Thursday, April 28, 2005

Templates for real life

At the very beginning of Hexwood, a girl meets a boy. Well, actually, a young teenager meets an older man. Their relationship was written in a way that puzzled me. And then I thought, why should this be puzzling? The two characters form a close relationship, and because they are of the opposite sex and are both past puberty, my brain at once reached for the only template it's ever been exposed to for a close relationship between two sexually mature people of the opposite sex, which is, of course, the romantic, sexual relationship. As Terry Pratchett has pointed out often in his books, stories have power. This template I've got attempts to fill in the blanks and paint the background of a relationship which the author may or may not have intended. Whatever actually happens between the characters and whatever they say to each other, my brain will attempt to mold its tone to fit within the template. It colors the whole experience. And this is true whether I am presented with a man/woman pair in a book, a painting, a play, anything. In the case of Hexwood, Diana Wynne Jones has, disappointingly for me, re-inforced this template. (Okay, fine, so I've just given away a crucial part of the plot of the book; but you weren't going to read it anyway, right?)
This particular template is surprisingly strong and deep-seated. Right after reading "girl meets boy" at the beginning of this blog entry, who didn't immediately file the relationship of this fictional pair of people into the "romantic" category? And you know nothing at all about them except for their sexes! I racked my brain to try to find a story, a piece of art, anything that depicts a close relationship between a man and a woman that wasn't romantic or sexual. And I can't think of one! The movie Lost in Translation came close- except for the kiss at the end, of course. (Um, another spoiler.) Surely there must be some examples, somewhere!

Every once in a while, I'll read something where some idiot says, Oh yeah, men and women can't ever really be just friends. My reaction to this kind of statement has always been a strong desire to whack the speaker upside the head, but now I'm thinking, Why wouldn't someone say something like that? They have no examples of anything else! There's no other mental template to fit such a relationship in, so it gets slotted into the only one available. And that's a shame, because stories do have power and they influence real life.

Reading: Finished Hexwood. Lata gets heartbroken in A Suitable Boy.


Evolvingthinker said...

I need a template for dating women and a template for dating several people at the same time in poly type relationships. Those are hard templates to find too.

Anonymous said...

boys who don't check or answer their emails to simple requests to use them and their trucks for furniture moving situations is a brilliant example of the boy meets girl scenario that seems to have NO romantic or sexual undertones whatsoever, no matter how often girl checks her empty email inbox.