Who decided that romantic love was supposed to be endless? Why do little girls imagine having the perfect wedding only once? Who exactly is “the one”? Although divorce rates are high in the
In the final episode of “Will and Grace”, writers appeased to their audience’s wishes by giving them a metaphoric ending in which Will and Grace are finally united, through their children. In this show, Will’s homosexuality keeps him and Grace from fulfilling the role of each other’s “the one”, the love that is supposed to last a lifetime. Audiences cannot accept “the one” as a non romantic partner. More importantly, audiences cannot accept that “the one” may not exist. McDonald offers the idea that “the love story is so familiar in our culture that we rarely give it a second thought… “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back’ is exhibit A of standard plots in all fictional media” (2). The most important part to note is that this is the structure for fiction, not real life. But so often are the two confused, examined, and treated as the same. Will and Grace are given a love story ending, but should they have?
The neo-traditional romantic comedy, which is popular today, exemplifies the ideals that society has now embraced as their own. According to McDonald in his book “Romantic Comedy”, he defines the neo-traditional romantic comedy as one that “reasserts the old ‘boy meets, loses, regains girl’ structure, emphasizing the couple will be heterosexual, will form a lasting relationship, and that their story will end as soon as they do” (86). This seems to be the case for Will and Grace. Their story can only end, not with them as lovers, but their children. It suggests that the show could not have ended until they were united, that their friendship was inevitably leading up to the point in which their relationship would be everlasting and expressed through a romantic outlet. It also hints at the idea that friendship is not a legitimate lasting relationship and cannot embody the ideals expressed by “the one”.
In the film “Love Actually”, the idea of the couple ending as soon as the story does is clearly evident. The youngest character in the film, Sam, struggles with the dilemma of being in love with a girl who is not in love with him, as well as not even knowing he exists. He spends the majority of the film working furiously to catch her attention, while struggling with the feelings of impending failure. A conversation between Sam and his stepdad Daniel briefly highlights the actualization of relationships and depicts the thought process that gives life to the idea of “the one”:
Daniel: You know, Sammy, I'm sure she's unique and extraordinary,
but... the general wisdom is that, in the end, there isn't just one person
for each of us.
Sam: There was for Kate and Leo. There was for you. There is for me.
She’s “the one”.Daniel: Fair enough.
If movies always end at the climax of a relationship, audiences never have the opportunity to see a relationship end, or discover that “the one” actually does not exist. Hence, allowing them believe that real relationships are this way. Here, Sam actually uses movie characters, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters in “Titanic”, to justify the existence of “the one”. Since Sam is only eleven years old, the probability of him and Joanna actually spending the rest of their lives together is extremely unlikely. The film ends with the suggestion that they will have a lasting relationship. As heartwarming and romantic as that may appear, audiences may strive to achieve such outcomes in their lives while neglecting to consider what could have happened after the film actually ended.
If “identity is best understood not as a fixed entity but as an emotionally charged discursive description of ourselves that is subject to change” (216) as Barker suggests, why should we think that love should stay the same and last forever with the same person? How can “the one” constantly change and adapt to the ever-changing self to ensure compatibility for eternity? Instead of “the one” changing, perhaps the self changes to adapt to fit the cultural circumstances that reinforce the existence of “the one”. “Identity is cultural ‘all the way down’, being specific to times and places… forms of identity are changeable and related to definite and cultural conjunctures” (217) according to Barker. This again hints at the idea that “the one” is a product of our current culture and in the future the role may no longer exist.
The concept of “the one” is not only implicitly suggested in “Will and Grace”, it is also explicitly expressed in one conversation between Grace and Karen:
Grace: I want to marry... “the one.”
Karen: And well you should, honey. How else are you going to get to
“the two” and “the three”?
Although Karen’s suggestion is comical, it seems to have embodied some truth, as well. If the “self” is constantly changing, the concept of “the one” holds so many restrictions and rules, and eternity is such a long time, perhaps the idea of “the one” is really more like a process and there actually is not just one “the one” for each person. In addition, perhaps “the one” does not or should not simply embody the romantic relationship but extend its boundaries to other relationships. If such constraints were not placed upon this idealized concept, perhaps the outcome would have been different for Will and Grace. Perhaps they would have been each others “the one”. And perhaps their ending would have simply ended as friends, just as they had always been. And perhaps they, the characters, and the audience would have been completely satisfied with allowing Will and Grace to maintain the relationship they have always had and legitimized it to fall under the circumstances of “the one”.
Barker, Chris. Cultual Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd.
Love Actually. Dir. Richard Curtis. Universal Studios, 2003.
McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre.
Wallflower Press, 2007.
Megan Mullally, Sean Hays. NBC. 1998-2006.