Friends: Why I Dislike Ross Geller

[Content Note: Nice Guyism]

So I wasn't going to write this because it seems a decade or so too late to be topical, but then I realized that I couldn't get any relevant Google search results for "Ross Geller Nice Guyism", and if there's one thing that motivates me, it's filling a Google search hole.

I've been re-watching Friends recently, ever since Mom got done with the complete box set and I've been largely confined to bed rest. I mostly like the show, despite the god-awful laugh track, and here is a note from me to television producers: Stop Using Laugh Tracks. I hate them. Hate, hate, hate. With a really good show, with something I like, with something like Friends, I can just barely manage to tune out the laugh track; with something I struggle with, like Big Bang Theory, the laugh track is the final nail in the "wouldn't I rather watch the Food Network anyway?" coffin. Stop using 'em. Hate-hate-hate.

Which isn't to say that, minus the laugh track, Friends is perfect. It's not. Despite being sort of progressive (depending on your circle) at the time for featuring a lesbian wedding and at least acknowledging in conversations and sub-plots that gay and trans* people exist, the six main characters are all still white, straight, and monogamous, with four ending the series "coupled-with-children", five ending the series as flat-out coupled, and six ending with the acknowledgement that "coupled-with-children" is clearly the ideal state for them to ultimately achieve. Diversity! The series is also deeply color-averse (background shots are usually entirely monochromatic casting) and the fat phobia on display is blatant to the point of being almost triggering for me. Ugh.

But zipping past all that, I still enjoy Friends. I like the quips and the one-liners and the close-knit relationship dynamics and the overall avoidance of zany It's Not What It Looks Like sitcom antics in favor of more palatable (for me) zany Guest Star Of The Week antics. But I don't like Ross Geller.

Ross Geller is one-sixth of the Friends circle, and is ironically one of the linchpin members of the group: he's the brother of Monica Geller, the college buddy of Chandler Bing, and the sometimes-lover of Rachel Green. I say "ironically" because, once the friends are established, Ross strikes me as the most expendable of the entire group, frequently going out of his way to hurt, offend, or upset the other members. He has a particularly antagonistic relationship with outliers Joey Tribbiani and Phoebe Buffay, and consistently speaks down to them for their "alternative" (i.e., not-middle-class) lifestyle choices. However, in a group where feelings are rarely hurt past a simple end-of-episode apology, everyone manages to make nice and plod along.

I dislike Ross largely because of the relationship dynamics he has with Rachel Green, but it's worth pointing out that I dislike Ross less than I used to. When Friends first aired, I hated him with the searing passion of a thousand fiery suns, but now that I know a little more about Nice Guyism and the traps the writers were falling in to, characterization-wise, I have a little more distance. But I still don't like him, and my dislike has at least as much to do with Ross' pervading Nice Guyism as it has to do with how much I like Rachel Green.

I like Rachel Green. I could write a whole post about how much I like Rachel Green. I'm not sure we're supposed to like her, but I do anyway and the writers can shove it if they so desire. I like that she walked away from a privileged and sheltered life because she realized that it was built on lies and unhappiness. I like that she found an old high school friend -- the one person she knew in the city who wasn't left stranded at her abandoned wedding -- and asked if she could move in with her. I like that, unprompted, she decided to get a job of her own, and bounced back and rolled with the punches when she abruptly realized how untrained she was to hold a job. I like that she never gives up in her quest to attain fulfillment, and that she takes real and frightening steps to improve her life and her career.

Rachel is persistently asserted by the writers to be shallow, selfish, and spoiled, but her on-screen actions belie that characterization. She willingly attends the wedding of her ex-fiance (Barry) and her ex-maid of honor (Mindy) as a bridesmaid, despite being anxious and fearful that she will be humiliated. She overcomes her fear not because she wants to establish herself in society again but because she feels that she owes this favor to Mindy. When Barry publicly humiliates her at the reception (including with a blatant lie about her having syphilis), she takes the high road for Mindy's sake rather than dragging Barry and Mindy through the mud with the truth that Barry has been chronically unfaithful to both women.

In a flashback episode, it is revealed that despite being the most popular girl in school, Rachel still maintained a close friendship with social outcast Monica, even going so far as to attend prom together as a double date, which is unusually inclusive behavior for a girl who was supposedly conscious only of her own class, social standing, and upward mobility. And persistently throughout the series, Rachel reacts to bad news -- from everything to Ross' infidelity to her own unplanned pregnancy -- with quiet aplomb and a strong consideration for the feelings of her friends, preferring to do her mourning in private, so that they will not be drawn into her problems. None of these serious life-defining moments in the series characterizes Rachel as shallow and selfish to me, and thus I end up taking Rachel's actions as more valid than the writers' assertions. I like Rachel.

And thus we come back to Ross. For as much as I love Rachel Green, he (supposedly) loves her too. From the very first episode to the very last, the driving conceit is that they should -- nay, must -- end up together, for theirs is a love that occurs only once every generation. They are star-crossed, they are fated, they are in TV Guide's Best TV Couples of All Time list (Trigger Warning: Full list contains examples of rape and domestic violence). Their closeness as a couple makes Rachel happy, and if I respect her as a character (and I do), then I must (and I do) respect her choice to be with him. But that doesn't mean I like him. And it doesn't mean he's not a Nice Guy.

Ross isn't honest about his feelings.

One of the really frustrating things about Nice Guyism is the unwillingness to own one's own feelings and wants and needs. We see this in things like this XKCD, where the 'friend' points out that he fears rejection and so has decided that the best way to establish a relationship is via stealth methods. By being "friends" with the girl he is interested in, he hopes to zip in there in a vulnerable moment and become boyfriend-by-default rather than lay his feelings on the table and face real rejection.

A defining character point for Ross is that he's been "in love" with Rachel Green for ten years without saying anything to her. I think this is supposed to underscore his shyness and her unattainability, but there's a fine line here between "star-struck lover" and "creepy" and Ross is dancing on it as far as I'm concerned. He scores grown-up honesty points by asking Rachel outright on her first night at Monica's if he could ask her out sometime, and Rachel openly agrees, but then Ross backs away and never follows up on it. For all the persistent and gut-churning arguments that Ross later has with his guy friends about whether or not he is in and can escape "the friend zone" (an irritating framing if I've ever heard one), the fact of the matter is that it's he -- and not Rachel -- who is stalling on the relationship question. In a conversation with Joey, Ross insists that he's inching towards a relationship with Rachel:

Joey: It's never gonna happen.

Ross: (innocently) What?

Joey: You and Rachel.

Ross: (acts surprised) What? (pause) Why not?

Joey: Because you waited too long to make your move, and now you're in the friend zone.

Ross: No, no, no. I'm not in the zone.

Joey: Ross, you're mayor of the zone.

Ross: I'm taking my time, alright? I'm laying the groundwork. Yeah. I mean, every day I get just a little bit closer to...

Joey: Priesthood! Look Ross, I'm telling you, she has no idea what you're thinking.

When Rachel is told that Ross loves her, she is genuinely shocked because Ross has been hiding his feelings so well. (This despite her recognizing that he had a secret crush on her in high school, with the implication that Ross has gotten more adept at hiding his feelings.)

Monica: I think this is so great! I mean, you and Ross! D-did you have any idea?

Rachel: No! None! I mean, my first night in the city, he mentioned something about asking me out, but nothing ever happened, so I just... (to Joey): W-well, what else did he say? I mean, does he, like, want to go out with me?

Joey: Well, given that he's desperately in love with you, he probably wouldn't mind getting a cup of coffee or something.

Rachel: Ross? All this time? Well, I've got to talk to him. (gets up to leave)

There's an ongoing implication in Ross' arguments for why he's pursuing Rachel secretly that indicates that he fears rejection so much that (despite being given outright encouragement from Rachel already) he's decided that the 'stealth boyfriend' approach is a safer bet for him than simply laying his cards on the table and letting Rachel decide what she does and doesn't want out of life. And anytime that you have to essentially trick someone into a relationship with you, it doesn't seem to me to be a strong and auspicious start to the relationship. And in the meantime it's hard to dispel the implication that Ross almost prefers an unattainable Rachel who can be safely worshiped from a distance over an actual Rachel who then has to be lived with and treated like a real person. Which bring me to the point that Ross' "love" for Rachel isn't convincing to me.

Ross doesn't empathize with Rachel.

In your bog-standard zany sitcom setup, Ross leaves town to attend an expedition in China -- an expedition that has no phones and no means of contact. During this period of isolation, the beans are spilled by Chandler to Rachel that Ross loves her, and Rachel takes the week to decide that she wants to make a go of it with Ross. But when she shows up at the airport with flowers and a smile, Ross is disembarking with a new girlfriend, Julie. Rachel attempts to cope with the situation, but ultimately leaves a drunken message on Ross' answering machine in which she attempts to receive closure so that she can move on with her life. When Ross discovers the message, he has to decide whether to stay with Julie or attempt to forge the relationship that he has (supposedly) been longing for going on ten years now.

Ross' friends convince him to make a pros-and-cons list to help him decide, and Ross comes up with a list of informed flaws. He decides that Rachel is "spoiled", "ditzy", "too into her looks", and "just a waitress". (Joey chimes in that her ankles are chubby.) Of course, Rachel finds the list and is deeply hurt by the contents, but somewhere in all these zany sitcom antics, the whole thing becomes heart-breakingly real. This isn't something that can be just swept away with an apology, a kiss, and a fade to credits like so many other sitcom misunderstandings. Rachel is crystal-clear about the fact that Ross has hurt her.

Ross: Rach, come on, look, I know how you must feel.

Rachel: (near tears) No, you don't, Ross. Imagine the worst things you think about yourself. Now, how would you feel if the one person that you trusted the most in the world not only thinks them too, but actually uses them as reasons not to be with you.

Ross: No, but, but I wanna be with you in spite of all those things.

Rachel: Oh, well, that's, that's mighty big of you, Ross.

The situation -- like all of Ross' transgressions over the series -- is set up make Ross as blameless as possible. The list wasn't his idea, and he participated under a good deal of peer pressure. His words were warped and condensed and stripped of context. He's really-deeply-truly such a Nice Guy! But at the end of the day, we still have a situation where Ross -- who has been "in love" with Rachel for ten years -- still sees all these flaws in the object of his affection. I think that he genuinely believes that seeing these flaws makes him a realist (after all, all people have flaws!) and that wanting to be with Rachel makes him a romantic (because he loves her in spite of her flaws!), but I'm not convinced.

Rachel's "flaws" as Ross sees them are almost entirely accidents of her birth and culture. She's a waitress because her parents raised her to go straight from under their wing to her future husband's care. Ditto her "ditzy", non-intellectual nature, despite being consistently smart and witty over the course of the series. She's into her looks because she's been raised in a patriarchal culture that values beauty above all else. And whatever residue of spoiledness that remains in the wake of Rachel's abandonment of her childhood home smacks more of culture shock than deliberate willingness to put her needs above others.

Sure, Ross could view these things as "flaws", despite where they came from and how. But he could also look to his sister, Monica, and do some introspective compare-and-contrasting. Monica has spent her entire life being punished for not conforming to American beauty standards. She has been hurt and shunned and shamed, by her schoolmates, her close family, and her extended family. Even now that she has managed to conform to the ideal, she still receives strong emotional abuse and pressure from her family to place her looks before anything else, including her career, in order to land an "acceptable" husband -- here defined by looks, wealth, and marriage market status rather than emotional compatibility. Monica, as a result, could be reasonably considered to be just as "into her looks" as Rachel, and isn't shown to be much more intellectually-driven or career-focused than Rachel, despite having a head start on both these things.

Ross has a golden opportunity to look at the parallel lives of his sister and his lover and realize that, wow, my culture is fucked up when it comes to how we treat women. He could see that Rachel and Monica are both told by society that careers are less important than husbands, and that good looks are the only way they'll be allowed to succeed and be free from social abuse. He could see that women who express an intellectual bent are deliberately isolated and shunned in society (even more so than he is for liking "geek" things). He could then see how all those cultural factors have shaped both Monica and Rachel, and he could appreciate how they are trying to push back against all that bullshit. And then, he could help.

Instead, he participates in the patriarchy and further entrenches Monica and Rachel in their struggles by buying into the idea that women "should" be reaching an impossible ideal: beautiful, but unaware of it; intellectual, but not intimidating; driven, but not selfish. The conglomerate demand, which Ross actively participates in, is that Rachel be beautiful at all time in every way (no chubby ankles!) without being too concerned with her looks. She should be career-driven to be more than "just a waitress", but in no way should she be spoiled or self-entitled or led to believe that she deserves more out of life than, well, a job as a waitress. (She should also be willing to drop her career the minute it interferes with her love life.) The list that Ross composes about Rachel reaffirms all the stereotypes about her that she has been told all her life. That Ross wants to be with her "in spite" of those things doesn't matter, because every man who has ever been with her has wanted to be with her "in spite" of those things. He is not unique in that regard.

Rachel doesn't need a man who loves her in spite of these flaws; she needs a man who recognizes that these particular "flaws" aren't flaws. They're a combination of bullshit patriarchal expectations and mutually exclusive unattainable ideals. If Ross -- or any other man -- wanted to 'help' her overcome them, the answer is not to layer one more set of You Must Change expectations on Rachel; the answer is to start undermining the patriarchy and providing a counter opinion to all those constant pressures. I'd respect Ross more if he seemed to grasp that, and I'd certainly see his desire for Rachel as based in something more genuinely close to "love". As it is, I only see a man superficially drawn to a pretty woman, while privately wishing she would conform more closely to his ideal of a perfect mate. That's not The Greatest Love Of My Generation in my book; that's plain-and-simple physical attraction.

(Nothing wrong with that, but don't sell it as True Love when it's not, you know?)

Ross doesn't support Rachel.

The List sticks in my craw for another reason, and it's because Ross genuinely doesn't want Rachel to grow and change. Change is hard, and it affects the people closest to you. Ross isn't ready to support that, and ultimately their relationship is torn apart because of it.

When Rachel expresses her dissatisfaction at being "just a waitress" and unable to break into the career of her choice (fashion) due to her lack of schooling and relevant job experience, Chandler and Joey recklessly advise her to quit her job so that she'll be sufficiently motivated to find a new one. Through a series of coincidences and good Samaritanism, Rachel ends up landing her dream job through the help of a man named Mark who she met at Monica's diner.

Ross, who is consistently shown to display jealous tendencies (in large part to his last marriage ending over an affair), immediately begins hectoring Rachel and undermines her confidence by telling her that Mark only got her a job because Mark wants to sleep with her. When Rachel refuses to listen to Ross' suspicions, Ross becomes increasingly emotionally aggressive by sending her excessive gifts (including a barbershop quartet) and showing up at her office unannounced in order to assert his ownership over her. Eventually, he escalates the situation by shouting at Mark, and Mark leaves the office for another job. (I think we are meant to presume that this move is unrelated to the Ross drama, but there isn't in-show clarification either way.) Despite this apparent "win" for Ross, he continues to aggress against Rachel for working late hours, and he still shows up unannounced at her work in order to assert his perceived rights as a boyfriend.

Rachel: You had no right coming down to my office Ross. You do not bring a picnic basket to somebody’s work! Unless maybe they were a park ranger!

Ross: Yeah, well excuse me for wanting to be with my girlfriend on our anniversary, boy what an ass am I.

Rachel: But I told you, I didn’t have the time!

Ross: Yeah, well you never have the time. I mean, I don’t feel like I even have a girlfriend anymore, Rachel.

Rachel: Wh, Ross what do you want from me? You want me, you want me to quit my job so you can feel like you have a girlfriend?

Ross: No, but it’d be nice if you realized, it’s just a job!

Rachel: Just a job!

Ross: Yes.

Rachel: Ross do you realize this is the first time in my life I’m doing something I actually care about. This is the first time in my life I’m doing something that I’m actually good at. I mean. if you don’t get that...

Ross: No, hey, I get that, okay, I get that big time. And I’m happy for ya, but I’m tired of having a relationship with your answering machine! Okay, I don’t know what to do anymore.

Rachel: Well neither do I!

Ross: Is this about Mark?

Rachel: (shocked) Oh my God.

Ross: Okay, it’s not, it’s not.

Rachel: Oh my God. I cannot keep having this same fight over and over again, Ross, no, you’re, you’re, you’re making this too hard.

And I want to be clear about this: having a relationship with someone who has a demanding job can be hard. Really hard. Legitimately hard. Couples can seriously struggle with issues surrounding work, and I don't want to minimize that.

But Rachel has been working at this new job for a couple of weeks. She has her one (and possibly only) chance to break into the career of her choice, despite her utter lack of education and previous relevant work experience. If she does well, here and now, she could be set for life; if she does poorly, she may not have another chance. Yes, it's hard work. Yes, it's likely to be a strain on the relationship. But Ross of all people -- Ross, who has a doctorate -- should recognize that there are times when sometimes you have to knuckle down and work really really hard for a goal. That doesn't mean he should stay with her no matter how unhappy he is. It doesn't mean he shouldn't express his needs to her openly and honestly. It does mean he should not jeopardize her career and her confidence by continued micro-aggressions and showing up unannounced and unwelcome at her office whenever he feels like it.

And there's something else. It might be a small thing, but to me it's not.

Ross doesn't say "I miss you". He says "I don't feel like I have a girlfriend". And once again I have the impression that Ross doesn't love Rachel-Green-the-person nearly so much as he loves Rachel-Green-the-status-symbol. We don't have a man saying to a woman, "what can we do to both be happy?" and then listening to the response and working out a system. We have a man saying to a woman, "this is how boyfriends and girlfriends are" and then expecting the woman to conform to that expectation or otherwise face being a bad or non-existent girlfriend. For a man like Ross, who has consistently-if-reluctantly risen to the challenge of redefining his ideas about fatherhood, brotherhood, and husbandry to balk at this chance to redefine what it means to be a boyfriend is particularly telling to me: Rachel's needs as a person simply aren't being valued in this equation. Instead she has been reduced to a generic object: Is the Girlfriend present at the anniversary? If no, is the Girlfriend cheating?

And I don't think "I don't feel like I have a girlfriend" can be parsed down to simply "I miss you". Ross can't say he misses Rachel, because the format of the show demands that they spend hours of each day together. The group eats breakfast together in Monica's apartment, hangs out in the afternoons at the coffee shop, and goes out for dinner and theater together in the evenings. Ross and Rachel sleep together -- full, stay-the-night sleep, not just sex -- on a regular basis, to the point that Monica complains that Ross never leaves her apartment. So Ross isn't Not Seeing Rachel, but rather he's Not Seeing Rachel For Girlfriendy Outings. Which is still a valid thing to be unhappy about. But it's something that he's unhappy about over a small time period -- no more than two months -- after a year-long relationship with a woman he's wanted to be with for ten years, to the point that he's willing to jeopardize their relationship and her career.

That's not what I call "supportive".

Ross doesn't respect Rachel.

There's a lot of things this bullet point could be applied to, but here I'm not talking about The List.

Right after the quote above, Rachel famously announces that maybe they should "take a break" and Ross leaves the apartment. When he finds Joey and Chandler at a party, he proceeds to get drunk and ends up sleeping with a sexually aggressive woman at the party after believing that Rachel is sleeping with Mark. The next morning, Ross tries to convince everyone to keep the incident secret from Rachel, but Rachel finds out anyway and decides that she can't continue to try to make this relationship work because she's too hurt by what she perceives as Ross' infidelity. Again, the situation is deliberately framed to make Ross as innocent as possible, so I'm not going to argue that one way or the other because I think it's a red herring. Let's say Ross has done nothing wrong. That doesn't change the fact that he doesn't respect Rachel in the wake of the incident.

Rachel doesn't owe Ross a relationship. She doesn't owe him forgiveness for what she perceives as any wrongs he's done against her. She does owe Ross basic human decency and dignity, and she immediately provides that for the sake of her relationship within the group. (We have also previously seen, at Barry and Mindy's wedding, that Rachel consistently tries to take the high road in relationship fights as far as public displays are concerned.) Rather than accept that, Ross immediately embarks on a campaign to argue and shame Rachel into forgiveness (and therefore reconciliation) with him. In The One Without The Ski Trip, we hear this exchange: 

Joey: Well Ross was hangin’ out over at our place, Rachel comes over to borrow some moisturizer from Chandler....

Chandler: Yeah y-you, how hard is it to say something? Rachel came over to borrow something.

Joey: Anyway! Her and Ross just started yelling at each other.

Phoebe: Wait. Why was he yelling at her? He’s the one who slept with someone else.

Joey: Well, I guess he says that because they were on a break when it happened, that she should of forgiven him by now.

"She should of forgiven him by now." Ross is now, apparently, dictating the level of hurt that Rachel is allowed to have -- according to him? according to society? certainly not according to her! -- in response to his actions. Regardless of whether his actions were right or wrong or neither, he has no place to tell Rachel how she "should" feel about them. Later in the episode, we see Ross deliberately enlist others in an attempt to pressure Rachel on the issue:

Ross: We were on a break!

Rachel: Y'know Ross why don’t you put that on your answering machine!

Ross: Hey-hey, it’s valid okay? And I’m not the only one who thinks so, Monica agrees with me.

Rachel: (to Monica) What?!

Monica: (shyly) I don’t know.

Ross: That’s what you said last night.

Monica: What I said was, was that I understood. Joey’s the one who agreed with you!


Ross: (to Rachel) Look, both Joey and Monica feel the same way that I do.

The correct answer to this (and I'm sorry the writers didn't include it), is that Ross can go date Monica or Joey. But flippant answers aside, this is really inappropriate behavior. It's not alright for Ross to enlist others in an attempt to shame Rachel into a position that makes Ross more comfortable. This is especially egregious considering that there's no evidence whatsoever that Rachel is talking about Ross to the others behind his back -- but Ross, by definition here, has to have been talking to at least Monica and Joey about it. Who is being respectful here and who is not?

And lest it seem like I'm making a mountain from a molehill, there is the exchange with Carol -- Ross' ex-wife -- earlier in the episode. Remember when, a season before, Rachel's ex-fiance Barry spread rumors about her leaving him because she had syphilis? Well, Ross has decided that promiscuity is the best way to shame a woman who refuses to conform to his wishes:

Carol: Listen, we both know you’re gonna do it ‘cause you’re not a jerk. Okay? So you can either sulk here for a half hour and then go pick them up, or save us both time and sulk in the car.

Ross: No, Rachel doesn’t want me to....

Carol: Look, I-I-I am sorry that Rachel dumped you ‘cause she fell in love with that Mark guy, and you are the innocent victim in all of this, but don’t punish your friends for what Rachel did to you.

Ross: Yeah, you’re right.

Carol: (on phone) Phoebe hang on a second Ross wants to say something. (listens) What? (listens) (to Ross) You slept with someone else?!

Ross: We were on a break!!! Okay!! (grabs the phone) We were, we were..., (calms down) yeah. Where are you? I’ll find you. (hangs up)

Carol: You slept with another woman?

Ross: Oh, you-you’re-you’re one to talk.

The only way I can interpret this is that Ross went looking for sympathy, and told a heavily re-edited and re-cut version of events designed to make Rachel out to be the guilty party for doing something he knows she did not do, and leaving out the real and actual reason for their break-up because he knew that his ex-wife would not approve and wouldn't offer up the required sympathy if she did know. The fact that this falsified version of events would only hurt Rachel's reputation and her other interpersonal relationships either didn't matter to Ross or was a bonus feature.

This kind of behavior is not respectful. I'd even go so far as to call it emotionally abusive.

All the above happens within the first three seasons of Friends. Whether or not Ross receives a character growth arc later over the series is debatable. I do, for the record, think that abusive people can change -- but I also think that they have to recognize they are abusive before that can happen. (And I absolutely do not-not-not think that their victims "owe" them anything, like forgiveness or more chances.) I am, however, far from convinced that the Ross we end up with is functionally different from the Ross we began with. If Rachel-the-character believes that he makes her happy, then I respect her decision. It is, after all, hers to make.

But on a more meta-level, I hate that so much of this isn't apparent to audiences and writers. No matter what you think of Ross and Rachel, I do not and cannot view them as a top ten "best couple" or as a love story driven by fate and starlight and greatness. I resent the writerly "talking up" of Ross over and over again in episodes as such a great guy, such a love-struck romantic, someone who is destined for and deserves good things. To people who view him as a good guy, I have no beef; to people who view him as a good guy and therefore deserving of Rachel (or the girl of his choice) as some kind of award for good behavior, I regard as concernful. Women and sex and relationships are not -- and should not -- be viewed as some kind of trophy for winning at life. That's really a root problem of Nice Guyism, the idea that if you pay your dues, karma will hand you a smoking hot girlfriend and a nice house in the suburbs.

It's alright to have that dream, the one with the girlfriend and the suburban house, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's owed you. Don't start thinking about that girlfriend as less than a real person with real needs and real feelings and a real life outside of you and instead objectify her into your Girlfriend-shaped doll.

Don't, in short, be a Ross Geller.


Will Wildman said...

I don't know Friends at all (this post is actually the first time I've had any context for the memetic 'we were on a break' line) but this is a comprehensive and compelling argument, and the real-world significance is tragic in its importance.

I want to make a longer comment about the place of one-sided 'love' (with a highly questionable definition) being prized in-and-of-itself as a thing that it is morally right to support and morally wrong to hinder, but have not the time to compose the whole thing just now. Essays as the situation develops.

Isabelle Fallon said...

This is my favourite post of yours EVER. It has put into words what I have been struggling to express for the last 10 years and more when I hear the Ross-and-Rachel-are-so-perfect-together spiel. Rachel has emerged as a real person with whom we can empathise and whom we can support - in spite of the writers! - and Ross is, to put it nicely, not someone I would like to date. I'll say no more, becasue you have said it all, but I am delighted you have written this post!

Lonespark said...

I cannot agree with this hard enough. Not that I watched Friends or ever will. But the Nice Guy TM dynamic is something that has given me no end of trouble. It's not even so horrible that individual guys feel like life should reward them with a relationship they don't have to work at. It's the fact that society in general supports the idea that men do deserve that and women don't.

FrenchRoast said...

Thank you for finally giving me somewhere to link to when I talk about all the reasons I despise Ross! I have always hated him as a character, and I usually love geeky professor types on TV. I've never understood "Ross & Rachel" because Ross always seemed like such a jerk to everyone.

I also don't get why there wasn't more love for Chandler & Monica, because their relationship generally seemed more realistic and supportive, and there was even that one "What if" episode that showed Chandler actually loved Monica for who she was, at any size. For me, as a fat teenager whose mother told her that no boys would be interested in me until I lost weight, that episode was almost world-changing.

Yamikuronue said...

Wait, I thought that was the point? The reason Ross-and-Rachel are always "off again" is that Ross can't get his shit together, and the reason they're ever "on again" is that Rachel honestly wants to be with him if he'd just grow up and learn to be an adult about things, right? I mean, the man's known for having a series of failed relationships. He's really, REALLY bad at respecting other people. That's his character quirk. Everything else about him seems pretty decent -- he rarely has money issues, rarely gets into weird situations except when he makes them himself, and generally comes across as pretty average compared to, say, Joey. But he just can't get the hang of conducting himself in an adult relationship, and he just can't get over his hangups and realize he's been wrong this whole time.

Compare to Phoebe, whose quirk is that she doesn't care much about social norms, or Monica, whose quirk is that she tends to get neurotic and anxious when things don't go as she planned. The idea that Ross and Rachel are the "best couple on TV" is, in my opinion, one of those unfortunate media misunderstandings that got blown out of proportion (see, for example, Edward and Bella).

Aaron Boyden said...

I realize it's only a tiny tangent at the beginning of your wonderful discussion, but I understand that there's been some research on laugh tracks. Apparently, when a show is very funny, it makes no difference to how audiences evaluate it whether they see it with a laugh track or not, but with less funny shows, people who watch them with a laugh track evaluate them more highly than people who watch them without a laugh track. So use of a laugh track should be taken as evidence that the producers of a show do not have confidence in their product. Since there could be a good reason for that lack of confidence, a laugh track should probably be taken as a warning sign. Or at least I wish more people would do so, as they annoy me too, and if more people interpreted them that way, they'd surely be used less.

Kitwhitfield said...

with something I struggle with, like Big Bang Theory, the laugh track is the final nail in the "wouldn't I rather watch the Food Network anyway?" coffin.

Actually, I do believe that show is filmed in front of a live audience. There was a making-of documentary screened in the UK recently. The laughs are real.


I never liked the show's handling of the Ross-Rachel relationship. I remember it was popular when I was an undergraduate and the whole 'We were on a break' issue was a popular conversation-question: who do you think is right?

And looking back, I think the only real answer is, 'That's the wrong way to frame the question.'

It's not that Ross sleeps with someone else after Rachel declared a 'break' without specifying whether this meant sexual freedom for both parties or not. It's that he was unreasonably jealous of a man she was doing nothing wrong with, to the point of behaviour that stood a good chance of getting her fired, refused to show any trust in her fidelity no matter what she said, and when this possessiveness got so destructive that she declared a break in desperation because she couldn't get him to accept that his behaviour was unreasonable, he then - having made a massive song and dance about her not-actually-sexual friendship with another man - jumps into bed with another woman the same night.

In other words, the problem isn't that he interpreted 'break' to mean 'free to sleep with other people.' It's that he acted as if she was cheating on him when she wasn't. Sex with the other girl is basically revenge sex (or comfort sex at best) for an infidelity that she never actually committed. They may or may not have been on an 'official break', but they weren't 'on a break' in his head: his sleeping with the other girl was very strongly motivated by his conviction that Rachel was sleeping with someone else, which was a conviction he had been shown repeatedly was unreasonable.

Rachel's mistake is to let 'we were on a break' become the crux of the argument. That means she allows him to take control of what the fight will be about: he narrows down the focus of the conflict to a single sentence she said and rules out any discussion of everything he's been doing for the last several weeks.

Does he cheat? It's the wrong question. The problem isn't the sex, it's the possessiveness and objectification - the refusal to accept that she has a reality outside his fantasies.

Will Wildman said...

He's really, REALLY bad at respecting other people. That's his character quirk. [....] Compare to Phoebe, whose quirk is that she doesn't care much about social norms, or Monica, whose quirk is that she tends to get neurotic and anxious when things don't go as she planned.

Um. One of these things is not like the other?

'Doesn't care about social norms' can be awkward but not necessarily harmful. 'Anxious about deviating from expectations' is a challenge for the person who's experiencing the anxiety and probably not helpful to others who are better at improv, but again more likely awkward than anything. 'Doesn't respect other people's personhood or value them beyond what they provide him' is... failure at basic decency.

Isator Levi said...

My brother and I have been rewatching some Friends recently, and it's been our collective opinion that there really are some horrible implications to most things he does, and how the group could be better off without him (which is interesting in light of the apparent binding ties holding him in there).

Yamikuronue said...

Yes, there's a matter of degree, but what I'm saying is, each character has an area of their life where they just can't quite measure up. For Ross, it's relationships. Unfortunately for him, relationships are a huge part of the show.

EdinburghEye said...

Ross Geller is the Creepy Guy of Friends. (I like Rachel, too, though like everyone else in the universe I like Phoebe best.)

One reason why I never went to see Six Days Seven Nights, even though it has Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in it and they're both pretty much "How can I lose?" actors for me, is because David Schwimmer plays Heche's boyfriend-in-the-movie, and pretty much instantly I came up for a plot for the movie in my head in which Ross Geller gets dumped - permanently, finally, dumped - because the Harrison Ford character just turns out to be much nicer than Ross. And, you know, looks like Harrison Ford on top of that. And he goes round whining about it to his friends and they're all pretty much "Dude, you got dumped for Harrison Ford? Wow, that sucks for you. Can I get his autograph?"

No idea what the Harrison Ford character was actually like in the movie. But at least he wouldn't be Ross Geller.

Lonespark said...

Also. Screwing with people AT WORK is one of my berserk buttons. I realize lots of people don't place as much importance on colleagues vs. friends boundaries and such. And I have had phone calls from home turn in to half-hour screaming arguments so I'm sure that's a factor. But professionalism is really important to me, and when people won't treat you like a professional they are not respecting you.

Lonespark said...

I did see Six Days, Seven nights but I dont remember it. (It was extremely forgettable and the cinema was terrible.) I'm going to adopt that plot because hey, why not.

Will Wildman said...

'Matter of degree' doesn't seem like the right way to characterise it. 'Monica gets anxious when things don't go according to plan; Zeke the Secret Seventh Friend suffers outright screaming panic attacks when events happen out of expected order' is a matter of degree. 'Phoebe doesn't care about conforming to social norms and Ross doesn't treat his girlfriend(s?*) like they have their own lives and identities' seems more like comparing apples and railroad ties.

If Melantha the Secret Eighth Friend was going to be 'bad at relationships', then options that leap to mind would include difficulties communicating (about emotions, about plans, etc), pathological fear of commitment, or thoughtlessness about how her decisions in her own life might affect her partner. The difference seems qualitative and not quantitative when comparing to Ross, who apparently makes decisions about his partner's life and then gets upset when she doesn't match them.

*Again, my knowledge of the show's canon itself is pretty minimal (enough to name cast members by face, but not a lot more), so I don't know what other relationships Ross gets into, whether romantic/filial/familial. Is the behaviour discussed here standard to the way he interacts with everyone, or just girlfriends, or just Rachel?

Thomas Keyton said...

Anyway, you know, I didn't want to spoil movie-in-my-head with movie-the-way-it-probably-is, so I never watched it. Does anyone else ever do this?

I half-wish I'd done it with thematically-at-best-confused-and-somewhat-incoherent-at-worst-unpleasant-and-not-my-Batman The Dark Knight Rises.

On topic: every time I rewatch Friends, Ross gets less likeable. Thanks for putting into words why.

chris the cynic said...

Anyway, you know, I didn't want to spoil movie-in-my-head with movie-the-way-it-probably-is, so I never watched it. Does anyone else ever do this?


Here's what Quarantine is my head. No way the real movie measures up.

Here's what The Happening is in my head. Again, no way the real movie measures up.

Will Wildman said...

I half-wish I'd done it with thematically-at-best-confused-and-somewhat-incoherent-at-worst-unpleasant-and-not-my-Batman The Dark Knight Rises.

I can't imagine what you're talking about; The Dark Knight Rises hasn't come out yet and probably never will. It was kind of clever that they got Christian Bale to play the Batman impersonator in that Detective Blake movie that came out this summer, though. Really added a metafictional level of surreality.

(Though, to be fair as far as Catwoman goes, I regret nothing about seeing that movie. And I didn't actually detest the film, but it joins the ranks of 'nonsensical action films that I will leave on in the background when they show up on TV', rather than being an actual strong concluding chapter to the trilogy.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Actually, I do believe that show is filmed in front of a live audience. There was a making-of documentary screened in the UK recently. The laughs are real.

I did not know that, thank you. Do they use the LAUGH signs, do you know? It sounds so ... everyone starts and stops at the same time, it seems. It doesn't feel spontaneous, is what I mean.

But, yeah, I don't like the inclusion. I feel sort of pressured when I hear a laugh track. Even a live one, I guess. (Though I suppose that's different in that maybe the sound engineers can't screen it out for the taped viewing. And maybe fans don't want them too!)

Ana Mardoll said...


Also worth noting is that Phoebe and Monica are both corrected within the confines of the show, both by their friends and by their actions over time.

The crux of Phoebe's character development, for me, is when she is faced with two different marriage proposals. Early!Phoebe would have really struggled with this and probably have suggested something unhelpful but Delightfully Quirky and used humor to try to not deal with something serious and life-changing. Late!Phoebe instead takes everything calmly in hand and explains her preferences to the men proposing to her. She owns her decisions and makes them plain without vacillation or deflecting humor. It's a major turning point for her.

Monica's character development occurs over time with Chandler -- she sharpens his organization skills and he blunts her anxiety for her -- but ultimately when they are in the delivery room with the woman whose child they plan to adopt and when that woman suddenly is revealed to have TWINS instead of the single baby they were expecting, Monica does not bat an eye. This is HUGE for her. Everything in her life is upside down. They need to redo the baby room, the purchased house might be too small, they need new toys and clothes and things, her whole future has changed. She doesn't care; she doesn't even bring that up. She just ... rolls with it. It's a major climax for someone who initially couldn't handle the slightest deviation from her wishes.

Ross ... well. Someone is free to point out any moment in the late seasons where he seriously overcomes his tendency to treat people as objects instead of people, but for me it just never happened. I don't see the growth with him that I see with the others.

Ana Mardoll said...

Is the behaviour discussed here standard to the way he interacts with everyone, or just girlfriends, or just Rachel?

He's been divorced three times, and countless girlfriends, so there are Issues.

I think there's definitely evidence that he sees women as "girlfriend-shaped" and not as people. Random thoughts:

1. In an episode where they make lists of celebrity "freebies" (like, Ana can sleep with Specific Celebrity if the offer arises because that's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for most people), Ross actually does run into a celebrity who was a semi-finalist on his list. He approaches her in public and tells her that he's "allowed" to sleep with her. This is treated as a funny thing and not horrifically depersonifying.

2. Rachel moves in with Ross despite having a firmly platonic relationship because they have an infant together. Ross is dating another woman who is out of town when this happens. Ross then puts off telling his girlfriend that the mother of his child lives in his home until Rachel accidentally tells her. (Ross even denies it and paints Rachel as mentally disordered for being in the apartment.)

3. Male example: Ross forces Rachel to fire her "dream nanny" because he's an effeminate man who isn't homosexual (the implication is that an effeminate GAY man would be alright, but the man is engaged to marry his girlfriend). When Rachel rationally argues that he's a wonderful nanny, Ross points out that he wouldn't retain a nanny that Rachel wasn't comfortable with. The implication being that thinking a person is an unacceptable caregiver for ANY reason, including prejudiced ones, should be respected.

JonathanPelikan said...

The sound of raucous human laughter is more often than not heavily irritating to me, so I can scarcely even be bothered to try and watch any show if such raucous and fake laughter comes up every, say, half a minute. Mostly. Only the really good examples keep me anyway.

Ana Mardoll said...

Just to clarify, I do imagine the writers thought this was Ross' quirk. I just don't find it quirky like they did. I find it entitled awfulness.

GeniusLemur said...

It may be the writers didn't realize Ross has any growing to do.

It's struck me how hard pure romantic romance is. You're heading for a happily-ever-after-because they're-perfect-for-each-other ending, but if they're so well matched, there's no conflict. So barring some tiresome cliche (her family doesn't approve for some obscure reason, there's some strange misunderstanding driving them apart they unaccountably don't resolve in five minutes just by talking about it), all of which were thought of and used to death decades or centuries ago, there just isn't a story.

I never saw a lot of Friends, but Ross and Rachel never struck me as even attracted to each other, much less in love or entranced by Le Grande Passione.

Randy Kay said...

Trigger: Rape, Domestic Abuse

Oh dear, I wish I hadn't clicked on the link for the Best Couples - Luke and Laura?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Cue ragefest. Especially since the writer described Luke raping Laura fairly unremarkably as something that they had to "overcome".

Of course, then I just had to keep reading and see that they also included at least one couple wherein domestic violence was regularly threatened! An excellent couple indeed!

Ana Mardoll said...

Which is funny because I have to wonder, do people want that?

I *loved* Monica and Chandler. They seemed perfect for each other to me, but there wasn't a lot of will-they/won't-they. They hook up somewhere around Season 5, I think (I mean, I remember the episode fine, I don't remember season numbers), there are about a dozen episodes that deal with them hiding their relationship (not so many that it got old), and then they're together. And it's all good.

I mean, they have growing and learning and relationshipy things to do still, but you can always tell that they're right for each other and they'll work it out. I LIKE that. I don't understand why it's not in higher demand, to be honest.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm so sorry. I didn't know -- I'll add a trigger warning right now. I'm so sorry.

Randy Kay said...

Please don't feel badly about it, though; my irritation is entirely directed at the TV Guide folks. Mind you, I don't exactly expect brilliance from them, but I still boggled at their airy inclusion of couples who are defined by past rape and threats of violence.

Ana Mardoll said...

Seriously. What kind of message are they trying to send? o.O

Randy Kay said...

I know that at the time Luke and Laura were seen as a wonderful couple and everything, but I had gathered that this is part of why its the sort of thing that has aged very badly... hmm, trying to put it properly... well, you don't hear so much about it now because it isn't quite as palatable as it was back then (still not registering as disgusting as much as it should, but would more than it did then). Or people try to downplay it, or outright have papered over the matter in their minds, because its "distasteful". But here the writer blithely brings it front and center, and seems to not have any conception that this may make them a poor fit for a top couples list.

Am I making sense?

depizan said...

He sounds like a dreadful person, and I've got to agree that "doesn't see people as people" is not a quirk. It means that you are a gigantic asshat and may have actual mental problems. The things described aren't "bad at relationships," they're "bad at being a decent human being."

Silver Adept said...

Good post. Gives me plenty of reasons to keep avoiding Friends as a program.

Are we supposed to see Ross as the Bad Luck character than the resident carrier of the Idiot Ball? Because I can see those scenarios being used as "how unlucky" rather than "what a jerk". (At this point, we also remind ourselves that "star-crossed" means bad things.)

I also wonder whether it's a facet of group written shows to do these kids of things - maybe they only have character sketches and an outline of the season arc to go with, rather than having some detailed maps and plans of how character growth will happen.

theKatriarch said...

This post is awesome! That's pretty much all I've got.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, I'm glad you fixed it. I want to read your take on The Happening but I thought it was my browser acting up.

I know what it's about, but couldn't finish it because seeing gore is harder for me than reading it.

Kitwhitfield said...

'Do they use the LAUGH signs'

Not that I know of. From the footage I saw it was more like an audience of fans picking up on each others' energy; that would naturally lead to some responsiveness to how long everyone else was laughing.

It sounds like you find it hard to picture, but you can probably find YouTube footage if you want. It doesn't surprise me; I think that show is funny.

etv13 said...

@EdinburghEye: I have to register my disagreement with you about "everbody loves Phoebe best." I don't. Phoebe is down at the bottom of my list with Ross. I've always liked Chandler best. He's always struck me as the most real and the most reasonable of the characters. Joey has his moments of wisdom (as when he tells Chandler Janice and her husband the mattress king have a chance to have a real family, and if he were Chandler he wouldn't want to interfere with that), but he's also a callous womanizer, and both Rachel and Monica are reasonably sympathetic, but Phoebe to me, especially in the early years -- well, the episode where she's convinced a cat is her mom and she refuses to entertain the idea that she should return the cat to the kid who's missing it until Ross apologizes for something that, for once, isn't his fault, irritates the hell out of me. Chandler has his faults and neuroses, but on the whole, he strikes me as intelligent, reasonable, and decent.
Ana: I'm pretty sure Friends was taped in front of a live audience, at least by the time we get to the scene where Monica lights all the candles and proposes to Chandler.

And on a related note: the cast of Friends, David Schwimmer and Lisa Kudrow included, deserves a lot of credit for their unity and solidarity when it came to salary negotiations. As does the current adult cast of Modern Family.

Loquat said...

On the subject of Live Studio Audiences, you may find this this Onion AV Club article interesting. Apparently the audience is actually part of the refining process - the writers may have multiple versions of a punchline, or the actors may have multiple ways to deliver it, so they'll perform those different takes in front of the audience to see which one gets the best reaction. Which, of course, contributes to the non-spontaneous feel of the laughter in the final cut of the show - the audience isn't seeing the whole show at once and laughing as they would at a play, they're seeing small bits at a time, possibly with long breaks in between as the writers/actors/etc discuss changes.

JenL said...

One reason why I never went to see Six Days Seven Nights, even though it has Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in it and they're both pretty much "How can I lose?" actors for me, is because David Schwimmer plays Heche's boyfriend-in-the-movie, and pretty much instantly I came up for a plot for the movie in my head in which Ross Geller gets dumped - permanently, finally, dumped - because the Harrison Ford character just turns out to be much nicer than Ross. And, you know, looks like Harrison Ford on top of that. And he goes round whining about it to his friends and they're all pretty much "Dude, you got dumped for Harrison Ford? Wow, that sucks for you. Can I get his autograph?"

No idea what the Harrison Ford character was actually like in the movie. But at least he wouldn't be Ross Geller.

SPOILERS Okay, I watched this only once, way back, and I don't remember much of it. But off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure that Anne Heche finally gets back to civilization feeling torn but intending to return to her life with Schwimmer's character ... only to find that he, assuming she died, had sex with another woman.

Isator Levi said...

I too liked Monica and Chandler, and that standard of actually having a relationship pick up and develop organically rather than "will they, won't they" nonsense. It's why I find Turk and Carla infinitely more compelling than JD and Elliot*, even if the writers of that show insipidly compare it to something in Friends that we're supposed to like.

Sadly, when I bring up a desire for this kind of thing to be given more focus in television, the discussion generally goes to the idea of it being "boring" or "lacking conflict", as though developing relationships are all cakewalks.

One person even said that if such relationships could be made interesting, then it would surely turn up more in fiction. I'll give you three guesses as to what I compared that to for illustrative purposes. :)

* That's apart from the general intolerable horribleness of JD, mind.

Isator Levi said...

"Ross ... well. Someone is free to point out any moment in the late seasons where he seriously overcomes his tendency to treat people as objects instead of people, but for me it just never happened. I don't see the growth with him that I see with the others."

Oh dear, and now I'm seeing his actions in the penultimate episode in which he privately demands a heartfelt goodbye from Rachel (over, if I recall correctly, the objections of the other friends) in a whole new terrible light.

Lonespark said...

It's why I find Turk and Carla infinitely more compelling than JD and Elliot*

But that's like comparing...really good things..with...not-good things. And I like Eliot, but Turk-and-Carla should be a Greatest Couple of All Time.

sweetcraspy said...

(Very mild spoilers for the Office and How I Met your Mother)

It seems pretty common to have a "stable background relationship" as a counterpoint to the (usually male) main character's relationship difficulty.

There's Turk and Carla vs Elliot and JD, Monica and Chandler vs Ross and Rachel, Lily and Marshall vs Ted and Robin, Angela and Dwight vs Jim and Pam.

Then notably, when Jim and Pam get together, Dwight and Angela's relationship starts getting rocky. Lily and Marshall "take a break" while Robin and Ted work things out. Does anything similar happen on Friends or Scrubs?

It's like there is a Conservation of Strife rule that shifts a set amount of discord among the available relationships. It also keeps the current "happy relationship" safe and static while the people who are fighting hash out their differences.

Isator Levi said...

"Does anything similar happen on Friends or Scrubs?"

I lost touch with Scrubs after a while (it just became utterly intolerable), and it's been a while since I watched much of it, but the closest I can recall to that effect was the period after Turk and Carla got married, and they had problems to the effect of not being able to parse how they were supposed to live in their new context.

But that wasn't done as a contrast to anything*, that was just a "hey, sometimes the first year of a marriage is difficult" thing. And they actually went to counselling, and Turk was taught that he had to be more clear and open with his feelings and all kinds of things. They worked through it.


There was also a bit where, during a low point, Carla kissed JD while drunk, and I can't remember exactly how that was treated (perhaps not as well as it could have), but it was still something the narrative had them work through.


* See, one thing I really found off-putting in the whole JD-Elliot thing was how the writers never really seemed to commit to something with it. They frequently vacillated in how much affection the two were supposed to have for one another, had an entire season of build-up about JD pining after her while she was in a relationship with somebody else (and then abruptly not wanting to be with her after she chose him over her committed long-distance boyfriend), and so on.

I completely gave up on that show when, after it had been -years- since anything romantic had been portrayed between them (and while another woman was pregnant with JD's child), JD's response to Elliot becoming engaged to another man was that "it should have been [him]". Prior to that, I had really hoped that it had had the decency and maturity to say "hey, sometimes people who were in a relationship realise that they can't really make that sort of thing work, but remain friends anyway because there were genuinely things they liked about each other", but no, had to go with the standard "wind up as a couple" disregarding all reason and decency.

Isator Levi said...

On something related to this subject, one of the things that initially drew me to Community was how it displayed awareness of the usual "will they, won't they" tropes, and played around with them.

Will Wildman said...

The 'beta couple' has a TV tropes page listing dozens upon dozens of such cases, where a secondary, more stable couple is a clear counterpart to the theatrically-unsteady primary couple.

I lost all interest in will-they-or-won't-they years upon years ago, at least in my own writing; I work either with established couples or those who actually get together without much fuss. I'm kind of baffled by the idea that this is inherently less interesting, since it still leaves open the questions of how they fit into each other's evolving lives, whether they have matching goals, complications with family, and all the other random things life can toss at you that become more complicated when you're not solo. Surely that's at least as interesting as 'I am not sure if this person would be amenable to pressing their lips against my lips'.

(I guess there was a little will-they-won't-they with one couple in my 2011 NaNo, since the doctor was concerned that the mime was in fact a foreign spy, but once it was established that both dudes were clearly on the same team, instant makeouts were inevitable.)

Isabel C. said...

In fairness, I do tend to lose interest in a couple once they're actually established, for the most part. (Exceptions: The West Wing, the Temeraire series, Anne of Green Gables.) You have a few sex scenes, they end up A Couple, and...okay, bored now. Next! It's why I don't do romance-focused series--as opposed to "series romance", which generally features a new couple per book, with some connections to the couple from the previous one.

Then again, tastes differ. And I admit that this also reflects my RL approach to romance, somewhat. ;)

Lonespark said...

Yeah, I don't get it, either. There's plenty of interesting and dramatic questions with relationships. Will they or won't they get together, ok. Will they or won't they be able to balance work and relationships? Will they or won't they be able to overcome past traumas to be the partners they want to be? Will they or won't they have to deal with obstacles like violence or illness or family or cultural disapproval? WIll they or won't they have to deal with aliens or telepathy or sharktopi or telepathic alien sharktopi? Etc. And that's before we even get to sex as such.

Will Wildman said...

I'm curious which West Wing couple(s) you have in mind; the series is rife with them, many of which obviously don't last. I mean, I have a personal suspicion that confirmed couples become boring in fiction when writers lose interest in keeping them interesting, but I do try to remember that tastes are subjective, so the search for common ground is ongoing.

I do feel like the last two seasons of Doctor Who (spoilers) have been an incredible example of the exact wrong way to do it, i.e., bring back the will-they-or-won't-they more frequently than Dracula and with just as much plausibility. Season Five: Will Amy and Rory get married? Season Six: Does Amy really love Rory or is she secretly still pining for the Doctor, also, would they still get together in a parallel universe? Season Seven premiere: Will Amy and Rory stay married? Moffat is apparently incapable of writing any story with them other than Amy falling for Rory. It is the worst having-versus-eating-cake solution ever.

chris the cynic said...

Hey, I wrote about this kind of sort of recently. I was being more general, but I'll quote myself anyway:What I am saying is that I'd like more stories of being, rather than becoming. Becoming stories end right were the being would start to happen, and it tends to leave me feeling like the part I really wanted got left out. I'm much more interested in when the people who have finally got their shit together face whatever it is they face, than I am in them getting their shit together in the first place.

If you're going to get together, as a couple, as a team, as a whatever, then my position is do it already so I can see some of that before the movie ends because that's the part that interests me.

Origin stories are interesting, but it's like having the entire biography be about the birth, or the company history end with, "And then the company was founded." It's like the story of America ending in 1783 because with the ending of the Revolutionary War the country was finally started. I've been single my entire life, but I doubt that most couples consider the story of their relationship to have ended with, "And then we started dating."

These are the places the stories begin, but they're almost always where the movie ends. I want more middle in my movies. The tendency to focus exclusively on the beginningest of the beginning or the endingest of the end (usually of the previous story, to set the groundwork for the beginningest of the beginning of this one) really irks.

Give me some fracking middle on occasion.And while I was talking about movies at the time, that goes for series too. If them getting together as a couple, whoever they may be, is actually a good thing then there should be stories left to tell once they are. If there aren't then them getting together is akin to them dying and somehow I don't see that as the best of stories.

Isabel C. said...

Oh, I was thinking Jed and Abby. The others, by and large, don't interest me even *during* the sexual tension phase, or they piss me off: Sorkin is not good at writing a couple getting together without one or more of them coming off all stalkerlike. Zoe and Charlie were actually a good established couple too, now that I think of it.

And it's definitely down to taste, and not even always true. It depends very much on the story, for me: I could probably have sustained interest in some of Joss Wheedon's pairings if he had for God's sake let them be happy for three seconds. (Although not the ones that did last a long time, because I loathe both Xander and Anya.) I really quite like Thor/Jane fanfic, post-movie, and I have read a few of those "Pride and Prejudice Continued With Sex" books, although I admit that the appeal of the last was largely non-intellectual. I think it helps when the romance is not the entire storyline, or if there are external threats. "Okay, we've established our love, but holy shit you need to lead an army of the undead, that's a side of you I never saw before," is cool.

But ultimately, it's sort of a video game thing for me--okay, you won! Yay! Next game! Guys have very little replay value. ;) And, *for me*, emotionally, the idea of settling down into couplehood, especially monogamous couplehood, does feel a bit deathlike: "Either way I'm bored, constricted, I never get to shop, and my hair and fingernails still continue to grow." to quote Buffy. It doesn't work that way for other people, and I'm happy for that, but for me...yep. Knowing other people *are* happy with the settling down lets me suspend my disbelief enough to read, write, and play romance plots, but too much established couplehood runs up against my limits there.

On the other hand, even I get tired of the endless will-they-won't-they: eventually, there has to be some resolution to the whole thing, or it just starts to seem ridiculous.

Ana Mardoll said...

I would like this too. For me, I am so tired of origin stories and reboots.

I remember being Very Upset when Fantastic Four THE MOVIE came out and Mr. Fantastic and Sue were not already married. I realize that they didn't start out married, but that was how I'd come to the story as a kid and they'd been married forever in my mind and it was just like. . . LET THEM BE MARRIED! Let them work out their powers with their relationship! Let it not be more will they angst.

I liked Lost In Space (don't laugh!) because there was a married couple in it and they had issues without it being all angsty. We don't get that very often, I think.


Ana Mardoll said...


I didn't even think about that, but you're right, you're SO right. That whole "She and I have X history, therefore I deserve Y goodbye" fits perfectly into that whole paradigm.

Mind you, I hate that when they get back together for the final time, he makes an "on a break" joke. WAY TO BE A TRIGGERING ASSHOLE, ROSS. (I know why the writers did it, but it wasn't funny imho.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I did not know that! Huh.

Asha said...

I'm sure that its been mentioned that they try to reboot things to create a 'jumping on point' for newcomers. I would dare say that new media for older serials is more of a way to attract new fans than to give fan service to the old ones. For some reason, the current writers of Spider-Man think that Spider-Man, being married, is boring. They don't like how their own lives have turned out and want to go back to those nostalgic memories of high school and Spider-Man doing the same.

Yeah, I don't get it either, but I think that's the best explanation I can come up with. I personally don't have issues with reboots. I like an old story told in a fresh way, and with a series like Spider Man or Superman it is nearly impossible to pick a point in the story everyone can agree with use it for something condensed like a movie.

Now why the hell they keep doing it in the comics? I guess for the above reason like why Quesada did One More Day.

Here's a question for you: Do you think it is possible for a comic to play itself out? And if it has, should a reboot be done so they can tweak the story? Where does it become fan fiction of the original? After all, it gets very annoying when status quo is god. I got sick of the Hulk constantly having his cures thwarted, or of Spider-Man never really growing up despite aging, or the Joker constantly breaking out of Arkham. Hitting the reset button constantly or finding more and more contrived stories is frustrating for a reader. What do you think?

Rakka said...

What do you mean by "play itself out"? Becoming repetitive? Solving its Big Problem the characters have tried to solve for the past 39486 issues?
Rebooting, retconning and making the problems more and more contrived are the reason why I don't habitually read ridiculously long-running comics*. Give me a story with a clear arc and an end, please. Having different stories with the same characters is fine, but they should reflect that the characters have had those past experiences. Silly pointless antics is boring.

* The longest-running one, in terms of chapters/books, is Berserk. And it got to the point it got silly pretty fast around book 20, but that's mostly because the writers apparently want to make the actual story take as long to tell as possible and keep adding characters and side quests. Bleh.

Isator Levi said...

Really, the whole "we need reboots to help out people who won't understand the continuity" argument is fairly emblematic of the whole outdated attitudes of the comic book industry in general (if it's actually true and not a matter of just trying to be gimmicky to make more money).

It's called the Internet, guys, and it's why I could recite the entire history of the Red Tornado for you despite having never once read a comic featuring him*, and how I got up to speed on a couple of the relevent character history points to have the proper context for 52.

On a related note, I think that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was a very good take on an origin story; it wasn't the central focus, it was more a juxtaposition with the goings on of the actual plot, that then blends together for the final act. It's like the Godfather Part II of comic book character origins.

(It also has the most excellent depiction of Bruce Wayne doubting the whole "Batman" thing ever, where before he even starts the thing properly he finds his conviction wavering because he's developing a relationship that can't accomodate it, realises that his pain isn't as acute anymore, and winds up at his parents' grave begging for permission to not go ahead with it, but that's neither here nor there. ;))

* I have, however, seen that rather excellent Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode featuring him, so there's that.

Asha said...

I agree on preferring stories with a clear arc. And yes, I had hoped my example about the Hulk made that clear. I really get tired of stories where the main problem, whatever it might be, is never solved and the writers just keep going back to status quo.

I had to stop with Dragon Ball after awhile. Its focus on tournaments just got ridiculous, and then when Z rolled around it really had not much point.

What's annoying is that stories that suck you in in the beginning with clear arcs often peter out into something like DBZ when it is too popular and they keep promising something awesome and then... its a mess. *weeps over Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle*

Asha said...

Eh, I'm personally mixed on that point. I can understand the argument, which is why I made it. However, it is a big disservice to the older fans. And it seems to me like, after awhile, they are just writing fanfiction based on their own canon. *shrugs* I'm sure people could argue on that one, but that's how it feels to me.

But when you have something as silly as cosmic rays as an origin story, I can understand the need for a retcon ever so often. A lot of the history of a comic book is sprawling and silly and can go over several books. Then you get into a long running title with lots of writers who don't respect each others' work and want to take said character in a specific direction (And I will never forgive Nightcrawler's change of character into being really a demon, never never) and then... It turns into a tangled mess. The internet helps, yes, but I remember looking up the history of Supergirl during her whole Earth Angel storyline and just wondering if I wanted to get into something so confusing.

And yeah, Mask of the Phantasm was AWESOME. I wish I could find a soundtrack for it.

Ana Mardoll said...

I love Z (and won't watch DragonBall) but it helps that I was introduced to the series AFTER the faffing about that was Gohan being Saiyanman. BAM! World Tournament, Kais all over the place, Buu, every gripping and interesting. I enjoyed it, and I love-love-love the series for deconstructing (in my opinion) the usual Giving Person (Who Is Actually Terribly Callous) versus Selfish Person (Who Does Right When It Counts). It was like the whole show was that Biblical parable about the son who says he will (but doesn't) and the son who says he won't (but does). I found it terribly interesting on that level.


I dislike reboots, and I can't handle Loads of Characters. I like endings, which means I rarely get into long series. I do read Deathlands, and I think that's illustrative. The whole set-up can be explained in a sentence ("Day-to-day survival in a post-nuclear holocaust world"), the cast is never more than 7 protagonists and a Guest Star, and each book is a stand-alone addition to the series but with a "theme".

Unfortunately, the "theme" is usually "stereotypes" (Louisiana = Cajuns, Texas = Cowboys, Russia = Communists Who Hate America), but I think the format could be done well in the right hands.

Asha said...

See, I love DBZ as well, but I had been on board watching from Dragon Ball and I was really, really pissed that it became All About Goku when the story seemed to be moving into Gohan Taking The Reins. The point you're talking about is where I dropped out in disgust.

Ana Mardoll said...

Huh. I guess I didn't really want Gohan to Take The Reins, when I went back through. He's had an incredible traumatic childhood constantly training for battle and he doesn't even *like* fighting. He likes helping, but not fighting. So I was actually sort of happy that he didn't take the Goku lifestyle route. YMMV.

Ana Mardoll said...

And this is, of course, one of many reasons why I don't like or want to watch DragonBall. I don't mind adults committing their lives to constant battle, but when it happens to children, that distresses me, even if the children are totally into it, like Goku apparently is/was.

Asha said...

The story itself is very... problematic, but if you want to make the argument that it works within its own canon, you can. Goku's childhood was less abusive than a typical Saiya-jins, which is a pretty pathetic argument. What bugged so much about the story was that it all focused on Goku, and the humans all fell to the wayside. Even Piccolo fell to hopeless Can't Catch Up by the time the Buu arc started. I really, genuinely, hate that trope when it applies to just one species. I liked a lot of the side characters a great deal more, and while yes, Goku was the hero he was such a stereotype of "Doing your best and doing what you love means you will excel and being too stupid to realize you have limitations means you will exceed them!" from Japanese culture that I just wanted to *headdesk*.

I liked how Gohan was so different from his dad because Goku just bothered the ever loving hell out of me. And DO NOT get me started on Chichi and all the bloody stereotypes that bogged her down. Ugh.

And here I sound like a Star Wars fan. For a show/manga I loved so much, I sure love to analyze and bitch about it. >_<

Loquat said...

Regarding "One More Day" - I have seen comic fans argue that Quesada did it because he wanted Spiderman to be more like he was when Quesada was a kid reading Spiderman, and that this sort of thing - a childhood fan now grown up and working in the industry, and letting nostalgia affect his decisions - has become a pitfall comic companies need to watch out for.

Also parodied here (CN - teen superhero whose power causes people to have never existed, and who sees no issues with using said power casually. also, stalking.)

Asha said...

Do you know Linkara? He did a very good review of One More Day and pointing out the issues the story had, along with a review of the sequel. I found it enlightening as to the issues the story had along with Quesada's One Moment in Time.

Characters really deserve to grow up over time. The deserve to set them back to a particular age because of nostalgia really is annoying.

GeniusLemur said...

I think the thing with reboots is you get to do the origin again. The origin story is typically an emotional high point with a lot of built-in drama. So much, in fact, that even a lousy writer can get a lot of mileage out of it.

And yes, I do think there comes (or can come) a point where a comic is played out. I think the thing to do in that case is retire the character. If all the stories in a character have been told, rebooting won't help: that's just the writer/publisher pretending all the existing stories haven't been told. The readers know that's rubbish.

I think there is the possibility of having a status quo situation that doesn't get frustrating like comics can. To use the Joker as an example, the Joker breaks out, kills several dozen people, gets punched in the face, and ends up back at Arkham. Some victory. In Doc Savage's run of pulp magazines, there was ONE villain who came back for a second round, and at the end of the second novel, the villain is killed. Most superheroes have a code vs killing, but it would certainly help if the Joker gets put in Arkham and never heard from again instead of breaking out in less than a week.

Isator Levi said...

I like Dragonball simply for its being a silly rendition of a martial arts epic (although I've not yet gotten around to watching all of it yet).

The Buu sagas of Dragonball Z are something I found to be a bit tiresome in the greater context (the whole show had become massively overbooked by then), but taken in their own right, I actually think it's one of the finest parts of the show. If we just overlook the fact that by this point we're at villains who can casually blow up planets several times over, and just take Buu's power at the face value of his actions, it's certainly the part of the series where not only do the stakes and investment feel like the highest they've ever been, but Buu himself serves as the first time in quite a while that they managed to get a villain with a visually distinctive and interesting fighting style (next to endless generic martial arts, energy blasts and no sells, Buu's contortions, transformations and regeneration are like the Grail).

Isator Levi said...

Oh, plus?

Super Buu definitely did have a kickass theme tune (

Asha said...

I'm trying to imagine how a decent status quo could work in comics, with foes getting defeated permanently. Its not really working, because the reason for putting Joker back in Arkham is because he's popular and the writers are really loathe to be rid of someone so well loved. A good villain is difficult to create, I think.

And yes, it is hard to keep finding a fresh take on Batman. Retiring characters make sense to me and leave the extra stuff to the fanficcers. Of course, I love fan fiction, so perhaps I'm a little biased.

Asha said...

I got into the Buu saga at the very end of fan-affair with DBZ. For me, after lots of scrounging for videos and watching fan subs, it was exhausting. I might enjoy it if I went back to it now, but at that point Goku was so Extra Tasty Special Crispy after leaving his family and kids AND DAMMIT GOKU WHAT THE HELL WHERE YOU THINKING that I was just sick of it. If that was your jumping on point, then I can see why you would enjoy it on its own merits. I was just burned out then.

Isator Levi said...

This is really the basis of my view of the DC Animated Universe as the Golden Standard for those comic book characters and settings. Not just because they had consistently coherant narratives and extended character and universe arcs, but because they have something that no comic book continuity will ever have.

They're safe. Pristine. Untouchable. No hack can ever come in on them and add in their own ill-considered details, or reboot them into something awful (making a new, seperate series just doesn't count for this, because they'll never be able to depict the DCAU as turning into it, of those characters and setting transforming into the new ones, and ceasing to exist in their own right).

Even Batman Beyond, for any misgivings some may have about it, contributes to this, giving the sense that even when we're drawn away, it's a world that can keep on turning.

Heck, the DCAU actually gave a sense of -closure- regarding the Joker. It finally, and inextricably, put him in his place.

Makabit said...

Well, this gives me something else to think about with Friends. My issue for years with them has had to do with how Jewishness was handled on the show, (or not handled), and class/gender/ethnicity issues having to do with Joey's sisters and Chandler's ex--the one who always calls him "Chandler Bing", I cannot recall her name.

In that context, I always thought that Ross and Rachel had deep roots in an unfortunate TV-and-print tradition around Jewish men and women, and expectations of women becoming sexually desirable by imitating imagined WASP behavior. A lot of this does closely follow what you say about double standards. Have a WASP girl's nose, but don't have had a nose job, (or don't let me know). Dress expensively, but allow me to despise you for doing so. Match me culturally, but look and sound as though you don't. Bleah. A lot of issues.

Asha said...

I shall happily join in on the DCAU love and go hug my JLU DVDs. Because they are awesome. And sit with my Avatar collections as bros on how good western animation should work.

I enjoyed the return of the Joker, even if I found it to be one of the darkest stories in the DCAU ever. But still, it was an ending, which the Joker needed...

And I liked Harley's ending, too.

Yet it is, in a way, another retcon or reboot. One that turned out exceptionally well. *sighs* Sucks though, when there are so many bad ones out there.

Silver Adept said...

I wonder why comic books don't do reboots in the Doctor Who style that much - for most of the DCU, and a good chunk of the Marvel universe, it would be possible to retire the current heroes and incarnate new ones that use the same power set, but have different personalities and approaches to crime fighting and the like. Change head writers, change characters. Keeps things fresh without having to pretend that everything before that point didn't happen.

As for villains, again, in the DC verse, and a good chunk of Marvel, it's possible to pass the torch to someone else. You're saying that there isn't someone else in Gotham who would take up the mantle of the Joker if the current one were properly imprisoned in Arkham? Or that another Riddler or Catwoman would appear in the absence of the current ones? You could keep the same characters, but they would be different people, and could be written differently to keep things fresh. Maybe the new Batman doesn't kill, but always intends to grievously harm someone to put them out of action for a long time.

Will Wildman said...

I'm not an expert on comics in general, but I think Green Lantern has done this to an extent? The ring gets passed from hero to hero, allowing for the continuation of the superhero and mythos without prolonging the hero. There have been multiple Flashes, too.

Comic books are, in a lot of ways, a very young medium, and superhero comics as we know them even younger, so I suspect/hope there's a lot yet to be hashed out about they way they'll be treated in the long run. For most people, it's fact that Batman == Bruce Wayne, despite various AUs having given him a variety of endings over the years. (Spoilers for Dark Knight Rises: in concept I liked the idea that Bruce passed the mantle to someone else; I just thought it was handled very awkwardly - that movie wanted to be too many different things at once.) A few characters have managed to grow to a degree - I suspect that Dick Grayson is firmly established as Nightwing and will probably not get rebooted back into Robin in the comics.

There are two sides to the problem of trying to pass the torch, I guess - there are fans who will instantly hate anything that changes, and there are writers who feel like the only iconic hero is the original. But getting back to the concept of 'mythos' - in classic mythologies, continuity isn't an issue. People could tell as many stories of the Olympic pantheon or Freyja or Susano-oh as they liked without much fear that people would try to work out what happened when and insisting that last year's myth is being retconned by this new myth*, but comic books are trying to tell mythological stories on a timeline, getting themselves into a whole heap of new problems. Reboots are a way of simultaneously dodging continuity while still pretending that it exists.

*As I understand it, plenty of retconning still happened, but there was rather a lack of official sources and they didn't all get presented in chronological order anyway, so getting people to agree on which story retconned which would be a task in and of itself.

Mime_Paradox said...

I wonder why comic books don't do reboots in the Doctor Who style that much - for most of the DCU, and a good chunk of the Marvel universe, it would be possible to retire the current heroes and incarnate new ones that use the same power set, but have different personalities and approaches to crime fighting and the like. Change head writers, change characters. Keeps things fresh without having to pretend that everything before that point didn't happen.
Like Will Wildman has said, that very thing has occured more than once--more in DC than in Marvel--but I'm not sure if it could be said that's it's been done successfully. Unlike Dr. Who, comic books aren't limited by actors, which means that if they want to bring back character X--even after he died and passed his mantle to Lyndon Johngrandson--there's nothing except editorial oversight to prevent them from reverting things to the older status quo. The mantle of Batgirl, for example, had been passed around to several different people, from Barbara Gordon to Helena Bertinelli to Cassandra Cain to finally, Stephanie Brown, until the overseers at DC decided that their new continuity would feature the return of Barbara to the role, despite the fact that she hadn't been Batgirl in comics for more than twenty years, and had served as the much-more-interesting Oracle for most of that time.
* The longest-running one, in terms of chapters/books, is Berserk. And it got to the point it got silly pretty fast around book 20, but that's mostly because the writers apparently want to make the actual story take as long to tell as possible and keep adding characters and side quests. Bleh.
Berserk as in the manga by Kentaro Miura? See, I love Schierke and Ivalera and Roderick and Isma and Sonia and the various characters introduced post volume 20. While I really hope there is a conclusion to the story, it hasn't disappointed yet.


As for indefinitively ongoing books that nevertheless killed off main antagonists, the only ones that come to mind was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book, which killed off their best-known antagonist The Shredder during its debut issue, and later resurrected him to have him killed off again not long after. While the quality of the stories published after that is debatable, it's generally accepted that the creators never actually managed to create a villain that matched or surpassed him. Similarly, when the series was adapted for TV in 2003, the creators struggled for a bit after disposing of him late in season 3, and had to resort to bringing back variations of the character for latter parts of its run.

Asha said...

Legacy characters tend to be a mixed bag, and as Mime_Paradox said, if sales drop they tend to bring back the more favored characters. For example, I loved that they had Renee Montoya take over for The Question, but they never figured out what to do with her, which really sucked. Then they have retconned everything to get rid of that instead of just doing something new with her. Ugh.

Jeff Lipton said...

Late here, but a good version of "will they-won't they?" resolved to "they will" without losing interest is Psych. The star, james Roday and costar, Maggie Lawson, fell for each other at the start of the show, and some of that was written into the eps (far too much sometimes for a lot of viewers). But I don't feel like it ever took over the show, or the main couple -- Roday and Dule Hill.

Now that Shawn and Julie are an established couple, the content is about how fast they move (or don't move) in "couple's milestones".

A lot of people, myself included, like Grimm because the hero isn't after a different woman each week. He clearly loves his girlfriend, and is a nice guy without being a Nice Guy.

Isator Levi said...

"Yet it is, in a way, another retcon or reboot."

Alternate continuities don't count. They retain a proper seperation from other continuities that leaves them sacrosanct.

Loquat said...

I just found and watched Linkara's review the other night (could have done with a bit less pointless cameo faffing about, but I guess that's his thing) and you're right, it's an excellent takedown. Peter Parker really does spend a ton of time finding excuses for himself not to have to act like an adult and figure out how to manage his life. And the "alternate life" Peters just called attention to that - especially Super-Rich Inventor Peter, who's rolling in money but would apparently rather mope about "the one who got away" than seriously try to find a new girlfriend.

Asha said...

We can split hairs on that for quite awhile, I imagine. Out of my love of the DCAU, I won't quibble. Let none touch it.

Hannah M said...

I watched the whole series of Friends a few summers ago, and never did like Ross. (I didn't like Rachel much either, but for different reasons.) At the time, I just put it down to him being "whiny," but I think you've hit the nail on the head. I'm a sucker for unrequited love stories, so that first season I was kind of enamored of the story of the guy who was in love and was too scared to tell her. But ya know what? That got real old real fast. And then it got so much worse after they actually ended up together briefly. I was unenthused with how little he appeared to actually like anyone in the group and how many issues he had with Rachel when they were actually together. I began to see more clearly than ever how decidedly un-nice Ross' behavior and treatment of Rachel is.

For almost a year now, I've been dating someone who is a genuine Nice Guy and who liked me for about 3 years before actually saying anything - he's like the decent human being version of Ross. In comparison, Ross fails miserably. Because you know what? When I moved to another state after my college graduation while my boyfriend still had a semester of school left, just because I hated the state I was living in, he supported it. When he invited me to dinner and I told him I was actually going to spend some time that evening with one of my good guy friends, he supported it. When I had days where I didn't want to do anything or go anywhere because I was tired and depressed and barely even had the energy to talk to him, much less do "date-y" stuff, he supported it. When I was student teaching and spend all my time either teaching or preparing for teaching and had days when I didn't even get to see him, he supported it. This is what good people do. You'd think nice guys would be good people, but this seems to be not always the case in movies and TV.

Asha said...

I honestly don't get the Alternate Peters. For the most part, it looks like they were there to try to convince Peter that his life was pretty good and that he should be grateful for his wife and his life. All of it seemed to be hinting that the correct choice was to tell Mephisto to shove off. *shakes head* The whole story was a honking mess, trying to make it look like Peter was doing the brave thing, instead of the utterly selfish and very foolish one. And don't get me started on "Its magic, you don't have to explain it!" Bwzuh?

Silver Adept said...

@Will Wildman and @Mime_Paradox -

Green Lantern was what I was thinking of when I mentioned that, because there have been several distinct players with the ring in the continuity, and it doesn't seem to have affected things too badly.

I think we're also a bit more comfortable with our myths having discontinuities, because we can use them to show the different sources and the chronology and to reflect about what the people who were telling the story thought was important. With comics, theoretically, they're all being written in a single house, so they should be able to adhere to the timeline and the already-established things and be able to keep track of their own story. If they want to follow the same character for years, that's great, but the character bible will get bigger with each issue. Sometimes it makes more sense to regenerate than to reboot. Rebooting always smacks me of "we want to tell all the old stories again, but better!" It is just as easy to tell all the old stories better with a new character, in my opinion, then to retell the old stories with the same characters better. Because of the timeline thing, it would seem like less work to always keep time moving forward, instead of hopping backward.

Rakka said...

I just personally dislike cutesy child characters, especially of the exposition vending machine type which is what Schierke was for the duration of the story that I bought after Tower of Conviction arc. (I think I get up to vol.26 in my shelf. Read further along online and it seems like it may be picking up a coherent storyline again. Not hit a spot I'd want to start buying it again yet though.) It felt like a so far concise, tight storyline scattered all over and got sidetracked and I just want to know more about what apostle!Griffith is up to and get to the bloody elf island already (and cure Casca, dammit!) if you're going to go there. But now that I'm employed again I may start to buying it again starting from some post stupid troll arc point.

Loquat said...

Yeah, that whole sequence with the Alternate Peters and the Potential Future Daughter was clearly there to warn Peter not to do this thing. Except they muddled the message by making the Alternate Peters annoyingly whiny - "Oh, I like my job making video games, but I only do it because there's no opportunities for me to be a hero in real life (if you ignore professions like cop, doctor, and firefighter)." "Oh, I'm cartoonishly wealthy and have several different girlfriends I can booty-call any time, but I'm miserable because I don't have True Love." Even the daughter could stand some improvement - "I'll tell Peter he's selfish and drop vague hints about my identity he won't pick up on, but I certainly won't come right out and tell him I'm his and MJ's future kid and I want to exist! That would be too easy!"

Will Wildman said...

I personally agree, but I think right now there are a lot of writers who want to write The Definitive Story Of Whoever, and a lot of readers who will automatically support the return of old things. If a writer did come in and have Batman hand over the mantle, and if that writer was incredibly talented and created a new compelling Batman character and wrote that character flawlessly for 60 issues, all it takes is for the next guy to come in and say "Back to Bruce Wayne! CLASSIC!" and the whole thing becomes a five-year blip.

I have to admit, part of me fears that if they started handing hero identities over to the next generation, we'd just get a resurgence of the 90s Antiheroes.

chris the cynic said...

Seems like someone should mention this article by Eric at Websnark, but as near as I can tell no one has yet. Hence the link, and this comment as a whole.

Lonespark said...

Oh, now that you've mentioned retconned backstory, this is where I complain about Falcon, right?

Also, on an almost completely unrelated note, the following happened in my house yesterday:

Kid: I want to watch that Hulk vs. Thor movie you found, but I can't find it on Netflix For Kids.

Me: Ok.

A lot of violence happens. But mostly to Asgardian redshirts. Then...

Loki: Bored with you, mortal. *Kills Bruce Banner dead*

Kid: (makes stricken face)

Me: Ohhh, maybe that's why it wasn't on Netflix For Kids. Well, don't worry too much. Nobody stays dead in the Marvel Universe. Not even Bucky!

Julie said...

Hi, just dropped by this post after following a link on Twitter and wanted to say I thought it was really well written and I enjoyed it - thanks!

Gabriella M said...

Thiiiiis. Love Chandler, Rachel, and Monica. Lukewarm about Joey. But Phoebe and Ross are the most terrible at the beginning, though Phoebe's character arc of growing up over the series redeems her into the lukewarm area.

I feel like the Ross/Phoebe thing is defined by their argument about evolution in an episode, I don't recall when. Phoebe doesn't believe in it and Ross does and Ross argues and argues over it with her in his absolute certainty, iirc constantly trying to undermind her beliefs. Finally she blows up at him that it's just a theory and like so many theories in science that have come and gone, something stronger might just possibly replace it someday. Ross, finally acting the reasonable scientists, admits that there could be some small reasonable doubt, and Phoebe takes it as a total disavowal of his beliefs, and says she's lost respect for him.

Now, I strongly believe in evolution, but up until Phoebe telling him she's lost respect for him, I was on her side because she's not saying everyone has to believe what she believes, but that she has a right to her own worldview, even if she chooses not to rely on reasonable evidence. And then she basically says that stubborness and immobility is a quintessential part of holding a woldview, and they both lose me.

Gabriella M said...

Also, I dated a guy who claimed Ross was the least annoying character on friends, and of course he had many of the same character flaws as Ross which led to our breakup. So this was extra-gratifying to read from a personal perspective.

The Coon said...

I couldn't finish reading the post because I genuinely felt bad for the writer - it's a sitcom TV series, It doesn't necessarily reflect the writer's sexual or racial preferences. Laugh and enjoy it or go away. There's no need to think of every example you could find to prove your point about a character. Does it give you satisfaction that people you don't (and probably never will) know agree or disagree with you? If you think about it, there might be thousands of Friends fans who haven't seen your post, so you can't even get a general consensus really, if that's what you wanted to achieve. If it was just speaking your mind, I'm sure you could've just spoken these words to some of your friends instead of spending so much time ranting on a public blog with nobody you know. Recognise

TheCoonYh said...

omg i'm so happy that the writer 'likes' Rachel and I'm shattered that they don't like Ross. boohoo

Hullohullho said...

hahaha ohmydayz wtf is this woman on about

HulloHullho said...

its a tv show baby, relax! if ross ddint exist friends probably wont be as good and famous as it is not

chris the cynic said...

So, what is it with trolls that show up two months after the fact only to prove themselves assholes who can't or won't understand basic concepts?

Ana Mardoll said...

I do find troll logic* interesting.

Discussing fictional characters for Internet readers: silly, childish, waste of time.
Defending fictional characters against Internet writers: edgy, cool, clever.

* We will not do as TV Tropes does and link "trollish" with mental illness here. Preemptive caution for the well-intentioned. :)

Lonespark said..., you came to a blog dedicated to analysis and deconstruction to say you don't like those things? Thank you for wasting everyone's time.

Mime_Paradox said...

Um, speaking those words to some of her friends is (in part) what she's doing. This is also not a public blog, it's her blog, where she is, as is her right, judge, jury, executioner, ombudsperson, gaffer, and goddess. One doesn't need to laugh or enjoy it, but they do need to acknowledge that she can say whatever she wants.

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