Monday, August 03, 2009

Amor Ex Machina

As I was editing the final chapter of my novel, it occurred to me: maybe love is only prevalent in popular fiction because it's a convenient plot device.

Surely many writers struggle to provide their characters with strong motivations. Why would anyone willingly put themselves in the risky, dangerous situations that often make a good story? One ready-made motivation is to drop the deus ex machina of love into the plot. We all readily accept it; normally, no sane character is going to run, unarmed, into a building full of terrorists and explosives. But put the dude's ex-wife, who he still loves, in the building, and everyone is like, "oh, yeah, that makes sense."

The best stories are made up of people doing crazy shit, and people will do crazy shit for love.

But is this a case of art imitating life, or life imitating art? Does romantic love resonate as a literary device because there is such an emphasis on it in real life? Or do we only put such a large emphasis on love in real life because we see it in movies, where it only exists as a literary device?

Does love even really exist? My gosh, does love even really exist?


Tigerlily said...

I've begun to wonder that myself. At the very least pop culture is cultivating an idea of love that is unrealistic.

shine said...

Your thingy ate my comment (that sounded kind of dirtier than intended, but I'm letting it stand).

I hate it when they put love stories in movies and books where love stories do not belong. It's crap.

I think love is just a plot device in life in general. An excuse to do stupid stuff.

I'm so romantic! (But I do believe in love...sort of)

M. Lim said...

Hmm, innerestin.
I thought about the concept of 'romantic' being constructed, but the thought that the concept of love itself being constructed never occurred to me. I think most of the 'love' concept used in pop literature is the eros kind. I mean, sex, blood and violence sells the most, right? Which partially explains why Twilight series sells like peanuts... but that's a different topic altogether kehkehkehkeh :D

Anonymous said...

It does exist. But sometimes love hurts. A lot. And then you try and convince yourself it must not have been love because love shouldn't hurt. But love feels like undergoing surgery without anesthesia nine-tenths of the time.

To quote The Darkness: "I believe in a thing called love"


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

The best love only exists in our own imaginations. The realities of love can only disappoint when real life intrudes. Its easy to risk ones life or reputation for the chance at love but it rarely if ever pays off like we expect. Its those tiny individual moments that should be sealed away and looked at with the haze of memory. They are the most pure and real unlike the delusions we feed ourselves. OOOOO that was good. Somebody write that down. But seriously...Love SUCKS. I remember reading a quote once where love is like a werewolf in your home. As nice as it is to look at...eventually its gonna rip your guts out.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

And for all my cynicism - love motivates the main character in my book and graphic novels. So what the hell do I know?

Ashli said...

That was depressing.

I don't think love exists like it does in books and the movies...but I do believe it exists, for sure.

I think the main problem is that people expect love to be perfect all the time, and simply give up on it too soon.

I however, have always been a romantic.

EVILFLU said...

I'm a sucker for love stories, and it's sad they never really happen but I think it's because people are afraid of getting hurt or looking dorky/corny.

I always think romantically, and I think I get those ideas from movies and books (Twilight...minus the whole vampire thing) but I don't think I would have the guts to ever act out on those things.

Great post! :)

mht said...

First, I love that you talk about the deus ex machina. It's one of my favorite things... they always make me giggle. Especially the one in Jurassic Park. amazing.

Second, isn't that the Die Hard plot? Also, sweet.

Third, love has to exist. Maybe because, at heart, I'm a romantic, but also because I think people really do do those grand gesture things. It may not be the running into a building to save your ex-wife from terrorists, but moving across the country or giving up the covers count too. Sometimes the smallest things we do for those we love are the hardest... And that, my friend, makes me believe in love. Maybe not movie love, but it's always better in real life anyway, even if it doesn't mimic movies. I mean, movies about college are nothing like my college experience, but I love the real thing so much more.

Dead Robot said...

Romantic Love was created to manipulate women.

I think I read that on a Jenny Holzer t-shirt. But true, nonetheless.

Phronk said...

I agree with what most of you expressed; love exists, but not like in stories. Love isn't some grand gesture or self sacrifice that ends in eternal happiness. Maybe it starts with this intense eros Twilight love, but it's full of awkward little moments, it evolves, it's painful, it takes work. Maybe it's not for everyone. But yeah, I've got faith that with the right people, it can be worth it, and it can last a lifetime.

Jennifer said...

Your thingy ate my comment too. It's hungry today.

As someone who cancelled a wedding four months from 'I do' and ran off with a groomsman, I'd say love exists. Even crazy dramatic romantic movie love. But it can't always be like that.

Seven years and four kids later I sure don't love Mike the way I did as a teenager. I doubt that was love anyways. At risk of sounding corny, it's deeper than that now. It's dependance without being dependant. It's parallel without being linear. It's two people going the same place and choosing to go there together even though it would be easier and most likely faster to go it alone.

Having children with someone changes the dynamic incredibly. Creating something that is half you and half someone else yet neither is mind blowing.

Your posts about love/relationships and food always make me sad. I want to hug you then cook you a proper meal.

Anonymous said...

I have had a few loves in my love and one or two... 'Great loves'. And I never want to go through that again. It's less painful to get mauled by a tiger or be on the losing end of a bar fight I think.

tornwordo said...

Love, of the hideous infatuation do-stupid-shit sort, is really an affliction or malady. The love I felt for my pet seems to be the better kind though it still hurt like hell when she died.

Phronk said...

Jen, I still have a matchbox from your almost-wedding. :)

Your comment warms my heart, because honestly, that deep and mature kind of love sounds wonderful. I hope I didn't make you too sad, because really I'm fine and just thinking out loud, but thanks for the thought.

No thanks for the veiled insult of my cooking though. :P

Dan: Yeah, it's pretty fucking painful. I don't want to go through it again, but I guess it's worth risking it on the off chance it doesn't end in mauling.

Torn: Aww yeah, pet love is a special kind of emotion. It really is "until death to us part."

Forest City Fashionista said...

I have to agree with "Canadian Cave of Coolness" post that perhaps the best love is in the imagination. Real love can never hope to live up to the all-consuming, walk-through-fire, transcending death, love that is pushed at us in books and films. I'm at a point in my life where I'm questioning whether love exists for me personally, but given some of the f**cked up things people do to each other in the name of love, it's not such a bad place to be in. I try to remain hopeful...