When I was writing the betty guide to Baz Luhrmann a few weeks ago, I spent some time thinking about his film adaptation of Romeo + Juliet. I remember watching it in school, our teachers hoping that Leonardo DiCaprio’s blonde haired, dreamy eyed Romeo would lure us into actually caring about Shakespeare (it did). This is the greatest love story of all time, we were told, over and over again. And I believed it. But now I realise that was bulls**t.
Romeo and Juliet isn’t a romantic story, it’s a moronic story. Seriously, consider the plot [SPOILERS]: they are 13, their families hate each other, they meet for like, a second, then boom they’re in love. Then she decides to fake her death so she can be with him WITHOUT TELLING HIM THAT THIS IS THE PLAN, so he thinks she’s really dead and kills himself. Then she wakes up and sees him dead and then legit kills herself.
Like, that is an absurd plot. I mean, even putting aside the fact that the science seems a little dodgy, these two suck at communicating. They would never have been able to make a relationship work.
So now that I’ve blasted the Bard (soz, Shakespeare), h ere are some love stories that are much more romantic. And (almost) no one dies in them either.
Chandler and Monica
I know, it’s not a story so much as 236 episodes, but Monica and Chandler are one of my favourite couples of all time. Everyone gets all distracted by the will-they-won’t-they of Ross and Rachel (who, let’s be honest probably got in another fight about the whole ‘we were on a break’ thing at Emma’s 13th birthday party and haven’t spoken since) and they miss the true love story: Monica and Chandler. We had almost four seasons to get to know and love them separately but when they got together it just clicked. You got to watch them evolve and grow into stronger, better, happier people. To work at their relationship when it got hard rather than walking away. To have a family, despite the obstacles that were thrown in their way. That’s real love.
Eleanor and Park
The title characters in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell are both misfits in the their own ways but on Eleanor’s first day of school they meet on the school bus and slowly strike up a friendship around comic books and 80s music. These two people who often find themselves on the edges of society suddenly become the centre of each other’s lives. They talk about the intensity of first love, they talk candidly about whether it can last a lifetime or whether it’s always bound to burn out. And they bin off Romeo and Juliet.
“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
“I love you, Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
Pride and Prejudice
This one has its flaws but ultimately, despite Darcy being a bit of a grumpy prick, we have to conclude that Jane Austen’s most famous love story *is* fairly romantic. The thing I like most about the Elizabeth and Darcy dynamic (Darcabeth, if you will) is that it pretty much represents every high school crush ever. First your hatred for them is visceral and all-consuming, like a pit of lava bubbling away in your belly. Everything about them irritates you, from the way they only write in capital letters to the way they breathe. And then suddenly one day, you realise that the reason you notice these things about them isn’t because you hate them, but because you have feelings for them. It can be hard to swallow your pride and admit that your first impression of someone was wrong – but Elizabeth does it, so hats off to her. Plus without the original Darcy we wouldn’t have Bridget Jones’s bonus Mark Darcy either.
The Fault in Our Stars
Right, so people do die in this one (turns out it’s a common theme in romantic storylines), but it’s too damn adorable to not put in. In case you missed the hysteria surrounding John Green’s book (and the movie adaptation in 2014), The Fault in Our Stars is a love story about two teenagers who have cancer. It’s heart wrenching and beautiful and my god, did those two love each other. This book is a lesson in understanding that although things don’t always work out the way you wish they would, that should never stop you from appreciating what you had.
“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a love story. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you it is. Love stories don’t always have to be about romance – they can be about friendship too. The girls in this story (also a book and a film) have each other’s backs, no matter what. They don’t care if oceans or circumstances get in their way, they will always find a way back to each other.
When romantic relationships enter the mix, people tend to let friendships fall down a notch because they’re considered somehow less important. To this I say, puh-lease. If your partner leaves you, you’re heartbroken but you heal. If your BFF leaves you… well, I have no idea and I hope I never have to find out. The love of a good squad is better than a Shakespearean hero any day.
Star cross’d lovers my arse.
Image: The Fault In Our Stars