5 Movie Romances That Won't Last (According to Science)
Love stories are a lot like Doritos: there are countless variations, each dressed up differently with new names, but we all know it's the same two goddamn flavors every time. The common threads running through all movie romances are: love conquers all (Nacho Cheese) or love is blind (Cool Ranch), and sometimes both at the same time. It works because we let it work, and keep coming back for more despite how absurd it gets.
But if we take a moment to refuse the suspension of disbelief, and explore the implausible nature of a few famous love stories, we can call shenanigans now and possibly prevent the release of X-13D: A Romantic Comedy in the near future.
Original Star Wars Trilogy: Leia and Han Solo
Why it Will Never Work:
Han's Looming Unemployment and Deteriorating Self Worth.
Han and Leia overcome checkered pasts, experimentation with incest and a general distaste for one another to form a love so powerful it couldn't all be included in the final cut of The Return of the Jedi. Also on the cutting room floor: the 4am fights, alcoholism and murder suicide that inevitably follow.
We totally understand that the "Princess and the Bad Boy" element is what was supposed to make us swoon--half of Hollywood romances are based on that. So let's say that they can overcome the distance caused by differences in socioeconomic status ( which psychologists tell us is no small barrier). But that can't bring Han and Leia down, they were united by the cause of the galactic rebellion! She respects him as a brave and passionate fighter for all that she believes in, and is entitled to!
Ah, about that. See, the war kind of ends when the second Death Star blew up. These two had never met before the war--literally every single activity and conversation they've shared has revolved around it. They don't know each other in any other context (this sort of thing is one reason why marriages hurriedly rushed into during wartime don't last as evidenced by divorce rates going up after ever major war since divorce was invented). Soldiers don't always adjust well to not being soldiers.
But that actually leads to another problem. What is Han's job when there isn't a war on? He's a smuggler, a guy with a shitty car who owes money on every planet and always shoots first in a fight.
And according to this picture, with his dick.
Of course, he was smuggling things past the evil Empire, which no longer exists. So does he go back to that job, only now smuggling things that the new government doesn't approve of? Space-crack and child slaves? How will the royal princess feel about that? What's the alternative, she gets him a job as a diplomat? Yeah, we can totally see that working out.
So either Han is unemployed (and the effects of unemployment on a marriage are devastating). Or, maybe he becomes the legal version of a smuggler. That is, a highway trucker. No matter how you slice it, the skills that made him the coolest man in the galaxy don't exactly translate to a 9-to-5 job.
Compound Han's deteriorating self worth with Leia's royal sense of entitlement and it's impossible that this love connection ends in anything other than spousal abuse.
The Little Mermaid: Eric and Ariel
Why it Will Never Work:
Nobody takes a more blatant approach to proving love is blind than Disney. Their insistence on interspecies relationships boarders on obsessive, and The Little Mermaid was the first of these fetish-films. The basic plot revolves around Ariel giving up her life, her voice and a healthy chunk of her anatomy to be with Eric. Meanwhile, he is faced with the arguably less complex dilemma of choosing between a brunette and a redhead.
I like dark girls but the redhead doesn't speak. So...
If that sounds like a bad deal, it's more than that--in the world of relationship counseling they call that kind of compromise a "Marriage Annihilator." Or at least they should. Bad, one-sided compromises are one of the biggest reasons for failed marriages and relationships. Ask anybody you know who gave up a job for a relationship, and you will hear the phrase, "Well I certainly didn't move across the country for THIS!" echo back from the hallow place where their capacity to love used to be.
Sure, by the end of the film Eric and Ariel end up together, married as humans, and presumably happy. But even for a cartoon, that shoddy closure is too ludicrous to ignore. Ariel is a teenager, and, as she proves throughout the rest of the film, susceptible to the same impulsive stupid decisions as any non-Mermaid teenager.
She literally gives up everything she's ever known to be with someone who can't decide between her and another girl he just met. This isn't just compromise, it's identity annihilation--total surrender to do Whatever It Takes To Get The Guy. And one day she'll grow up enough to realize it. This relationship is doomed to end with Ariel either feeling resentful and homesick, or physically sick when she discovers sex is more than just releasing a sack of eggs for him to crop-dust with semen.
Man, all she'd have to do is catch you masturbating.
Star Trek: Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana)
Why it Will Never Work:
In the new Star Trek reality created by J.J. Abrams, Spock and Uhura are copulation partners (that's the proper Vulvan term, right?) proving that Spock, like his father, has a weakness for human flesh.
As a human, Uhura experiences every situation, determines how it affects her and reacts based on the emotions it elicits. But Spock, true to his Vulcan nature, displays the classic symptoms of emotional unavailability. It's bred into him that Vulcans pride themselves on squelching any emotional displays in favor of cold, calculating logic. Those are awesome traits for troubleshooting a starship's warp coil, but not so much for making a female human feel loved.
We humans are pretty much programmed this way from birth, as scientists recently figured out with this terrifying experiment where they observed the effects of staring coldly at a baby:
So it's no surprise that emotional unavailability leads to disengagement from the relationship. Uhura would only put up with Spock's post-sex, "You continue to perform admirably" so many times before she would walk out. Unless she demands he utterly and completely change his personality, which of course brings us right back around to that compromise thing we just talked about with the mermaid. He would simply no longer be Spock.
Assuming they are together long enough to have a child, it can look forward to a distant father and a frustrated mother. The only silver lining is the kid will never be bullied in the inverted breasts of knowledge on Vulcan since the planet no longer exists.
Have to remember to send this guy a fruit basket.
Dances With Wolves: Lieutenant Dunbar and Stands With a Fist
Why it Will Never Work:
Mutual Stockholm Syndrome.
Dunbar is abandoned by his military at an outpost and then forced into constant interaction with the Native American tribe who steals his horse. Stands With a Fist is orphaned after a Native American raid on her family's settlement and forced into a similar dependency on the tribe. The two meet as consenting captives of the Sioux and fall in love while exploring the virtues of their captors together, and frankly, this relationship is harder to watch than a scalping.
The key trigger for Stockholm syndrome is a captive's misinterpretation of a lack of abuse as kindness. Like abused dogs under new owners, Dunbar and Stands With a Fist fall in love with the tribe, then each other, a wolf, tatonka, fucking everything.
Psychologists tell us that a love predicated on a disorder is doomed to fail, especially when the cause of that disorder is removed. At the end of the film, the two run away from the tribe together and live alone on the open plains. The only feasible way for the spark to remain between them is if they both act as perpetrator against the other. Imagine a relationship between two people where each feels tortuously confined while simultaneously completely dependent on the oth- No, no on second thought, this relationship seems pretty standard.
The Breakfast Club: John Bender and Claire Standish
Why it Will Never Work:
Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder.
Once more we get the Princess and the Bad Boy matchup, but the pairing in The Breakfast Club is actually far uglier than what we had in Star Wars. At least Han and Leia were adults who had been around the block, and presumably knew what they were getting into. The sad thing is, these relationships do happen in real life, but they more resemble what we get in The Breakfast Club--the naive young girl who mistakes profound antisocial tendencies for awesome badassery.
Some girls like the idea of falling in love with angry, bitter, aggressive men with rap sheets and a history of self-destruction. Claire is one. She's established as the quintessential popular/rich girl, while Bender is the type of person destined for prison or various holes in the desert. He's antisocial, offensive and generally kind of a dick. Bender torments Claire so much that it's hard to tell whether he wants to stick his dick or switchblade in her.
The movie makes it clear Bender suffers from post-traumatic embitterment disorder due to a traumatizing childhood of abuse and shitty Christmas gifts. This potent combination of helplessness and rage is bound to draw in a girl like Claire who wants to help almost as much as she wants to get back at daddy.
The problem is that post-traumatic embitterment disorder isn't as cool as it looks during a few hours of Saturday morning detention. According to the folks at All About Counseling.com, Bender will likely shut down around affection and intimacy, and when he's incapable of expressing those feelings like a normal human being, lash out with violence. Claire is looking at a future of unrequited affection and excuses about running into the door.
This sheds a whole new light on the final shot of the movie. After sharing a kiss with Claire, Bender appears to punch the air in a jubilant gesture that always seemed more than a little bit out of character. According to the science, he was just warming up.
Emma Larkins is a conducer of elegant mental stimulation. Check out her blog and her Squidoo page.
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