I’ve just completed the whirlwind first season of ‘Love’ on Netflix, written by Judd Apatow who produces ‘Girls’ with Lena Durham.
I am drawn to the modern genre of television shows that depict the full range of dysfunctional relationships experienced by ‘normal’, flawed characters that we can all identify with. Unlike reality television contestants, whose embarrassing two-dimensionalism (I realise that’s not a word, but it works so well) is so painfully exposed on shows such as ‘Married At First Sight’, where ‘real’ (?) people have their personalities assessed by relationship experts and then become pawns in their own marriage to someone they’ve never met before.
And how do you know this is reality tv? Because these people have about as much spark as watching Russell Brand without sound, in spite of the producers assuring us that each couple has been matched perfectly.
Of course characters such as crazy Mickey in ‘Love’ or Hannah Horvath in Girls are not real in the true sense of ‘real.’ They are sensationalised personalities who reflect how we’d all like to behave and talk in people-to-people situations and dysfunctional relationships if we had a sassy, clever writer behind us pulling our strings.
In real life, (as depicted by the *yawn couples on shows such as The Bachelor and MAFS), most people genuinely struggle to find anything clever to say in the heat of a domestic or in an emotional situation. Rules pertaining to social etiquette and being taught to be mindful of people’s feelings are inherent or have been ingrained from an early age – unlike in people on the Spectrum, for instance – and so real people are more likely to walk away from sensitive situations when they get too hard. Unlike for fictional tv characters, there are real consequences to impulsive, explosively emotional melt-downs, because in real life we don’t know how the storyline ends and most of us aren’t prepared to take that risk.
I like to insinuate on this blog that the old man and I share a quirky, exciting, semi- dysfunctional relationship, because that makes for more interesting writing. We still have our moments of unbridled laughter and jollity, but for much of the time our relationship is controlled by exterior influences, that may contribute to a shared strength, but can also sap at our marital energy. When the old man and I argue, nine times out of ten he will walk away rather than confront me and follow it up with the best make up sex EVER afterwards.
As aggravating as this is, I imagine it is the atypical reaction of many men and I assume it heralds back to the cavemen days when men had to learn to avoid physical conflict with other humans. As we’re well aware, many modern men still find it hard to control their natural urge to ‘fight’ rather than ‘flight’ when cornered.
In the finale of ‘Love’, Mickey – who we witness fight battles with addiction throughout the series, enabling the writer to depict her as a refreshingly and convincingly mean-mouthed, miserable cow much of the time – fesses up about her feelings for Gus in a wonderfully honest and ballsy tirade, and ultimately lands her man.
But her journey to that point is an insightful one where the seemingly more confident, physically more attractive and exciting half of the couple has to truly fight hard to earn the love and respect of her dorky, more ‘normal’ counterpart. Mickey is a ‘crazy’, judgmental, flawed character and too often that type of personality type is depicted on screen as dangerously attractive, rather than destructive, which it can be. Whereas Gus, the object of her infatuation, lives an unassuming, relatively mundane existence as an undiscovered script writer waiting for success, sheltered by a close band of equally bland but supportive friends.
For Mickey, who has barely survived a range of dysfunctional, abusive relationships, Gus’ natural wisdom, loyalty, wit and the simplicity of his recipe for happiness make him charmingly inoffensive and offers her the security she needs.
All relationships inevitably end up in flat-line periods at some point, when those early flames of passion die down and poking the embers back into life in the context of real life is so much more challenging. The relationships that survive – and I’m not just talking about romantic relationships – are the ones that adapt best to the intrinsic causes of flat-line periods, such as responsibility, compromise, balancing work and family, and kids.
For the lucky ones that survive, those pressures can strengthen a relationship, for others it can cause those initially strong mooring ropes to fray.