shippers in the audience.  Even when they had opportunity in subsequent movies they chose to be coy.  It didn't make sense and wouldn't have taken much time to confirm that these two were together. There is SO MUCH fan fiction out there that tries to fill this void but if it ain't canon, it ain't canon.
As a side note, I'll also bitch about about the crap they pulled with Jewel Staite's character, Dr. Jennifer Keller from Stargate Atlantis.  They initially seemed to be pairing her with Ronan Dex which made sense - he's lost his entire people including his wife who was in the medical field and he could use some companionship.  They had chemistry and were a good opposites attract fit.  But at some point they dropped that in favor of putting her with Rodney McKay.  While I enjoyed Rodney's character, he was practically a caricature - he did not need a love interest.  I wanted Kaylee to get the hot guy :-(.

Buffy and Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer


I know Joss Whedon would have kicked the ass out of this one if he could.  Sure he let Angel and Cordelia have a thing which was ridiculous but he generally writes characters and relationships really well.  I also think the star crossed nature of Buffy and Angel's relationship was too good to pass up.    Unfortunately, they developed a show around Angel which was good, but by the time Angel was ending, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was over and Sarah Michelle Gellar was unavailable to come back for the Angel series finale.  So everything had to be left hanging.  Or Joss killed everyone which is actually what I think he did. 

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn


This is the only book entry on this list.  If you are not familiar with Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series of regency romances, it would be worth your while if you like that sort of thing.  Romancing Mister Bridgerton is the fourth book in the series and as soon as I heard that it paired Colin Bridgerton (laid back, rakish, funny man of the family) with Penelope Featherington (awkward, wallflower, friend of the family) both of whom I had met in the previous books I was SO excited.  Sticking with John Hughes references this was both a Some Kind of Wonderful AND Pretty in Pink romance.  It shouldn't get any better than this.
But I didn't love it and was so upset I didn't love it.  Colin must have been a character that Quinn felt able to effortlessly write in snippets and vignettes but wasn't sure what to do with as a full fledged character.  He goes from charming and hilarious and adorable - a perfect beta hero  - to whiny, self-pitying and almost humorless.  Once the two lovers come together he even turns into the almost stereotypical alpha Hero who is jealous...OF HIS WIFE.  It was just weird.  I didn't even think Colin and Penelope coming together was all that compelling, though that may have been the fault of my wildly astronomically high expectations.  In short, I was disappointed.

Wow.  So that was pretty cathartic and therapeutic for me.  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!  I feel like this may come off as arguments that these romances should have been more front and center but I don't actually feel that way.  I prefer stories where the romance is one small part of a much larger narrative being told. Where the relationship enhances an already great drama.  I watched and loved the X-files for the mystery and conspiracy and aliens but the Mulder-Scully relationship took the show to another level for me.  I'm fine with the romancey stuff being an occasional scene every 6th episode.  I don't want it to take over and I don't think one episode in a show 9 seasons long is going to kill any anti-shippers.

So that's my Wednesday rant?  Anybody else have similar feelings?  Are there any shows that you particularly like for the underlying romance goodness?  Any show runners you think are doing it right?  Any unresolved romances that left you wanting to throw a shoe or a book or something?

P.S. Yes I love The Little Mermaid, both the Disney and Hans Christian Anderson versions and it in no way should ever be changed.  


  1. Well, I haven't gotten very far in Dr Who (I'm only a few episodes into Ten) and I haven't watched the other series you discuss except for ST Voyager, where I totally agree with you. But I'm so sad you didn't like Romancing Mr Bridgerton! It's my favorite of the Bridgerton novels -- well, it and The Viscount Who Loved Me. It's true that Colin got a bit whiny and self-pitying, but people sometimes do when everything has come easily to them and they've never really had to grow up. I see it as coming from the fact that Colin wants to be more than he is, and doesn't see how to do it yet. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

    The West Wing, which my husband and I are re-watching now, had two relationships I wish had been handled differently. There's a dynamic between Josh and Donna through the entire series -- they are both loyal and protective toward each other, but because he's her boss (and he's also really bad at any kind of tenderness), they are never more than attracted friends (an attraction Josh, at least, flatly refuses to acknowledge.) I don't remember the last season very well, but I don't think there was ever any resolution, which irks me. The other one is Charlie, the president's aide, and Zoe, the president's youngest daughter. Zoe had the good taste to fall for Charlie, who is a fine young man. But she can't handle the fact that he's always at work, so she breaks up with him and falls for a spoiled, self-centered, arrogant, and immature French prince. The latter choice leads to disaster, but I really couldn't buy her blindness when it came to him. She's a smart girl, and how she could go for the French twit after a guy like Charlie boggled my mind; it was like there were two different Zoes.

    The various Star Trek series have some other relationships I wish had been dealt with differently. Troi-Riker, Troi-Worf, Worf-Jadzia...

    1. First of all, I think it's pretty fair to say that the Star Trek writers (and Star Gate for that matter) were not great at writing satisfying romances in general.

      Second, I have always been meaning to watch The West Wing. Now I'll be prepared for the relationship dissatisfaction when it comes.

      Finally, I should clarify that I didn’t dislike Romancing Mister Bridgerton – I did like it fine. A more accurate description of my relationship with the book is that it failed to meet my unrealistically fantastical expectations and wishes. Basically it is all on me. I am always subconsciously looking for the “perfect” romance story for me. The “for me” is the key here because I think everyone has particular tropes or chords or elements that particularly resonate with them. When I discovered that RMB paired Colin and Penelope, combining two of my favorite side characters and two of my favorite romance tropes (the aforementioned “Some Kind of Wonderful” pairing and the popular character falls in love with quirky/ less mainstream /geeky character) , I thought this might be it. I had been so enjoying Julia Quinn in the first three books and her writing (lots of humor, relatively light etc…) was also in favor of everything being just what I was hoping for. You are absolutely right that some of Colin’s “angst” is completely realistic and that Quinn was creating depth of character and therefore a more meaningful union. Unfortunately, that’s not what I wanted. I don’t love angsty romance when romance is the complete focus - that’s too real life and that’s not what I read romances for. In RMB, I wanted some kind of forced togetherness in a wacky fun adventure ala Georgette Heyer during which Colin realizes how awesome Penelope is and that he is in love with her. And then would come the long, awkward but extremely sweet and romantic courtship while hijinks continued to ensue. I wanted fun and light and real-angst free. Don’t get me wrong, RMB was hardly a dour angst filled slog of a romance – it is still pretty fluffy -but I was pretty resentful of Colin’s “issues”. Basically it was like getting a plate of roast beef ,potato and carrots when I was craving chocolate covered strawberries – the meal would be more filling but not as joyful and delectable. When writing up the blog post though it made me want to re-read, now that I have some distance from my crazy expectations, and see if I can be less disappointed by it.