02 January 2008

Love Actually Is (Or, why I'm holding out for happily ever after)

Hey look, it's 2008. Madness, I tell you!

This Christmas my incredibly wonderful mother bought me Love Actually. I highly recommend the movie. This isn't a movie review so I won't go into detail, suffice it to say that the movie follows several different people (who are all connected through friendship/family) in their different stages of love at Christmastime in London. You've got a twelve year old who falls in love with a classmate after his mother's death and a marriage falling apart because of an affair and a couple who fall in love without speaking the same language at all, and others. It's brilliant. It's funny and touching in turns. (And it's set primarily in London which, knowing me, is a HUGE bonus). At the very beginning of the film, you see the phrase "Love Actually is all around", and then the last two words fade off for a second so the phrase turns into "Love Actually is", and then it turns into "Love Actually" as the title of the movie. I'll come back to this in a second. Hang on to your trousers.

The last two episodes of Robin Hood came out this last weekend as well. Now, none of you (that I know of?) watch the show, so I'm not assuming spoilers here, but stop reading now if you care.
I don't want to go into two seasons worth of plot development to tell you why the ending irritated me so much. There are many levels as to why, much of which aren't relevant to this entry. I've geared these responses en masse to the BBC and amongst many forums to spread the word on how moronic the ending was. I'll make it brief. Last season, the writers had Marian stabbed by Guy of Gisborne (the Sheriff of Nottingham's evil leather-clad right hand man). She is "dead", but pulls a Juliet and they find out that she was only drugged by some hemlock by a mean-spirited physician. Some quick surgery later, she's back to life and reunited with her love. All is right with the world and the outlaws get a Newsie-like screen shot at the end of the season to celebrate their victory. Fast forward to last Saturday night, a year after last season ended, and the same scenario presents itself again. The writers have managed to apparate all of the outlaws and Marian and the Sheriff and Guy to the Holy Land between episodes twelve and thirteen (don't ask) and Marian, after hiding her love for Robin from Guy (who also crushes on her) taunts him with declarations of love for Robin. He stabs her with a sword in his anger at the betrayal, and Marian dies on the sand with Robin next to her after they do some quick impromptu wedding vows. Two of the outlaws end up deciding to stay behind in the Holy Land, and Robin and his reduced band of three merry men walk back to Nottingham (or apparate, I suppose). No happy ending. No reassurance that things are good. (Keep in mind, Americans- this is aired during the family hour of BBC television. It's a show mothers watch with their children because it's clean and bloodless and funny).

Reactions to this have been fairly universal - nearly everyone is furious that the BBC would kill off Marian. Aside from the particularly horrible way of doing it, most comments include something to the effect of: "It's Marian! You can't have Robin without Marian." There are a few (very very few) comments from people saying that they liked the reality of the ending because life doesn't always churn out happy endings for people, but (as I said) most people have pretty adamantly declared that they don't care how Marian comes back (re-write the last two episodes, have it all be a dream/hallucination/whatever), but she'd better come back or they won't be watching the next series. I'm fairly sure that I'm one of them. Who wants to watch a bunch of boys run around sword fighting for some huge cause when you can't narrow it down to one specific reason? Watching Robin do ground control in Nottingham isn't nearly as urgent if there isn't the promise of marrying his girl at the end.

Ok. So one more shift, bear with me. The point is coming.

I saw Enchanted tonight with my mom and sister and a friend of mine. I was a little hesitant to see it at first - so much sugar in a film tends to make me feel rather sick, but I thought the movie was rather clever in the end. It was cheesy, of course, but it also made fun of itself so it wasn't so hard to swallow. It's about a girl named Giselle from a fairy tale who falls through a well into New York City after being pushed by an evil stepmother. She's found in the middle of her search for her prince by Robert - a single father who works (I think?) as a divorce attorney and (as a result), believes that marriages aren't happy, necessarily - they're just successful if they last long enough for the couple to die still married. The ever optimistic Giselle disagrees (obviously) and continues to look for romance and a happily ever after.

So what does all this have to do with what's on my mind? I think the conclusion will probably be kind of short. I'm defending romance. It's something I kind of cower from sometimes. The idea of some guy singing me a song or writing me a poem to show me affection makes me feel all embarrassed, but in the end - what's wrong with it? If that's what brings a bit of extra excitement to a relationship, is it so bad?

Beyond that (and probably more serious than that) - we live in a pretty pessimistic world. Look at the responses to Robin Hood and the attitude of Robert from Enchanted: reality isn't a happily ever after, so suck it up and face disappointment. But you know what? I don't need television and movies to tell me that life doesn't always work out. And I don't want to be disappointed in the life I have. I don't anticipate my life being happy all the time, but I don't want to expect misery either. That's what bothers me about Robin Hood. Now all Robin is really living for is death so that after he dies he can be with Marian. But what about life? I want to be happy now. I want to believe that my so-called "happily ever after" can exist now too. I don't want to live with a "happily after (insert event here)" mentality. If we don't have hope for joy in this life, then what are we living for?

Love actually is. It exists. It's the promise of some dreams coming true if we live through nightmares. It's what pushes us forward. Optimism is what keeps us moving, not this so-called "reality/that's life" mentality that prevails in society now. And since when did 'reality' always constitute the horrible parts of life? My reality includes many good things too. Many miracles.

So that's my message to all the nay-sayers in the forums or on the news or whatever other venue we find them in. Life isn't always happy. Relationships don't always work out. Sometimes things fall apart. But not all the time. There is always a hope for something wonderful, and if we don't keep that hope, then we probably deserve what's coming to us.

This is also why I really loathed the end of Robin Hood this season. Because people know that life isn't always happy without the help of the writers of the show. We know that. It's beaten over our heads every day. We don't need another addition to the pessimism pile. Let the outlaw win his lady. Especially in a show geared for families and children.


Eronn said...

I found this through your post at LJ's Robin Hood community, and I have to say I agree with pretty much all of what you said.

Especially the part about the Newsies-like ending! Brilliant comparison that I hadn't even thought of. ;)

Joni said...

Lol. Thanks. Not much of a Newsie ending this time, eh? *sigh*.

lesera128 said...

You know, I stumbled across your comments, as the other poster did, from one of the RH LJs... and I wanted to say that not only do I agree with you, but that a large part of the problem with much entertainment in the world has to do with creative writers/producers, etc. who think that the happy ending is the norm and so much work against it. It used to be... (although when 'it used to be' refered to, I'm not sure) that the standard 'happy ending' was cliche.

Now, in order to NOT be cliche, movies and books and television stories go with the anti-happy ending which in turn has become cliche.

It is the rule now, not the exception, that most people expect bad/unhappy endings. Realistic? I say that's a bunch of BS because most people on this planet look at their own screwed up lives and go there are no such things as happy endings just because they mucked up their own.

Happy endings and romance do exist, but they take work, and it seems as if entertainers have forgotten that.

I feel that Robin Hood has screwed the pooch on this unless they go with the Miracle Max mostly dead explanation for Marian. In the meantime, I will happily continue to play my "Seize the Day" track on repeat as I look for the happy endings.

Thanks for letting me agree/pseudo vent. :)

Joni said...

You're welcome. And I completely agree with you. It's a shame that in order to be "different" or "modern" or whatever the current term is, you have to be depressed.

Vent all you like. Heaven knows I've been doing it for the last five days...

celsitude said...

I'm another person who found this through the RH community and I must say I completely agree.

I want my fairy tale in this series. I know it doesn't always happen but frankly the cliche just works sometimes. Robin and Marian are supposed to be safe - a safe, happy fairy tale. I reveled in that while getting into this series, I thought this was one show that couldn't disappoint me in the end because it was lore or legend. I could safely hope for a happy ending. Sadly, I guess I was wrong. Very sadly.

bichito said...

Just wanted to tell you that YOU are my miracle of the day. I went to bed last night crying, not (only) because of the show, but because of what it means. I've always used tv-shows as a way to dream that life can be other way, that good things can happen. I've always used them to give me strenght to go and fight for those things I want, to inspire me. I didn't even care if people called me a fool, I rather be a fool than a sad person. But the thing is, now, tv-shows don't have happy-endings, they say that it's too cheesy, so now, tv-shows and movies are an extent of reality, and as you said, they show you the bad reality. Last night I cried feeling alone in a world that was too pesimistic for me, feeling that I didn't fit in here, and this morning a click on a link and there you are, as a miracle, telling me that I'm not alone (which is good, because being alone makes you think that you're wrong and everyone else is right and you're just doing everything plain wrong in this life). So, yeah, long rambling (I probably scared you, LOL) to tell you: THANK YOU!

PS: What was so wrong with letting the good win over the evil? That's what Robin Hood has been all about since the beginning, that's what I loved the most. I keep saying that this last episode wasn't Robin Hood, but some kind of cruel joke. =(

medievalmuse said...

I'm joining the masses to say how much your words resonate with me as well, also having found you from the RH LJ community. I'm sorry if this becomes a rant about that show's finale in particular, but your words make it seem so applicable.

A friend and I were commiserating over the devastating, cynical and cruel season finale of a show that had nutured hope and possibility for two seasons. What does it say when our handsome hero makes sacrifice after sacrifice, attempting against all odds to be noble, brave, generous and in the end doesn't get a life with his true love, the bad guys get away? Even the deathbed marriage of Robin and Marian with promises of happy-ever-after in heaven do little good for us the viewing audience, because we cannot follow them there. We can no longer witness a radiant smile, an embrace or stolen kiss between lovers or watch with the sustained hope of their intended future of a love and life shared.

This show asked, time and time again, for us to suspend our disbelief with crazy plots, bizarre characters and silly one-liners. We did. This show asked, time and time again, for us to truly believe that good would triumph over evil. We did. We even bought into the notion that everyone, no matter how bad, is redeemable...that some good exists in them. And the reward for that is a shock-value ending shattering dreams and leaving me as broken-hearted as our Robin surely is. In these dark times of world turmoil, one would think that the creators of this show would at least give us a little piece of "happy-ever-after" on a Saturday night to call our own.

Anonymous said...

i really couldn't agree with you more. Its a tv show, and a kids one at that, if for any reason they bring her back it should be for the kids who watch this show. And all the OTP and OT3s that died along with her.

Daniel said...

I really agree with you. I felt the same. I was disapointed by real life and just wanted to dream a bit, but Robin Hood took me away this. Besides, Robin & Marian became my favorite couple in a TV show...

Joni said...

Thanks for all the feedback, friends. I don't personally know any of you, but that doesn't much matter, does it? We're still linked.

bichito - I'll admit, some of what was said to you in the comments on the LJ were the reason why I decided to write this, so I'm glad that it helped. Don't let those people get you down, alright? They're not worth your time. Listen to Edward: It's good to dream.

medievalmuse - you hit it on the head. Family entertainment isn't a place to shock us/try to be revolutionary - especially within a show that already has a basic storyline that's been established. People *expect* Robin and Marian to get together because they *always* do. And I agree on the second point as well - look at Marian. She spends two full seasons living her life carefully to benefit others, and what happens when she finally tells the truth and does something for herself? She's stabbed. Yeah. That's a great message for kids. What about children who are abused and afraid to speak up for themselves? Not saying that the show is responsible for the reaction of every audience member - people all react differently - but something that huge can't be done so callously. It's irresponsible.

Thanks again for the feedback, everyone.

Marisa VanSkiver said...

Love this post! Though I can't comment about Robin Hood, I have to say that Love Actually is one of my most favorite movies (I often watch it at 2am when I need to feel good about love again). I have had so many people ask me why I'm not married, why I haven't "settled down." The point is not to settle down. I, like you, have little desire to just settle for any relationship, I do want more of that "happily ever after" relationship, and I'm willing to wait for the right relationship instead of just settling (and believe me, I've had my chances for that). There are so many different aspects to love and relationships, I think it's worth the time to find the right one, to work at what's right, and to not expect it to be perfect all of the time.

medievalmuse said...

PS. I saw Love Actually when it first came to theaters and thought it was a lovely movie. Sad at times, but enough happy to go around:)

sam said...

(read this from a link on robinhoodbbc live journal)

Completely agree, and for many people like myself, TV (and film) is a form of escapism. Life isn't always fun, and happy endings and true romances happen rarely, and so we want to watch something that makes us feel happy and lets us live a piece of our dreams on screen.

It seems the writers thought the only way to make it interesting and fuel angst was to destroy the romance genre in the show altogether, whereas if they had used their creative heads (we all know they work wonderfully when they do it properly) they could have thought of a FANTASTIC series 3 and we could have still had angst and drama but stick to the original genre of romance.

Drama/Romance story, the creators said that themselves (family shows have to have more than one dynamic...)

the professor sans maryann said...

Dearest Madame,

I have no idea how I came upon your blog, but I did. I am totally and completely in love with your mind. I'm not sure how old you are, but you have an amazing brain. I am a 40 year old literature professor. It's all sort of embarrassing, actually, to read the blog of a lovely young lady and feel like this, but I'm afraid it's the truth. In any case, my dear, know that you are an amazing young woman. Ah, to be young again . . . :-)

Joni said...

Merci :) If you ever want to borrow my head for a bit, you're more than welcome. It's kind of tiring to be me sometimes...