Allergy season is upon us and in my Nyquil-induced stupor, I decided to give Smallville another go. Maybe it was the medicine head, or maybe it was how absolutely dreamy Tom Welling can be, but I found myself swooning every time Clark swooned over Lana. I’d anxiously anticipate the moment when they finally get together and confess their love for one another.
And then I remembered: That doesn’t happen for about a million seasons. Because…well, that’s just what happens on TV and in books. Boy meets girl, girl swoons over boy, girl is lost to boy, boy must fight to get girl back. Standard recipe. Throw in a few curve balls (or boulders, in the case of that atrocious Lex-Lana story line) here and there, but never nail the shot until the ending.
Why is that? Why do we have to wait until the last moment for our characters to find happiness? We don’t even know who Katniss chooses until the very last chapters of The Hunger Games (#teampeeta, by the way). Even when our favorite ‘ship finally sails, it doesn’t take too long for it to sink (*coughOlicitycough*).
I know the standard answer is that keeping our favorite lovebirds apart keeps the drama nice and steady. But that’s more from a writer’s perspective. Let’s take a look at it from the reader/viewer perspective. What keeps us coming back for more when we know the couple we’re rooting for might never get together? Or never get back together?
When we connect with a character, we root for them. It makes sense that our cheers would follow into their love lives, but somehow the butterflies just fizzle after some time. In short, the honeymoon period ends. That high that we get when we fall in love fades away.
The tension and the chase are so much more exciting, and so are the ups and downs of a roller coaster love, even if that’s not exactly the kind of love we’d want in real life. Realistic love can be kinda boring and butterfly-free, even though it outshines any roller coaster romance on the pages or on the screen. Getting to see our favorite character couples snuggled up on the couch watching TV together might not be a page turner, but the endings we get leave their stories open for those beautiful, less-than-thrilling moments.