“Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap” – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Ah, the 14th of February! The day is slowly, but surely, coming upon us with all that it entails with its meanderings and commercially tinted vocabulary of love. Usually we are fed the most mundane and conservative of loves: predominately focused on the heterosexual, circulating around the material gift as its expression, and, usually, one sex seen as passively accepting the honors of the day. Not to mention the holiday’s neglect of love that isn’t “successful”; i.e. the holiday’s depiction of romance that is blissfully ignorant of the times when love falls far short of happy endings. Valentine’s Day uplifts the beautiful, harmonic side of love, which no doubt is important. On the other hand, the sad and dark parts of love are a major part of romance and relationships. Therefore, it is my pleasure to contemplate those most unhappy of love tales which I invite the curious reader of this post to watch, read, or listen to on Valentine’s Day.
(Note: I will talk about the tragic parts of the tales and stories of love and betrayal, so this post will harbor the most conclusive of spoilers).
The series “Powerpuff Girls” was a children’s cartoon about three kinder garden aged girls with superpowers which ran for six seasons from the years 1998 to 2004. The episodes were filled with irony and amusing reconstructions on the superhero and the story-telling around them. The series was also a delightful blending of action and cuteness, featuring very bold and strong heroines who never drifted far from their adventurous and comical personalities: Blossom-the intelligent, but slightly vain leader, Bubbles-who’s naïve and passive-aggressive, and Buttercup-the rough and tumble tomboy (who despite being a tomboy always wears a dress). Most of the episodes concentrated on the girls solving the mysteries, and actively fighting crime and the criminal. Still the episode “Buttercrush” which aired on season one as its fourth episode, found the tough and unsentimental Buttercup embroiled in her first crush. She falls for Ace, a bully and mean leader of a criminal gang, who manipulates Buttercup by sweet-talking himself and his gang out of trouble. After successfully getting Buttercup to believe he returns her affections, Ace sets out a plan to use the situation as a chance to kill off Blossom and Bubbles. However, Buttercup finds out about Ace’s plan and doesn’t take to the attempted murder of her sisters kindly.
“Buttercrush” portrays two different types of love. Firstly we are presented with Buttercup’s blind infatuation with the bad guy Ace, which is exploitive and manipulative. This theme is extremely universal, for haven’t we all sometimes been taken advantaged of due to our emotions blinding us? The second form of love is that which we find between siblings. This love is demonstrated by Buttercups ultimate loyalty to her sisters and her sisters understanding and forgiveness to their sister’s misguided crush. The girls share an unconditional love to each other, which strength saves Buttercup from the deceitful Ace. Even if it is sad to see Buttercup get her heart shattered, it is still extremely touching to see how important the bond with her sisters is to Buttercup. Bad love and good love, both demonstrated in this fine episode!
Greek Mythology is known and regarded for its near soap-opera like tales of the gods and god-like creatures. When I was young, I read all the myths I could come across, and at the age of ten I read the myth of “Apollo and Daphne”, which details Apollo’s first love. Humorously, it was the first love story I enjoyed (and the only one I would enjoy till recent years), so much that I read it out loud to the grownups around me. In the legend, Apollo enrages Eros by claiming he’s too much of a boy to handle his arrows. Eros decides to prove Apollo wrong, so he shoots one golden arrow into Apollo and one blunt dart into the nymph Daphne. Thus Apollo falls violently in love with Daphne despite Daphne not wanting anything to do with Apollo. This leads to Apollo obsessively chasing Daphne, begging her to marry him. While Daphne sees Apollo as an ultimate terror, Apollo can’t stop thinking about how wonderful Daphne is, even when she runs from him. The nymph tries to escape Apollo multiple times, and in her most desperate hour pleads the earth goddess Gaea to destroy her beauty. She is then transformed into a tree. However, Apollo loves Daphne even in this form, and concludes: “Since you cannot be my wife, you shall become my tree”. The love sick god takes the tree to his heavenly garden where he intends to keep it eternally. After his last soliloquy of love he embraces the plant.
“Apollo and Daphne”, famous statue by Bernini
This legend is an intense take on obsession, unrequited love and despair. Daphne is a woman who can’t escape her stalker and not even as a tree finds freedom. Apollo is a lost, immature man struck with feelings he can’t handle. The ending is bittersweet in the realization that Apollo didn’t love Daphne for her looks, but for who she was and how she expressed her being. Daphne having her beauty destroyed couldn’t alter the feelings which Apollo felt for her. Even though we find the stalker Apollo as unsettling in the extreme in this story, we still find ourselves oddly moved by the tragedy which unfolds. Apollo, as immature in his emotions, doesn’t have the means to handle unrequited love and reacts to it as a child would, making his actions sympathetically tragic in hindsight, while still overdone and horrific in his refusal to accept her wishes (no means no). In short this could also be a cautionary tale of what happens when you refuse to take no for an answer. If you can get your hands on a collection of Ancient Greek legends, make sure to read this tale of woe.
“Futurama” is an animated series created by Matt Groening. The series centers on Philip J. Fry, a delivery boy who is accidently frozen in 1999 and thawed out in the year 2999. There he befriends a scoundrel robot named Bender, a warrior-spirited Cyclops named Leela and starts working for an absent minded professor Farnsworth, who is Fry’s last living relative. Due to Fry’s situation, many episodes explored the things Fry had left behind back in his 1999. The most famous, or infamous as some would say, was “Jurassic Bark” (season four, episode seven). Fry uncovers the remains of his late dog and learns that 29th century science will be able to resurrect his beloved pet, Seymour. Fry is thrilled, but his best friend Bender grows painfully jealous, disliking the fact that Fry is paying more attention to Seymour’s remains then he is to their mutual friendship. The plot portrays Bender’s jealousy leading to near disaster, but Bender redeems himself in the end, learning to sympathize with Fry’s wishes. The episode at that point seems upbeat and will end happily, until Fry learns that his dog died at the age of fifteen. He then decides not to resurrect Seymour. The last scene takes the viewers back to the 21th century. Seymour is shown patiently waiting for Fry, year after year, in summer sun and in pouring rain. He dies of old age while still contemplating the return of his human friend Fry. Fry’s decision to leave the past as it is and not resurrect the long dead friend makes the episode a complete downer, since Seymour will now never get to be with Fry again.
“Jurassic Bark” is perhaps the saddest episode from “Futurama”, and as one of the most powerful and touching one we find in the series. Bender learns to become a better friend to Fry, which is an uplifting plot point. However Seymour’s love for Fry is devastating, and he uncompromisingly waits for his owner to return to him in a past without mercy. Fry will never return, and love and loyalty is depicted in a dark, bitter light. This episode is a must see. However, a fair warning is that you should have many boxes of tissues beside you while watching this utterly depressing, striking episode.
“Pokémon” is a Japanese children’s Anime show which takes place in a world filled with so-called pocket monsters. People in this world collect these creatures by “catching them”, maintaining them in small magical globes and then training them to fight each other (i.e. this world is a member’s of PETA worst nightmare). Ash, the show’s star, is a young boy who travels this world finding and pursuing a multitude of adventures with his favorite Pokémon, Pikachu, and his two friends, the feisty Misty and the caring Brock. The team of friends is constantly chased by Team Rocket, a criminal trio who steal Pokémon’s from others. The members are Jesse and James, and the talking Pokémon Meowth. Meowth is a cat-like creature, who is the only one of his species who can speak and walks on two feet. This is a mystery many characters in the show ponder about aloud, but it’s not until the seventy-second episode, “Go West, Young Meowth!” that an explanation for this phenomena is given. Team Rocket decides to go to Hollywood, which awakens painful memories in Meowth, causing him to reveal his past to the viewers. Turns out Meowth started out as a hungry homeless Pokémon, who couldn’t talk and walked on four paws. After seeing a block-buster film, Meowth decides to traveled to Hollywood in search of glamorous food, ending up in a thieving league of other Meowths and a Persian (another cat-like Pokémon). Finally having and abundance and grand access to food, he comes to longed for love as well. His craving for love is fulfilled in his becoming smitten with Meowsie, a female version of a Meowth. His love will never be returned since, as she is more than boldly willing to tell him, she is rich and he is not, and she values beyond measure her rich owner who will give her constant love in the guise of expensive gifts. Meowth becomes determined to win the love of his heart through making himself as human-like as possible to emulate the owner and master of Meowsie. Throughout a torturous process, Meowth learns to talk and walk like a human. Yet, Despite this massive effort, Meowsie still turns him down, telling him, in no uncertain terms, that though he has achieved these behaviors, he is a street-cat. Meowth leaves the pain of unreturned love to seek out riches, hoping he then would finally win Meowsies heart. After this past is revealed in the story, Meowth finds himself returning to Hollywood with Team Rocket, where he meets his lost love Meowsie again, only to find that his ex-love has been abandoned by her owner and need to be with Meowht’s old criminal gang to survive. Meowht promises Meowsie to help her leave the gang and he fights in order to gain her freedom from the gang, only to have Meowsie reject him again and stay with Persian. Meowth, at last, realizes he’ll never win Meowsie’s heart and is shown at the end of the episode devastated.
This episode is the only Pokémon episode I’ve re-watched since my early childhood, and it made a bigger impact on me now than when I was seven. The episode brings up a painful, yet solid truth about love: sometimes you will make great sacrifices and deeds for the one you love; only to find rejection and denial. All the pain and forfeit will be for nothing. This happens to everyone at least once in their lifetime. It’s nearly shocking how honestly Pokémon is able to portray this fact, considering the love martyr being a talking cat-like creature. The issue of class is also brought up nicely. A strong recommendation for anyone who has sometimes felt used!
Ang Lee is a Taiwanese-born director who has made a number of great films, many which have love as a major theme. He’s two most famous films are “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). The Latter is an adaption of the short story written by Annie Proulx, and follows the literary works plot to the letter. The film stars Health Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who do stunning portrayals of star-crossed lovers in the 60’s Wyoming, capturing all the heartfelt wonder of two guys who, despite loving each other, never really get to be together. The film is beautifully shot, the characters are complex and the ending brutal. Few romantic films are this well done. Proulx’s short story is also a great read for those who haven’t examined it yet, too.
Nancy Sinatra’s song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” is a beautiful song about falling for your friend in early childhood, only to be horribly abused and abandoned by that friend once you’ve grown up. Listen to the song below. (The Clip features the lyrics!).
Kraftwerk’s song “Sexobject” deals with feeling emotionally neglected and used. View video below.
Jack Off Jill’s song “Vivica” depicts friendship, abuse and repressed feelings. Lyrics and song exist below.
These sagas of woe and misfortune all depict harsh realities that come with loving another person, despite the stories varying from cartoons to mythology to grittier down-to earth films and songs. All of these tales are exquisitely interesting takes on love, friendship and devotion, and all are handled with care and marvel.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Take Care/ Maaretta