A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Trivial Things: The "Eternal" Triangle

There's an Agatha Christie short story featuring the Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot called "Triangle at Rhodes". The triangle here refers to the oldest romantic device in the book -- the love triangle. While holidaying in the Island of Rhodes, Poirot observes a love triangle unfolding before his very eyes and expresses his usual grave, cryptic concern that no good can come of it. His words prove to be prophetic (duh... it is Hercule Poirot afterall) and murder results (as it often happens when Poirot is conveniently present to see past the obvious).
Love triangles are common fare in romance literature and some stories do not restrict themselves to triangles and may extend to other polygonal shapes. Even my favourite novel of all time, Pride and Prejudice, employs the device but with elegant subtlety that seems to be lacking in many of today's television shows which prefer the sledgehammer effect.

On the whole, I am neutral about love triangles. It is afterall a plot device and plot devices can be used to great effect or used poorly. But more often than not, it is a cheap, convenient device to prolong storylines that have gone past its used by date. Television shows by their very nature often feel obliged to stretch sexual tension, ramp up the stakes in certain pairings by using love triangles. There's a formulaic sameness about these love triangles. A & B are secretly in love with each other but for some reason are emotionally constipated to act on such feelings. C comes along, falls in love with B which forces A's hand and makes him or her confess their true feelings. A & B live happily ever after. Another scenario might be that A & B are a couple but the fire seems to have gone out of their relationship. C comes along and threatens separate them both. Luckily A & B realize in time that what they have is the "real thing" and C bows out gracefully or kicking and screaming.

I mean, really, one could write these things blindfolded. These plot lines also have a tendency to show up when shows are about to, in television terms, jump shark. It's used to spice up withering storylines by contriving tension between characters, ramping things up. At times its tolerable, at other times it feels like my relationship with blue vein cheese -- I wanna gag.

I'm no vegetarian and I like a good steak as much as anyone. However, a good cut of meat can be overdone, difficult to sink one's teeth into and hard to swallow.

When you have one sinful person coming together with another sinful person -- there's plenty of problems there to be explored. It's probably harder to write about those things and make good television out of these everyday relationship issues than to revert to literary cliches.
Therein lies the problem...

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