Nov 9 2009

Love, Indie Comedies, and Generation Y: Part 2


Is(n’t) meant to be?

LS2FG writer Benn Hadland continues to ponder the sociological aspects of todays indie drama-comedies and how they reflect today’s opinions on romance in part 2 of his “Love, Indie Comedy, and Generation Y” article.  If you haven’t already read it, part 1 can be found here.

Both (500) Days of Summer and Juno address the “relationship that’s not a relationship” approach to dating that has become all too common nowadays. (500) Days centers around Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an old school romantic who firmly believes that finding “the one” is what life is all about, and thinks he found her in the form of Summer (Zoey Deschanel). Summer, on the other hand, is on the other end of the spectrum in that she doesn’t believe in all of that romantic nonsense and finds relationships to be nothing more than a ticking clock to messy heartbreak. Although the two embark on a relationship, Summer insists on keeping things casual, whereas Tom finds himself falling in love with Summer. Eventually they break up, and Tom is left to pick up the pieces and sort everything out while Summer immediately marries another dude.

Juno focuses mostly on the titular character’s unintended pregnancy, but also revolves around her mixed feelings towards her friend and one-time lover Bleeker (Michael Cera). Granted, the two are in love with each other, despite being “just friends,” yet the pregnancy that kicks off the film came from a one night stand instigated by Juno, who privately relishes the experience, but publicly brushes it off as something she did with a friend out of boredom. Unlike Summer in (500) Days, Juno eventually drops the act and confesses her feelings to Bleeker, ending the film with Bleeker getting his girl Friday, and Juno finding “the cheese to her macaroni” (which is, by the way, the worst metaphor for finding love I have ever heard).

"I love you.... Friends?"

“I love you…. Friends?”

Despite their differences, both films deal with the single serving significant other, known nowadays as the “friend with benefits”. For the few uninitiated with the term, a “friend with benefits” is when two platonic friends fulfill one another’s physical needs, which could range from kissing to heavy petting to sex (but not making love). Many people prefer this over traditional romantic relationships because they allow two people to enjoy one another’s company, physically and socially, while avoiding all the strings, labels, entanglements and drama that are associated with settling down with someone.

The only problem with “friends with benefits” is that, in spite of itself, it is complicated and messy. Very. Granted, people nowadays abhor labels; they feel as if it’s a constriction, or some kind of definitive definition that will remain unchanged forever. Of course, “friends with benefits”, or “it’s complicated” is a label in and of itself, so the pursuit of un-labeled relationship is more of an excuse than a reason. What do people really mean when they say they don’t want a label? Commitment. Commitment is more than just dating or sleeping with one person; it’s forming an attachment and getting to know someone while they get to know you. It’s being truly open and honest with another human being, which is far too easily said and not often done.

So the alternative to getting close to someone and forming a relationship is making a verbal agreement not to engage in a relationship with your “friend”, to which you proceed to have a relationship without having one.  If this sounds fabulously fucking stupid to you, that’s because it is. When you spend time with someone, you can’t help but form a relationship of some kind with them; that’s the gig. You can’t help but form some kind of feeling toward someone you spend time with, platonic or otherwise. The only time you can avoid building a relationship with someone is if you don’t spend time with them.

Such is the plight of (500) Days’ protagonist Tom, who’s relationship with Summer looks and feels like a real relationship, yet Summer insists it isn’t. Bleeker and Juno hook up after years of friendship and developing romantic feelings for one another, yet Juno still insists that they aren’t in love and that they are still the best of friends; just the best of friends. My question is this: if it’s not a relationship, yet it looks and acts like one, what is it? If these so-called friends are falling in love with each other, despite having agreed that they wouldn’t allow that to happen, what is going on?

That’s a good question with a pretty simple answer: nothing. Trying to dissect and bisect your emotions is one of the most fantastically absurd things I’ve ever heard of. Emotions, feelings, attraction, love… these things are not circumstantial. You can’t simply declare, “Starting today, you will be my lover Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and my buddy Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Sunday will be a wild card day”. People attempt this too often, and are baffled again and again when it doesn’t work out. Of course it doesn’t work. You can’t be someone’s lover if you’re that person’s friend, and you can’t be their friend if you’re their lover. It’s not possible to compartmentalize your feelings like that. That’s what friends with benefits is all about, and that’s why it won’t work. Not really, anyway. That kind of emotional intimacy is a slippery slope; once you start, you can’t stop. Same goes for that whole “let’s be friends” thing after a break-up. How can you move on from a relationship if you still spend all your time with them? Whatever the reason for the break-up was in the first place, you can’t look into that person’s eyes and not feel that same spark, that same magnetic attraction you felt for them all those days, weeks and months ago. Nothing is more gargantuanly stupid than faking something that is or isn’t there.

Generation Y wants to have it’s cake and eat it too in many facets of life; relationships are no exception. People like an esoteric, limbo-esque relationship because it allows them to connect with others on an intimate level while pretending nothing is going on underneath the surface. I would think their logic goes like this: if this faux-relationship fails you can’t get hurt because, after all, it wasn’t like you had real feelings for this person, right? Unfortunately, our generation is becoming way too content with this delusion that feelings can be denied and beating hearts can be rendered still, all out of fear for heartbreak. Ironically, this is way more harmful to an individual’s perception of romance than getting into a real relationship and not having it work. If you try for the real thing and break up, one can find solace in knowing what it was, that you both gave it a shot, and, in the end, it just didn’t work. Losing a friend with benefits whom you had real feelings for leaves one questioning their own feelings, the feelings of that “friend”, and increases their disillusionment towards human connections and relationships.


Man, who would have thought having your cake (and eating it too) would leave you so hungry and unsatisfied?

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