Relationship Theory

Every time I search the “relationship theory” tag on this blog I’m surprised I haven’t published this yet. It’s literally been years since I first wrote most of this. So, finally, as Amanda and I sit around watching Studio 60 again for the [embarrassingly high number] time and mostly written three-ish years ago, is my Relationship Theory. Get ready for a lot of convoluted Taylor Swift and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip references:

I love about pop culture –  watching tv, picking apart plots and dialogue and finding out that some actors are just as hilarious (if not more so) off screen than on. But every once in a while, I realize that pop culture is slowly killing me. Somehow, this vicious media frenzy is making me too idealistic.

I’m rarely idealistic. I’m more the pragmatic sort who wishes she had more of a devil-may-care snark-tastic attitude. Anyway, I tend to be a realist, if not an outright pessimist. Which is why becoming fixated on heart-wrenching moments during scripted television shows kind of kills me. But, at the exact same time, it gives me hope than I can write great stories, great plots that can make other people hopeful, too. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. I’ll never be bright and shiny, but I’m not dark and twisty, either.

The one line that get’s me – every goddamn time – is courtesy of Logan Echolls towards the second season finale of the unjustifiably short-lived Veronica Mars. Logan, a little tipsy and a lot heartbroken, pours his soul out to his ex, Veronica. He tells her, “I thought our story was epic, you know? Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. Epic.”

Be still, my heart. I wish that I could put him on my Amazon wish list. I just… I want epic. I don’t need romance, I don’t even want it. All I ask for is something pure, real, scary, and bigger than myself. Well, okay, maybe that’s a pretty big wish, but a girl’s gotta dream.

It all goes back to the Relationship Theory, based off of Taylor Swift (stay with me). My friends and I usually apply it to Studio 60, though it works for many other fictional stories.

My freshman year of college, Taylor Swift was kind of a big deal. [Hahaha, she’s only gotten so much more popular. This is weird. Then again, that was 2009.] Her music, though juvenile, was catchy, poppy, and fun to sing along to. Anyway, one of the bigger hits at the time was “The Way I Loved You.” It’s a fairly simple song, but it ignited a major schism to form between my roommates and myself: which boy each of us would prefer?

I thought it was obvious – you choose the ex-boyfriend. You know that you’ll (probably) get hurt, and it won’t be easy, but you’ll be consumed by passion, completely in love. Love wouldn’t be very spectacular, let alone epic, if you didn’t have to fight for it.

Amanda, however, reasoned that she wanted the current boyfriend for exactly those reasons. She wanted to be sure of her relationship and be comforted by the warm feeling it instills in you. She wanted something she could trust.

But, for those unfamiliar with the song, let me give you examples of the two different options.

Ex-boyfriend: [Taylor was constantly] screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain, it would be 2am and she’d be cursing his name, so in love that she acted insane… Breaking down and coming undone it was a roller coaster kind of rush and she never knew she could feel that much, but that’s the way she loved him. He was wild and crazy, just so frustrating, intoxicating, complicated, and got away by some mistake.

Current boyfriend: Is sensible and so incredible and makes all of T-Swift’s single friends jealous. He says everything that she need to hear and it’s like she couldn’t ask for anything better.  He opens up her door and she get into his car and he says, “you look beautiful tonight,” and she feels perfectly fine. He can’t see the smile she’s faking and her heart’s not breaking ‘cause she’s not feeling anything at all.  He respects her space and never makes her wait and he calls exactly when he says he will. He’s close to her mother, talks business with her father, he’s charming and endearing and she’s comfortable.

So there you have it. Two boys, exactly the opposite of one another. Amanda championed the line where the new bf, “talks business with my father.” She thought that was, quite possibly, the most endearing thing a guy could do. She wants someone who will call when he says, pick her up, make every other girl wonder how you got so lucky.

Okay, so I understand where that is the ideal, you know? Practical and dependable. I get it. But come on. Wouldn’t you prefer wild and crazy, frustrating, intoxicating, and, most importantly, kissing in the rain? Listen, I relish in a good fight. I like being challenged. It’s fun for me. (To a point, obviously. I can handle yelling, I can be wrong, but there’s obviously that line in fighting where emotional well-being comes into question and then you have to take a step back. So, healthy fighting, I guess.)

To me, being challenged is a necessary part of a relationship; I don’t want to sit stagnant, I’d be bored out of my skull. I don’t understand how anyone could be happy with someone who always respects your space; the biggest thrills occur when someone invades your personal space and drags you out of your doldrums, kicking and screaming. (Not all the time. Obviously. Sometimes I just want to sit around in my jammies and watch Netflix and have you just accept it.)

Back to TSwift: the thing that kills me, every time, is that her ex got away by some mistake. And, even worse, her new boyfriend clearly doesn’t know her very well at all. Even if you disregard the fact that the replacement can’t tell when she plasters on a fake smile, he fails to make her feel. When she’s with him, she never get’s past “fine” and “comfortable”. He’s reliable. And yet, he doesn’t make her feel “anything at all.”

All of my favorite (fictional) relationships rest on this theory. That the guy you should be with, 9 times out of 10, is the one who makes you come alive, even if that means you want to crawl out of your skin because you’re so angry you can’t see straight. Which is where the whole Matt / Harriet thing comes into play.

If  you’ve ever sen Studio 60, you will know that there are two primary relationships. The on-again off-again Matt & Harriet and the “slow” burn Danny & Jordan. While Danny and Jordan have a turbulent love story of their own, I will always strive for the Matt/Harriet relationship. They, like literary idols Elizabeth and Darcy, are epic. Their relationship spanned millennia (technically)! I guess this will require a little bit of an explanation.

Studio 60 is one of my favorite shows of all time (haters to the left). It was one of those things that really brought Amanda and I together as friends, but once again we found ourselves divided when it came down to the relationships. There are two couples to follow throughout the course of the one-season series. On the one hand, you have Danny and Jordan who perfectly exemplify the relationship of Taylor Swift and the new boyfriend. Comfortable, reliable, endearingly sweet. And then there are Matt and Harriet who can’t get over each other. They’ve gotten together and broken up more than any of the other characters can count. They’re constantly fighting, but they also have unwavering support in the other. That is what I find enviable; they never lose faith in each other.

I’m fairly certain that Jane Austen would have known exactly what I’m talking about. She, too, understood that the best relationships are not the simple ones, but the ones filled with conflict, strife, and challenges. Deeply passionate love makes you examine every fiber of your being. There’s a reason that Elizabeth and Darcy are the heroes of Pride and Prejudice and not Jane and Bingley. It’s the same reason that Emma and Mr. Knightley are the couple of interest and not Harriet Smith and that poor farm boy. (Consequently, it’s why Sense and Sensibility is my least favorite Austen book, though I know it cover to cover.)

I constantly struggle with this little theory of mine. Because, although my heart wants epic, my mind tells me I want comfortable – that I will eventually just settle down with a best-friend type.

Now obviously the relationships we choose to idealize and covet in fiction are not always well-suited for reality. How many of the epic bonds and love stories from the page and screen are contingent on war or crazy murderers or whatever? In reality, Logan Echolls would probably not make a great boyfriend. Very few of my fictional boyfriends would probably make good real world boyfriends (here’s to you, Seth Cohen and Stiles Stilinski!). But these ‘bad boy’ characters, I like them (and the shows, to an extent) because they are escapist, they let me live vicariously through the characters.

I think it’s important to realize that there is some overlap. I’m interested in the fictional relationships that I am because I find at least some part of them interesting and appealing. The heroes, protagonists, and antagonists that I fall for, again and again, might not be great people. But they’re great characters. And I guess, as long as you or I understand the distinction, everything is copacetic. This Relationship Theory is obviously an extreme reaction to tropes and archetypes perpetuated by fiction, but there’s some truth to it. Rory chose Jess over Dean, she chose Logan over Marty, she chose action and adventure and passion over comfort and familiarity and movie nights with Lorelai. She used those relationships to help her figure out who she was and what she wanted out of life. And maybe that’s their most important function, after all.

Informative Speech: Fandom

Okay, show of hands – who here has ever heard of 50 Shades of Grey? Everyone, right? If you have, you’ve inadvertently stumbled across fandom. Today I’m going to explain what exactly fandom is, how it started, and how it has managed to make its very own subculture, complete with its own language.

First, it must be said that there is a difference between being a fan of something and being part of a fandom. Fans are casual in their interest – they will tune in from week to week to watch the show or pre-order the next book in the series, but they don’t devote any more time to it than to set their DVR or actually enjoy the material.

A member of a fandom is an entirely different story. For a member of a fandom, they invest their time and emotions to their interest. And it’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for over a century.

One of the facts I find most surprising about fandom culture is that it’s not new or recent by any stretch of the imagination. Though I only stumbled upon fandom in the last few years, fandom culture has actually been around for decades.

The first modern fandom is considered to be Sherlock Holmes. That’s right, there were fans sitting around as early as 1887, writing about these beloved characters in the first recorded cases of fan fiction. In 1893, fans of Sherlock Holmes even held public demonstrations of mourning when the titular character was “killed”.  Let me do the math for you – 125 years this has been going on. And for the record – Sherlock Holmes is still being written about today. I saw a story about him that was updated this morning.

The thing about fandom is that it can be for fans of literally anything. The most common and mainstream fandoms tend to be related to television shows, movie franchises and book series. They even have nicknames – you’ve probably heard of some of them:

  • Twilight fans are Twihards,
  • Firefly fans are Browncoats;
  • for Star Trek there are Trekkies
  • and Dr. Who has its Whovians.
  • Janeites are those who adore Jane Austen
  • Whedonites worship at the alter of Joss Whedon – figuratively, of course.
  • And yes, there are even Bronies – fans of My Little Pony.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

But there are less mainstream fandoms as well – for musicians and bands, anime, plays and video games. Even celebrities.

And when I say that fandom is a culture, that’s not a lie. It’s so expansive it has grown to have its own language. My friend Diana and I, though we have zero fandoms in common, can hold an entire conversation about the phenomenon without anyone understanding. It’s not their fault, they’re just not part of the culture.

So if you hear a strange conversation about a new ‘fic’ someone read, know that they’re probably talking about fanfiction – or fictional stories – anywhere from a few words long to a few hundred thousand – about a show or movie or book. In case you didn’t know – that’s how 50 Shades of Grey was born. It was originally published – probably on a site like fanfiction.net or Archive Of Our Own as Twilight fanfiction.

Or maybe you’ll hear the word ‘ship’ but no context clues to think the conversation could be about boating. They’re probably talking about two characters being in a relationship, or wanting characters to be in a relationship.

And beyond that, there are OTPs, or One True Pairings – the couples a fan thinks should belong together.

These ‘ships’ or OTPs may or may not be canon, which means they take place in the continuity of the fandom’s universe or ‘verse. If something is ‘canon’ it means it happened on the show, or in the book series, et cetera.

But something may also be ‘fanon’ or “fan canon”. That means that a fact which doesn’t necessarily exist in the universe or continuity of the show has been accepted by the fans as fact – such as minor character backstory or the first name of a character.

I know this is a lot to hear, especially if you’ve never been exposed to fandom before. Believe me, I understand. The first time I stumbled across a fandom I was googling every other word to understand this new language.

The thing about people that take part in fandoms is that you may never know that it’s a hobby of theirs. While I’ve always been a television addict, I’ve never had anyone that truly shares my passion about the same shows.

But then I joined Twitter and could follow the writer’s room of my favorite show. I thought – no big, I love to write, I wonder what their process is. And then I started recapping television shows for a small blog. And then I befriended THOSE writers on Twitter. And then I joined tumblr and all bets were off.

It grew slowly, and steadily, my delve into fandom. And now, after watching an episode of my favorite show, I no longer turn off the TV and get ready for bed. Now I log onto Twitter and see what is being said about it, and complain about how many FEELINGS the show has given me.

Fandom can be a bit of a life ruiner, but at the same time it’s rewarding to connect with people about my interests. It’s nice to live in a world that makes it easy to connect, and make friends. Now you don’t have to trek to San Diego to take part in Comic Con or Austin to go to the Austin Television Festival. Now if I want to talk about my crazy theories about ANYTHING I can take to tumblr or twitter, and immediately find some camaraderie.

Fandom is a strange concept to some. It’s even a strange concept to me, and I take part in them. But they can also be rewarding. And if you’re still lost, think of it this way – do you have a sports team that you’re devoted to? Do you take part in fantasy football or baseball? Then you, my friend, are also part of a fandom. Welcome.