While our pre-marital counseling was superb, there are some things it didn’t teach us. It didn’t teach us that my tears would double if confronted with logic and cold hard facts; it didn’t explain the mathematical mystery that is the amount of laundry James makes; it didn’t resolve our irreconcilable differences when it comes to cheese (me – stinky or from a goat, James — orange and solid). And it did not inform us the incalculable benefit of Netflix.
Listen up couples, or anyone who has to live with someone else, here is some advice of pure gold: find a TV show you like watching together. Because sometimes you are too tired to talk about your day but still want to hang out together. Sometimes it is cold and dreary outside and you are broke and there is nothing else to do. Sometimes you can really bond over long debates about which character is the best and how they would respond in hypothetical situations in the real world. Sometimes watching all of the seasons of a show in the rapid succession that is the miracle of Netflix will just make you get all weepy and know you married a winner.
Currently, we are at a loss and accepting new recommendations, because on Sunday we finished the final episode of 30 Rock, after which I stretched out on the couch and sobbed. There is so much to love about this show, from its quirky humor and perfectly quotable one-liners, to its utter devotion to repeat a joke throughout all 7 seasons, to its perfect character development and the wonder that is Liz and Jack’s relationship.
[Spoiler alert: Endings of several shows and movies might be ruined if you keep reading. Consider yourself warned.]
I will admit, the first couple seasons I was hardcore hoping for Jack and Liz to fall in love. I have been conditioned by every aspect of our society to root for a love story, the love story, the one where friends wake up one day and realize that they are in head-over heels, forever kind of love. I, like all of us, have learned that romantic love is the ultimate love, the one that trumps all other kinds.
But somewhere around season 4, I stopped wanting that, maybe because I realized that it really wasn’t there. The question that When Harry Met Sally taught us all to ask – can a man and a woman actually be friends? – was ignored as irrelevant and replaced by a better question: can a platonic friendship be so deep and wonderful that it sustains 7 series of television?
Yes, yes it can.
And when Jack told Liz he loved her in those final moments, I cried. I cried because that ending eclipsed her recent marriage and adoption of Tracey and Jenna twins. I cried because it was a beautiful declaration of deep and abiding love that hadn’t the slightest twinge of sexuality or romance. I cried because that’s a love our culture needs to talk more about.
I felt the same way when we finished 24, when you realize that the relationship you were pushing for wasn’t the one between Jack and whatever women he loved at the moment (and who would shortly be killed or maimed), but the totally platonic love between him and Chloe, two friends never dreaming of more. If the producers sully this beautiful bond in the new season, it will ruin it for me.
And I cheered at the end of Frozen, when the true love that could save wasn’t the love between Anna and the man she has known for all of an adventurous hiking trip, but that of her love for her sister. True love doesn’t have to be romantic, doesn’t have to be sexual, doesn’t have to be a married couple. I know that Frozen has gotten some backlash for supposedly pushing various liberal agendas, but I would like it to get a little more attention for pushing one very important agenda: there are valuable types of loves outside of romance, and they are not second rate.
When I look around our culture, I think this is a message we need to hear. We often glorify marriage and somehow manage to devalue all other sorts of love. Don’t get me wrong, I love being married and I have learned a lot about love from marriage. But this egocentric notion that claims that you only understand love when you are married, or only understand love when you are a parent, sure explains why we have such a screwed up cultural view of love. We should all be learning how better to love from whatever position we are at in life. I have single friends, or childless friends, or single mother friends, who are loving others around them in a rich and full way. As my friend Bethany quipped, “Good thing Jesus managed to love people unselfishly without getting married and having a baby. There’s hope for the singles out there. We’re not doomed to a life of selfishness.”
And that’s why I found 30 Rock so valuable. The final season builds to a couple episodes where Liz Lemon sees what love really looks like. Sometimes it looks like getting married to your hot-dog truck driving boyfriend. Sometimes it looks like him selling his hot-dog truck so you can adopt and be a parent. But sometimes it looks like your best friend yelling he loves you from the boat he just bought after quitting his dream job.