Sunday, 20 January 2013

Saying I Love You

First, an apology: Yes, this is another post dealing with the TV series Chuck. That said, I hope this post will break out of the boundaries of a TV series and into general relevancy.

Our ongoing nightly crusade through Chuck's episodes is continuing. Last night, upon us arriving to roughly the middle of season 3 (out of 5, which means we crossed the overall halfway point), a landmark event the series managed to hold back for two and a half seasons thus far took place:

Yes, Chuck (Zachary Levi) finally got to explicitly tell Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) that he loves her.
The event is so pivotal to the lifeline of the series that it immediately raised three questions in my head, questions which are the subject of this post.
First, how come I managed to suffer so far through a series that made the wait for this inevitability stretch for so long? That is a rather trivial question for which the answer is "it doesn't really matter". It doesn't matter because I love Chuck (the series) for numerous reasons, romance being the lesser one. The primary one is the ease with which I can identify with the hero Chuck - a smart nerd not living to half his potential. Series 3 damaged this identification factor when it made Chuck into a genuine spy as opposed to a normal guy that happens to fall inside a spies' trap, but never mind: there are plenty of well developed supporting characters that make the series worthy of watching by themselves.

The second and far more interesting question/pondering deals with the status jump Chuck is perceived to be taking when confessing his love to Sarah. The series primes us to believe, through various techniques it pulls out of its sleeve, that Sarah is the most beautiful thing ever while Chuck is an ordinary, if talented, geek. Clearly, that is not true, because Zachary Levi is fine looking by his own rights; there are a very few not good looking Hollywood stars out there. Regardless, the charm of the romance at hand is in the rugs to riches materialization of the dream that all guys have - to get the girl, and not just any girl, the best looking girl. Sort of a Pride and Prejudice for boys.
I will now recruit evolutionary biology to help me make the point. Gil Greengross discusses the point in his pop evo biology blog (see the Hebrew original here; feel free to use Google to translate the post to English for you, a feat that's done incredibly easily via the Google Chrome browser). Greengross is arguing that research shows we are all after the perfect mate, and that for the male amongst us "perfect" usually means good looking. However, we tend to settle for less based on our status and resources; the better looking amongst us can afford to make less compromises and pick the top of the crop, leaving the rest of us to pick up the chaff.
It's easy to dismiss these arguments. Granted, they only work as some sort of a law of averages. However, I urge you to think about it before you go ahead with your dismissal: how often do you hear of a Hollywood star that's married to an "ordinary" person? Or, for that matter, any celebrity that marries "beneath" them? Look around, and I suspect you will see people tend to settle with their likes in both status and looks.
Chuck's romance manages to create some sort of a catharsis with its viewers exactly because it manages to pretend to defy this universal law.

My last question goes back to the beginning: why do people hesitate to inform others of their love? Why couldn't Chuck tell Sarah he loves her back in episode 1 or 2, and get it over with?
The short answer is that the episode 1 feelings were more of an infatuation; by season three, with its alleged two and a half years in between, proper love can develop. I, however, will argue there is more to this than meets the eye.
I will let the voice of my experience do the talking. Long before I met my wife I have been through many a relationship where it was clear each side had feelings towards the other but it was also clear that through one reason or another each of the sides had reasons not to expose their sensitive side to the other. As I matured through the years I realized nothing good can come out of this and decided on transparency being the best policy (an approach I still hold on to as a general philosophy to life in general; this blog is proof). However, I noticed openness did not get me too far either: usually, by exposing the depths of my feelings to my relationship partner, I was seeming to create some sort of an intimidation effect. Again, most of my relationships fell apart quickly. (On the positive side, I did not get to hold on to feeble relationships just for the sake of being in a relationship.)
I will turn to Gil Greengross again (see here; refer to my previous Hebrew alert and how to deal with it). His research backed opinion is that it is men that usually get to be the ones to say "I love you" first. However, they do so because they are motivated: they want to get laid, and they perceive that by expressing love they will get their sooner rather than later. Women are not dumb; they can tell what's going on, or at least they are aware of what usually takes place with men's claim of love. Circumstances dictate perceptions. Each side has their own strategy, and the whole thing gets messed up.
In other words, I can sympathize with Chuck the guy. Even when one is trying their best to be honest and express their true feelings, biology makes it hard for us. Thus Chuck, together with more stories of romance than a mortal can count, can stretch a seemingly simple love affair over years and years.
Us humans are complicated creatures. It is almost as if we enjoy making the life of our peers hard.

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