Monday, March 8, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

I was talking the other day with a friend about our German soap opera and one of the couples on the show. They've been together now for about six months, which is eons in soap opera time, and there's stirrings of trouble on the horizon.

Some fans are complaining bitterly about it, saying that they'll stop watching if there is any conflict for these two. They have so much invested in the characters being together and happy that they won't be able to watch any drama or angst in their storyline.

But if that's the case, what's left for the characters to do? Snuggle on the couch and look cute together? Yawn. Play agony aunts for the characters who actually have something to do onscreen? Please.

The reason their couple status is so wonderful is because of the struggle they went through to get there. It was months of pain, misunderstandings, emotional turmoil, premature declarations of love, dealing with fallout from their past relationship, and miscommunication. They had to fight past all of that to earn their happy ending. But since I'd rather not have them leave the show (the only other option, after new conflict or background filler), I'm gearing up for another round. I'm trusting the actors, directors, and writers to do it right.

Because as much as I love to see this couple together and happy, I also want the actors to have a good, meaty storyline to sink their teeth into. And as much as we want relationships to be happy and stable in real life, in fiction, happy and stable is (shhh!) boring.

And honestly, that's one of the reasons I love romance. People who don't read the genre think that romance is all about the hearts and flowers and happy ever after, but what they don't get is that the best romances are nothing like that until the very end. It's the journey, the angst, the struggle, that makes the HEA worthwhile.

I'm there for the pain, baby.

The fact is, I love books that torture their characters. I love reading stories where I honestly can't see a way out of the conflict to the happy ending. I adore a storyline that makes the characters confront their inner demons, the insurmountable odds that stand in the way of making a relationship work. I want the h/h to fight for their happy ending. I want it to mean something.

And I'm not just talking about dark, painful, angsty romances. Even a good romantic comedy can dig into the characters' psyches and throw conflict in their path. If the conflict is too easily resolved, if the characters don't have to fight for their relationship, I feel a little cheated.

So what do you think? Do you read romance for the HEA, the journey to get there, or a combination of the two?


Erin Nicholas said...

But the stuggle makes the HEA so much better! Not to mention the boring factor that would be there if they were just perfect, met, fell in love, the end. But I can never stop reading in the midst of the conflict :) Have to read through until they resolve it! Ah, there is one key to my caffeine addiction!

Kate Davies said...

Exactly! I need the fight, the struggle, before I believe the final reward has been earned.

And I'm with you on the caffeine addiction. I just have to keep turning those pages!

PG Forte said...

Far be it from me to complain about an excess of angst and torment (just like, Kate, I'm sure you don't really want soaps to eliminate snuggling on couches!) but, on the other hand, I think what makes Romance superior to Soap Opera is the HEA.

I understand the need for the continual sturm und drang but after I've suffered and struggled right along with the characters--and cheered them when they finally, finally got it right--the last thing I want is to watch it all fall apart again...and again...and again.

But that's okay, you know? Those soaps are so damn addictive (like caffeine? No. A thousand times worse.) that I'd never be able to pull myself away if the writers didn't occasionally ruin the whole show for me.

Kate Davies said...

Oh, absolutely! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the snuggling on the couch moments. If it was all sturm und drang (so appropriate since this post was inspired by My German Soap), I don't think I could take it. And to be honest, I was wary of diving back in to the storyline this summer until I read the spoilers and verified that yes, they were getting back together. I just couldn't handle another gutting like the first time they broke up.

So while I'm okay with more tension for them (this current long-distance-relationship stuff is great, IMHO, because it's more realistic than just the typical cheating storyline), I'd rather not see them break up and get back together ad nauseum.

But realistic relationship struggles? Followed by loving, happy times? Bring it on, baby!

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