Ending with a clinch, not a child [Sondheim]

This post is part of a symposium on Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

I really enjoyed Gilbert’s post on the absence of children in a musical about marriage.  This isn’t a problem unique to Company, but I think it’s more noticable these because Company seems like it’s intended to say more about marriage.

In most romances, the catharsis comes with a clinch, not a child.  The couple run at each other in slow motion, the music swells, and the pair lock lips.  Sometimes the camera will swoop out, and show all the bustling activity of the airport or city street or whatnot, and the couple stands out as the single still point, allowing all other human activity to pass by them unnoticed.

I think the troubles that drove the plot are supposed to stand in for all future problems.  If the couple could get past these misunderstandings (by asserting that their commitment to each other trumps everything else), presumably they can fall back on the same strategy for all future problems.  After all, they’ve decided (to quote a non-Sondheim musical):

If I didn’t believe in you
I couldn’t have stood before all of our friends
And said, “This is the life I choose-
This is the thing I can’t bear to lose
Trip us or trap us, but we refuse to fall”

I’m 23 and single, so I’m speculating, but I think the way you have to remake yourself to be part of a romantic relationship is different than the way you have to accommodate a child, who didn’t sign on as a partner in this whole thing.  A child breaks you out of the two-people-entranced-by-each-other mold.

Part of the problem seems to be the existence of YA romance.  Obviously something pitched to teens can’t end with a new family or even all that many new responsibilities.  These stories have to get their resolution from a kiss.  And most romantic comedies (minus the sex scenes, or not) seem like they could be transposed pretty easily into a high school setting.

Bleeeccchhh.

It seems to me like it makes a lot more sense for kids to have adventures that they can have fully as kids, instead of stunted versions of adult plots.  I keep being disappointed when I pop into the YA section in the bookstore and have trouble finding stories that aren’t driven by romance.  I don’t read the Young Wizard series and get distracted from the wizardly battles fought for the sake of an entire world or an entire person and think if only there were more scenes with kissing and prom worries.  No one would fault Nesbit or Eager for leaving out kiddie romance.

Leaving out romantic and sexual love doesn’t mean crippling the emotional resonance of a story.  Children are fiercely loyal and equally fierce when loyalty is betrayed.  You can get pretty far on friendship and parent/mentor/hero relationships, and those are relationships a young person can be wholly invested in.  And adults can be invested in them, too!  The romcoms where the protagonists appear to have no friendships, only sidekicks, are scary.

 

I’ve been noodling this over since I read Gilbert’s comment, and here are the unresolved questions I’d particularly like your thoughts on.

  1. If this style of telling romantic stories is incomplete, what problems do you expect to see in a society that’s accepted it as a cached thought?
  2. Any romances (book, movie, or show) from, say, the last 50 years, that you feel go against this grain in a really satisfying way?

 

 

 A few bonus notes:

- It was only with great strength of will that I resisted titling this post “Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell.”  Forbearing drained my willpower reserves, so I’ve still stuck it down here in a note.

- I think it’s worth noting that, in Company, Bobby doesn’t even get up to the clinch.  He’s committed to being committed to someone, but hasn’t had to accommodate himself to a particular someone yet.  That’s why I like pairing this show with Passion where the protagonist does find someone “to crowd me with love” and doesn’t like it for most of the show.

Follies also deals with relationships without discussing the children involved, one of the mentions in passing is achingly, deliberately sad because it’s tossed into a patter-y song and is jarring. From “Country House” where a couple is running through options to patch up their marriage:

How about a St. Bernard?
What?
We could adopt a St. Bernard.
In New York? Are you serious? A St. Bernard?
Or a child.
Ah. the child …
All right. why?
Why not?
Why now?
We need something we can share.
We need air.
We need something-
We need something if it’s real.

Best to watch the video, though, in my favorite recording of this song, there’s a bit more of a startled pause when the child is mentioned and a little more urgency in the quickness of the lyrics that follow.

 

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    As an aside, the only Sondheim where children–wanting them, worrying about them, abandoning them, trying to control them, readying them for the world–are treated with anything close to the real wonder and craziness they bring to relationships is Into the Woods. Which may be why the adult relationships in Into the Woods, beset with challenge as they are, are Sondheim’s most authentic. Maybe we have to go into fairytale to get back to reality.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Also, this is going to sound really weird, but the lasting model for romance/relationships in my life and that of many women my age, who read it when we were YA’s (in Catholic 7th grade) even though it’s not a YA book, was Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. It had lovely and hunky young protagonists, plus Survival in the Wild North (complete with totally natural childbirth long before any of us attempted to bring that back) to add challenge and realism.

  • Alex Godofsky

    YA fantasy semi-counterexamples off the top of my head:

    1) I read Abhorsen a long time ago, but I recall that the main romance plot ended up with marriage+kids (granted you only saw the kids in the sequels).

    2) A Horse and His Boy ends with marriage+kids.

    3) The Prydain Chronicles end with marriage and I believe a brief mention of their kids.

    4) The Harry Potter epilogue, for all its awfulness, was another marriage+kids.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    Okay, I’m sure I’m going to get blasted for evening mentioning it, but The Twilight Series not only ends with a child, but has a scene where Edward (the father) who didn’t want the baby because it was a threat to his wife, realizes that the child is a part of both of them, a unique person in herself, and has his own conversion on the beauty of fatherhood and the gift that is the child. Perhaps not the ideal example, but still significant given the wide-spread popularity of the series.

    • leahlibresco

      *flinch*

      Actually quite good to bring up. I think one thing that’s pretty weird about the Twilight model is the premature aging of the child. Because she is a magic!baby, Renesmee doesn’t really require parenting for very long. Adjusting to a child with a will of it’s own is an important part of being a parent, but Edward and Bella don’t get much time dealing with a child as something totally dependent. Or something alien, that must be loved even though it cannot be reasoned with, since Edward can read the thoughts of the child in utero and Renesmee can project her thoughts into other people’s head after birth.

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    I’d just point out that in the case of 2) and 4), much of the romance that ends up in marriage with kids is left off-screen; the climax is not having children, but rather 2) finding out one’s own identity and 4) defeating Voldemort and finally understanding Harry’s true role in his defeat. Romance is primarily a endnote to or sidestep from the story.

    In fact, it seems that Leah is asking for more stories that are *primarily* romance-driven, but with the bearing and raising of children as the climax of the story, and otherwise stories that non-romanticentric or romanceless. (Of course, kiss-coda’ed stories would be alright, but not preferable.) Leah, would that be correct?

    • http://sylvietheolog.wordpress.com Sylvie D. Rousseau

      Isn’t Harry longing for a family all the time? His friends and some teachers (Hagrid, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Lupin), and his godfather of course, are family to him. He lives the normal family life all he can with the Weasleys. No wonder he and Hermione, raised in the Muggle world, end up marrying in the Weasley family, becoming really brother and sister at the same time. Rowling’s idealized portraying of boarding school (those who went to boarding school generally hated it) is nothing but an extended family life.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        That is true, but I’d argue that while he longs for family, any longing for romantic or marital companionship is minimal.

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    One book that might qualify is LeGuin’s “Tehanu,” although its classification as YA comes mainly from Ged’s being a teenager in “A Wizard of Earthsea.” In it, though the lovers are beyond the age of childbearing, family dynamics, including an adopted child, are entirely part of the romance and climax.

  • Courtney F.

    The romance portrayed in the prologue to Pixar’s Up qualifies, to me. Though Carl and Ellie ultimately remain childless, their relationship shows more about the ups and downs of married life in 7 minutes than most movies do in 70.

    • leahlibresco

      Oh heck yes.

    • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

      I can’t get past the hospital scene without completely breaking down. Crap, I’m tearing up just typing this. *sniff*

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Did you notice that, within that montage, the church at the end and the church at the beginning are the same?

        First time I realized this, I teared up a little.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Good POINT! I think I cried more at the beginning of that children’s flick than I ever have at an adult movie.

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    Okay, it’s not a great move or anything, it’s rather the movie equivalent of eating a bunch of candy you aren’t particularly fond of just because it’s there, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the very last scene of Notting Hill with the two of them reading on the park bench. That’s just about the best happy ending I can think up.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Question 2: the movie Knocked Up (yeah yeah, I know it’s a little crass) but it does a good job of at least representing a little more reality than most rom-coms and for that I loved it. It depicts two people struggling with how to love each other while also struggling with their upcoming and unplanned roles as new parents. Plus props to a movie in this day that as a premise finds two people both willing to “do the right thing” after an unplanned pregnancy. Or if you want a classic Sound of Music has always had a special place in my heart. (not sure if that fits the 50 yr requirement or not…) Also Sleepless in Seattle, Shrek (3 and 4), and Lion King. Yeah kid movies seem to do a better job than teen movies.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Knocked Up is probably the best unplanned pregnancy movie ever, made even better because it comes from an unexpected corner of Hollywood. (Yes, it beats Juno.)

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

    Part of the problem seems to be the existence of YA romance. Obviously something pitched to teens can’t end with a new family or even all that many new responsibilities. These stories have to get their resolution from a kiss.

    Why? I mean, I can understand your perspective from a marketing perspective. But why, in principle? Is this something like “we can’t let teens think starting a family is a GOOD thing, we have enough trouble keeping them from getting pregnant”?

    • KL

      Well, one of the most alarming things about the Twilight phenomenon, from my perspective (beyond the fact that the writing is just flat out bad), is the masses of young girls that are learning to idealize controlling, all-consuming relationships that dominate their lives and identities because they are so *~*~*beautiful*~*~* and *~*~*~true*~*~*~*. Being tweenagers, they don’t yet have the maturity and perspective to recognize the enormous warning bells that such a relationship should set off and the hypothetical consequences for their lives — they’re just drunk on the romance of it. If YA lit regularly idealized baby-birthing as the pinnacle of romance, the logical conclusion of a True Love Story (while this is true, there’s a lot of context that needs to come with it that such novels are unlikely to provide), I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to believe that young girls may at the very least long for a child of their own in order to prove the True Love quality of their current relationship and emulate what they see as the proof of such meant-to-be-ness.

      • leahlibresco

        I remember the one hypothesized factor driving teen pregnancy was the girls desire for something that loved and needed them. True love, just not romantically expressed.

        (I haven’t seen any good methodology on how common this is, just interviews).

        • KL

          Interesting! If there’s anything that a tween- or teenager needs, it’s unconditional love and acceptance. If you paid me a million dollars to relive seventh grade, I wouldn’t do it — there’s so much insecurity and isolation that comes with being that age. I can understand the appeal of a child as a way to meet that need, in a twisted way. I would absolutely be interested to see if there’s been any formal study done on the topic; anyone know of a study or two?

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

        If YA lit regularly idealized baby-birthing as the pinnacle of romance, the logical conclusion of a True Love Story (while this is true, there’s a lot of context that needs to come with it that such novels are unlikely to provide), I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to believe that young girls may at the very least long for a child of their own in order to prove the True Love quality of their current relationship and emulate what they see as the proof of such meant-to-be-ness.

        This sounds like a reason for wanting to do away with YA romance altogether, really. Because otherwise you’re selling them a pretty warped understanding of romance and relationships. A little like how death is handled in comics and video games.

        Really, this whole line of reasoning seems to have the side-effect of exposing modern takes on and celebrations of romance and relationships as downright poisonous. Maybe that’s the point, I’m pretty tired.

        • KL

          I would wholeheartedly agree that modern romances (whether YA lit, chick flicks/romcoms, or anything else) are by and large pretty warped — and I agree that video games’ treatment of death and violence is a good analogue for the flip side of the equation. But sappy teen romances or shoot-em-up games aren’t going anywhere, because they sell millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise. What it comes down to, as is so often the case, is the fact that parents need to have conversations with their children and teach them to be critical thinkers who are able to recognize the flaws in the narratives pop culture is selling.

    • deiseach

      “Is this something like “we can’t let teens think starting a family is a GOOD thing, we have enough trouble keeping them from getting pregnant”?”

      Because these kinds of YA romances are set in what are meant to be ‘real-life/real-world’ situations, and nobody expects (1) that your First Love will be the one you’ll marry (2) that this will last forever; rather, you will break up, fall in love again, and have other boyfriends/girlfriends before you decide to marry (3) 14-16 year olds are not realistically expected to be able to enter into a marriage and navigate the real-life problems of living with someone else, earning a living and paying the bills and taking on adult responsibilities.

      As to what problems arise from this view, I suppose it’s that romance/love is supposed to be the be-all and end-all and the end in itself. I can’t tell you how much I hate the notion floating around of one’s soul-mate (which today seems to be confined purely to a romantic partner, never mind that the concept originally included family, friends, mentor-pupil relationships) – the Mr. or Ms. Right who’s out there, the One True Love, the destined partner. So when the fizz goes flat and the sparkle wears off, then you move on to the next person in the search for the real One True Love. The idea that romance should constantly last exactly in the stage of intoxication of early love, and that it doesn’t change and mature, and that if it isn’t present (or felt to be present), then that’s an adequate reason for ending a relationship – okay, I’m stealing from Lewis quite heavily here, but I agree with what he said back then, and I don’t see any reason things have changed.

      If love is a drug, why on earth do we think we should encourage addiction?

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

        Because these kinds of YA romances are set in what are meant to be ‘real-life/real-world’ situations, and nobody expects (1) that your First Love will be the one you’ll marry (2) that this will last forever; rather, you will break up, fall in love again, and have other boyfriends/girlfriends before you decide to marry

        This is interesting to me- are you saying that people in the real world don’t expect either of these things, or that people in the real world shouldn’t expect either of these things?

        I know a lot of people who expect both (though nobody I’m aware of that is pushing adulthood on 14-16 year olds :) )

        • deiseach

          I think people don’t expect these things, because the expectation is “Well, you have to finish your education and maybe go on to college and get a job and start on your career and get a house before you even think of getting married”.

          If a 16 year old said “I’m getting married to John/Jane”, those are the kinds of objections that would be raised, and I think (even if the idea was “I’m getting married to John/Jane when we turn 21″) the idea would be the same. I don’t know how many people think First Love is forever, it’s wonderful and touching, but for it to last – I’m not so sure.

          Of course, things may be different over here in Ireland (there’s a whole sub-section of history studies on how the Famine changed social expectations with regards to marriage) and certainly over here the trend has been to have marriage at later ages (but with a high fertility rate, which bucked European trends). Bear in mind that rural and urban practices were somewhat different, and the high percentage of population in Ireland being those living in rural areas meant that the trend was eldest son marrying, eldest (not always, but at least one) daughter either gets a dowry or stays single and becomes caretaker for elderly parents, rest of siblings emigrate.

          Leah will love this – graphs! This study by Trinity College, Dublin, shows that up to the 1960s there were 35% of males and nearly 25% of women in the age range 35-44 who had never been married. I believe Americans tend to marry much earlier (even if they subsequently go on to divorce and re-marry).

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

        Because these kinds of YA romances are set in what are meant to be ‘real-life/real-world’ situations, and nobody expects (1) that your First Love will be the one you’ll marry (2) that this will last forever; rather, you will break up, fall in love again, and have other boyfriends/girlfriends before you decide to marry (3) 14-16 year olds are not realistically expected to be able to enter into a marriage and navigate the real-life problems of living with someone else, earning a living and paying the bills and taking on adult responsibilities.

        I’m not up on my YA romance literature, so I am completely out of my depth here. Are they really supposed to be realistic? And if they’re supposed to be, are they actually? Because…

        As to what problems arise from this view, I suppose it’s that romance/love is supposed to be the be-all and end-all and the end in itself.

        …my impression – my uninformed impression, admittedly – was that most YA novels tended to be like that. The whole “one true love and we’ll be together forever” thing. Criticisms of which you’ve stated, and I agree with.

        • deiseach

          Oh, I don’t consider YA novels realistic in the slightest, even the ones supposed to be “dealing with real world problems so the kids can work through issues safely”. I’m eternally glad I never read those, being just outside the target demographic when they started proliferating in the 80s (in my day there wasn’t Young Adult anything; there was children’s fiction and there was adult fiction, and the children’s fiction had a healthy dose of fantasy/horror/science fiction instead of “Oooh, I like this boy but I don’t know if he likes me and I’m fighting with my best friend and are my boobs too small and the teachers don’t like me and my parents might be getting divorced and my little brother is a pain and I’m so fat and ugly!” fiction).

          For our romance needs between the ages of 12-15, we devoured Mills and Boon (your equivalent is Harlequin?). Seriously, the amount of those books I read and swapped with my classmates, I blush to think of now. Of course, nowadays even romance novels are not what they once were, but having glutted myself on “Nice Girls Like A Sexy Bastard They Can Tame Through True Love” stories, at least I got it out of my system in fiction and didn’t fall for it in real life.

  • Bernadette

    “I think it’s worth noting that, in Company, Bobby doesn’t even get up to the clinch. He’s committed to being committed to someone, but hasn’t had to accommodate himself to a particular someone yet. That’s why I like pairing this show with Passion where the protagonist does find someone “to crowd me with love” and doesn’t like it for most of the show.”

    I think the odd ending to Company (“Being Alive’s” desire for “somebody”) might be useful in thinking about how the decision to have children is somewhat different than the decision to get married. If marriage (and the marriage plots so endemic to YA novels and films) are always very much about a particular love-object, the decision to have a child is always a decision for a “somebody,” for an entity that cannot be defined (and one that will most definitely “ruin your sleep”!). Of course, some people—like Bobby—may begin with a resolution to make a marriage commitment before they’ve found a partner, but that is certainly not the dominate model in our cultural thinking about love and sacrifice. However, it is almost always the case with children, which I think makes that commitment much more about orientation towards the future and towards the other.

  • Emily

    I’m not sure whether you’re talking about “going against the grain” in terms of not idealizing romantic love as an end goal in itself, or in terms of involving children, but in case it’s the first, I’m going to nominate Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor. Basically its entire plot conceit is “going against the grain” and it is hilarious. For YA fiction, I have fond memories of most of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, but don’t remember any strong romantic plots, with the exception of Howl’s Moving Castle, which is unusual in that it has a near adult main character.

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    Wonder how counterproductive the anti-pregnancy exercises you do in middle school are. For example: Tape up a bag of flour, carry it around. Or, wear the belly for eight months.

    The pedagogy always focuses on the burden of the thing and the joy of parenthood — joy is different than happiness, for joy is always borne of suffering — gets very, very lost in the shuffle.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      Wait, American schools actually do that? I thought that was kind of a joke and I think I just gained a lot of understanding for people who freak out about sex-ed. That is seriously messed up.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Either that or the whole adopt an egg BS. You know, because it makes sense to get what parenting is all about from a breakfast food that I have absolutely no emotional connection to and a “randomly assigned” partner who smells bad and I have no interest in. :)

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Yep, Gilbert. Did it myself in middle school. (Flour, not belly.)

  • Doragoon

    Not sure if this is a going against the grain or not. Straczynski mentioned that he didn’t want to even SHOW the child on Babylon 5 because that’s what the story would be about.

    Shakespeare never wrote a good married couple, so it’s not just a YA thing. I had a teacher remark that the MacBeths are the happiest married couple that he ever wrote.

    If anyone has written a story that goes against this it would probably be Orson Scott Card. The ones where his Mormonism flavours the story are very pro-children.

    • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

      Ooh! Shakespeare’s married couples. I think there are a few who get along better–or are slated to get along better–than the Macbeths.

      Taming of the Shrew (Katherine and Petruccio — depending on how you read the end)
      Merchant of Venice (Portia and Bassanio, Nerissa and Gratiano — ditto)
      Merry Wives of Windsor (the Pages)
      A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Theseus and Hippolyta)

      Shakespeare had two problems. First, he does not appear (Strattfordian hypothesis) to have been happily married himself; second, a good marriage usually has very little room for tension, and consequently makes for poor dramatic material.

      Honestly, I think that this second fact is the real reason why stable, child-centered families rarely make it into novels and movies.

      • leahlibresco

        The best couple is Beatrice and Benedick.

        • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

          Totally. But unmarried, and no kids …

      • Niemand

        The “good” couples only become couples at the END of the play. And are never heard from again. This does create the impression that marriage=death. The MacBeths are the happiest couple that get any screen time.

        And I can’t believe that anyone would consider Katherine and Petruccio a GOOD couple for even a second.

        • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

          It depends a LOT on how they are played.

  • Mitchell Porter

    “I suppose poetry would have to be mainly about Love and Death; since it is about such glimmers of intensity as ever visit the benighted mind. Love is commonly the only form in which the human being experiences its desire for the infinite; Death is its most persistent reminder that it is afraid of finiteness. if the human race were a little more advanced, it would want to write poems about infinity and the inconceivable (but perhaps it would not be able to write them) and if it were more advanced still it would have more urgent things to do than write poetry.” — Celia Green, *Advice to Clever Children*, Chapter 31

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    I’m choosing to interpret the prompt as a request for satisfying subversions of YA romances in general. So I have two and half recommendations
    1) The Princess Bride
    The book, which came first, and has exactly the same irreverent tone as the movie, basically exists almost purely to subvert the standard YA novel.

    2) The Hunger Games (Spoilers)
    I LOVE this series and I have no idea how it became so popular. It starts with the boiler plate TwoBoys!WhichWillSheChoose!?! theme, and finishes with what amounts to, ItHardlyMatters.We’reAllSoBroken:( Depressing note, I think I got halfway through the last book before it even occurred to me that the main character might not end up with either prospective love interest. Anyway, it’s a fantastic series that (I feel) exists basically to undermine the standard YA adventure story. Amazing.

    3) Brave
    This movie, which is the only movie that I’ve ever seen that I immediately felt that I needed to own both the soundtrack and the movie itself, ends with the female protagonist choosing I’mNotReadyYetAndIMayNeverBeAndThat’sOkay. Which is the first princess movie where that’s been a thing, so Yay this movie.

    And I don’t care that none of my recommendations had children playing large roles (except by their possibility in the Hunger Games series), they’re all amazing works.

    • Kristen inDallas

      The Princess Bride is a good one, and technically it does feature the idea of childbearing pretty centrally (if you think about it). It subverts the whole traditional adventure/romance stuff and makes it “really” a book about a grandfather’s love. which is really quite touching. And you don’t get to be a loving grandpa without at some point coming up for air from the romance and raising a family and such…

  • Jill

    For some reason your post made me think of this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYOsWWKHZVw (1:31)

  • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

    Houseboat, movie, 1958 (OK, so slightly outside the fifty year period, but close), with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

    And, I know it’s saccharine, but The Sound of Music also almost qualifies, coming from 1959. One of the reasons Maria makes a more appealing 2nd wife than the Baroness is that she cares about the children, and they care about her.

    Hm. Theme going here: 2nd marriages. But that’s understandable: it’s an easy way plotwise to integrate the issues of romance and children.

  • Miles Gervais

    I need to point out The Lord of the Rings. No, on the surface this trilogy is not a love story. Within the hero of Aragorn and his love of Arwen, however, we are given a significant example to the reader/viewer as to what “love” is. Aragorn is fighting a war to save his world, and leaves his love to take the ship away from war which she reluctantly decides to do, until learning through foresight that a CHILD will come of their relationship. It is that vision that keeps her in Middle Earth, and strengthens the bond between her and Aragorn. The child is the glue and future as it is in any marriage that welcomes life into the world. Aragorn while away from Arwen stays loyal to her love when a maybe more convenient relationship arrives in the form of Eowyn of Rohan. A love that is indestructible, held together by the knowledge of having a child. Tolkien’s only romance, and there’s no kissy-kissy scenes or prom worries.

    • Kristen inDallas

      beautiful thought…

    • Peggy Hagen

      There were a couple of romances in the books – Faramir and Eowyn, Sam and Rosie. That last is probably the best example: Sam comes back from seeing Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo off, and Rosie places their daughter in his arms. His adventuring is done, but the best is still ahead for him, and on that note the book ends.

  • Cephas

    There’s War & Peace (1965) – granted based on a 1869 work, and Brideshead Revisited (2008) – again, based on an earlier work (1945), and may be stretching the Romance category, although you could call it romance from a more manly perspective.

  • Elliott Scott

    What about Jerry Maguire? It’s filled with cheese, but it breaks a couple of the patterns. The kid plays a big part in the story – and he’s constantly a positive force rather than an obstacle to their relationship. The marriage scene is in the middle of the story and only after they get married do they have to work through their underlying problems.

    Even the much mocked line, “You complete me,” had a bit of a two-shall-become-one-flesh kind of vibe.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    I believe you found your answer when you mentioned how a child isn’t a signatory to the whole romantic relationship between two people. A kid does change the paradigm. It changes the story from one of a romance to that of a family piece. It’s like asking why the sun is yellow instead of green given the assumption that the universe is ultimately the arbitrary bauble of a creator deity.

  • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

    Sorry I’m so late to the game.
    1. ” The romcoms where the protagonists appear to have no friendships, only sidekicks, are scary.” I might quote you on this sometime. My predictions are pretty boring, because they’re obviously extant: folks, especially younger ones, will feel like you can bail out of friendships once you get in a romantic relationship; friendship is for when you’re single; friendships don’t cure loneliness like romantic relationships do; single people must be lonely; the word “relationship” implies romance unless stated otherwise.
    2. Have Diana Wynne Jones books been mentioned? I have not read all of them, so I don’t know if they count, but I would say that she’s as interested in making friends as she is in romantic plots of subplots, based on my current reading. No children though, except kind-of-not-really in /Hexwood/. (I haven’t read the /Howl’s/ sequels, so I don’t know if there are babies.) I saw that /Prydain/ has been mentioned already, too. And /Castle Waiting/ has a baby, with the romance as backstory (but just as unknown and mysterious as any romcom romance could want!), as well as multiple romantic subplots with numerous kinds of ending.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

      Oh, and an adult, non-fantasy romcom that ends with babies and emphasizes friendship: /Arranged/. Also, but in an unexpected, absolutely not Catholic-approved way, /Saving Face/ (the Asian American romcom film, not the other more recent one that I think is a documentary, but I haven’t seen so wouldn’t really know).

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