alternative relations

Alternative Relationships: Lessons From “Smart” Movies


Building relationships and giving birth to the family tree new members is not something embedded in our genes. These result from learning. Starting from parents and other adults we know, we proceed to learn from first cult heroes of books, movies and the Internet.

Films, books, media and social networks that bring new ideas can change our life en passant, impregnating it with new knowledge and new references to follow. Proposing the examples of proper dressing, choosing right glasses, cars and tabs, or even building relationships.

By the example of Cinderella or Casablanca preschoolers, the youngsters, and in some neglected cases even adults get the idea of prince to be one person for life. Heedless of the fact that real people have it totally different way.

Romanticism seems to be mawkishly appealing, the more so when we forget about its surrounding context:

-       no woman in real life is willing to work as hard as Cinderella did, and she won’t want anyone to expect her do the same.

-       despite Casablanca been so popular, a sober-minded man would never dream of sacrificing himself for the benefit of his loved woman happiness, and will not hope for such an immolation.

We suggest that you take a new look at some familiar stories. Catch the bug of relooking at familiar romantic scenarios and learn about alternative relationships in movies. Whatever fantastic a film may seem, with all scenery and props imaginatively “removed” it shall become evident they are relevant problems of interpersonal communication that the actors are about. So let’s watch to see our selves.

An alternative view of «smart» movies

The Lobster – an alternative view of political correctness

The Jury Prize of Cannes Film Festival is not by far the film’ only strong point. The movie storyline deals with ridiculing political correctness and highlighting its absurd nature. Moms, grandmas and schoolteachers wanted us to be polite and composed. While in The Lobster this idea has been reduced to absurdity. The movie gets us absorbed within the community of polite “standards”, “clichés” and “normality” in the field of desires and intimate relationships raised to the 10th power.

The film director (same as scriptwriter) does not even recourse to allusions, he tells us point-blank there are no things like standard and norm that suits everyone. That an attempt to dress up in somebody else’s type of relationships may cause pain since wrong size shall anyway either be tight or bag. This refers to both clothes size and tastes – as well as sexual identity and proper type of relationships.

5 to 7 – strict rules of alternative relationships

A movie telling about alternative relationships had little chance of gaining popularity among monogamous couples. It’s hard to fancy a jealous partner bringing home a film of this type. The one that takes to the fore people who practice scheduled mutual consensual nonmonogamy without hiding this from their close friends. A very apt example of the monogamish we've dedicated a whole article to!

The couple that has vested each other with the right to regulated ‘extra’ relationships looks happy. They are intelligent and successful. They arrange parties to bring together creative people, and their children look quite pleased with life (although being aware of parents’ ‘little debaucheries’).

As for the one who’s opted into nourishing his pride and leaving with lofty and offended looks – exactly the way it’s described in classic romance stories – he looked much less happy beyond these “perverted” relationships. He somehow forgot they were real infatuation and sexual desire that got him involved into these relations, and had them sacrificed for the sake of ‘common decency’. Was it indeed worth it?

Julieta – the consequence of being together “til death do part us”

With no alternative relationships displayed in Julieta, Almodovar has still shown what a dismal ultimate monogamy may result in. Being the one and only interest for each other, the protagonists had no interest in other people and lived together until parted by death.

Perfect relationships borrowed from reference romantic storytelling resulted in naturally-following loss of life purpose caused by partner accidental loss. “They lived happily ever after”, but ended up with a sad fact that with a whole world around there was only one person that the main female character could be happy with.

The director feels free to demonstrate the way emotional fidelity and jealousy in respect of a partner may result in long-term depression and neurosis.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - monogamy that deprives of lightness and ease

Listed in the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions love stories, the film develops an unhackneyed idea: what happens when you cease living the way you love and start living the way it is enjoyed by that loving you.

As long as the protagonist feels easy and unconstrained in tempting everyone he wants he remains happy and active, being a professional success with many friends around him.

Yet from the moment pangs of guilt (I apologize to all romantic persons who believed love was the case) make Tomas become faithful to Teresa his life ceases being happy hours and joyful moments filled with positive attitudes and love for his job. No longer a practicing surgeon, he now works in the garden. Having tried strange values on and saying yes to living within them, Tomas as if becomes a different person (probably the one that parents and religion want us to be). Having made one woman happy, Tomas has “managed” to turn himself into a crestfallen guy who’s lost interest in the profession that used to bring him joy.

A sad story with obvious conclusion: never fall for your partner’s blackmail.

Mad Men and Absolute Power – designers of desire

Without impinging the originality of Mad Men ideas, we cannot but notice the plots of the given series to have much in common – like both telling about top-ranked PR agencies.

The authors of popular slogans and ads, the series characters induce desires of other people. They teach the consumers what the latter should want and dream about, suggesting the lifestyle they should choose. But what are the relationships they build for themselves?

Mad Men (winner of The American Film Institute 2007-2012 awards) represents the idea we find to be much familiar. Every character is pleased with the self and one’s life up to the very moment his or her partner becomes jealous and starts calling for fidelity. As for the way out, the series suggests none. It does not imply any type of long-lasting relationships that all participants are satisfied with. But emphasizes the absurdity of the idea about the two who may eternally enjoy the company of each other.

Authored by Stephen Fry, a well-known representative of LGBT-community, Absolute Power sticks to the rules of aristocracy and at first glance seems to hide the perplex arrangement of its characters relationships. Yet let us recall the scene of the company staff’ “wholesale” confession of having intimacy with Jamie. With Jaimie represented as a successful, happy and smart employee, we can guess what the author is driving at. On the other hand, the protagonists are concerned about their privacy and conceal its details from both colleagues and the audience leaving us with no subject to discuss. A good tip for attentive viewer :).

An alternative view of popular movies

Game of Thrones the realm of polygamy

The IMBD Top TV series finalist, the fantasy-world is a collection of round characters that take decisions in most outstanding situations. But it is sex-positive culture and the storyline replete with queer and unusual forms of intimate relationships that makes the film even more interesting to us.

Many of the series characters have been defined to practicing polygamy. As for the Game of Thrones monogamous couples, they either over-succeed in being infidel or experience an extremely problematic break-up. Even the series most positive male protagonist Tyrion Lannister looks happy only until the moment he lets his beloved woman and her jealousy lead him by the nose. Some of the movie personalities adhere to monogamish relationships which details can be found in our article Crossing The Line: Real stories Of Monogamish Couples.

Without a moment’s hesitation the series creators imply and represent the idea that toeing the line of a jealous partner may make one forget about joy of life, kill desire, love and intimacy, and even the one who loves you.

House of Cards – a sex-positive President

The series that’s been awarded with several Golden Globes has unintentionally created a new image of American presidency that the President of today cannot but be grateful to.

Both Claire and Frank represent the type of people who know what they want and are used to get the same, while their desires include a whole lot of different things incongruent  with monogamy. So it is a small surprise that they end up with building relationships by their own rules based on the principle “one person cannot give everything to another person”.

It’s been three times in 4 seasons that the House of Cards directors leave the audience with this conclusion. And highlight the characters’ love to sexual variety. Or maybe it is the variety they want the audience to learn? Naughty people they are!

Vikings – mighty heroes, human problems

A movie about people who are used to getting what they want, changing the world, destroying villages and towns and building new ones. Real heroes whose heroism was still little help when it came to partner relationships.

Not yet a public figure but a young man whose masculinity can be hardly doubted, Ragnar invites another man into a threesome with his wife. And one season later he would without the slightest hint of embarassment say “I love two women”.

It is probably the idea that a strong and happy man can’t be greedy that the series creators imply. As for Vikings characters, they become greedy in respect of partner only when unsatisfied with their lives and the part they play in gods’ plans.

Sense 8infecting others with your feelings

They come from different countries, different classes and cultural levels. But the film characters have a unique feature that unites them – the ability to give one’s self to another person down to the ground even though for just a little while. This gift is accompanied by side effects so that it’s not only protagonists but their feelings and sexual preferences that are granted.

It looks evident that in case you are willing to give the whole of the self you cannot but do it together with your intimate feelings and desires. The ability of perceiving someone else’s love leaves no room for jealousy and one-person-only fidelity as long as you feel the love of a partner like the one of yours. With fabulous elements moved to the background, it becomes obvious it is compersion that underlies the relationships displayed by the series creators (the Wachowski sisters and Tom Tykwer).

Casablanca – sacrificing one’s desire

The best love story ever (for 74 years now!) is a film about suffering, its most explicit message probably been “love is pain and self-renunciation”. That is, love comes only to those willing to suffer and sacrifice their desires. Does it make you feel excited? No way it works for me.

From the perspective of today’s reality Casablanca shows the way things should not be done. And the result of love triangle issue resolution can be seen in the eyes of its members: nothing but sadness and pain there.

Enjoyed by millions, the story of Casablanca is the perfection of romantic behavior, its standard and reference. But what does it bring to? None of the characters turned happier after they had parted. The sacrifice with one’s desires for the sake of socially approved behavior resulted in no good.

One can take time to think over the follow-up that has been left behind the scenes.  Would they want to see each other again? Would they strive for another meeting? Of course they would – and things shall repeat once again), until they find a decision with every party’s desire taken into account.

Attitude to alternative relationships  

Why is a fairy story like a kitten? They both enchant from the start and induce desire of living a life from a fairy tale. From a sterilized story clear of complex context and real things happening. The one that’s left after they had removed burning odor around Cinderella, together with her muscles aches, her fatigue after sleepless night and frantic fear of losing the dress and finding herself in the middle of the dancefloor, sweating, dirty and having a pumpkin by her side. There remaining is a perfect world net of smell and taste, a reference apple of a supermarket raised by genetics and grown hydroponically – flavor-free and tasteless as plastic.

But is the world of fairy tales and fabulous monogamous ‘love until death’ better than the real world full of manifold relationships between people who bear no resemblance to princes and princesses? And what shall the plastic-looking relationships taste like?

Cinderella and Snow White had no friends. They contented themselves with talking to birds, dwarves and fairies. Prince charming was the only one they knew. Is this the life a modern woman wants? Is this the partner a man of today desires?

Prince charmings were doomed to their destinies, their will having no voice in the matter. This hardly seems to be a perfect life for a modern man. Moreover, the fairy tale omits Princes’ efforts. The one of Snow White was travelling around the world for a long while, looking for his beloved. He was busy neither with his kingdom nor with his self, he was always en route, searching for the Snow White and accompanied by his horse only. Easy thing to do? Seems like not.

When we take a better look at a fairy story we see real actions, plans, work, daily efforts. Cinderella was not just hard-working – she did it without employees benefits, spa-relax or weekends. While Snow White had to stay in her coffin waiting for the Prince to find her. A hard job not every girl can do. Even in fairy tales relationships result from labor and efforts.

Making a story for two, managing to get along with each other, learning another person in details, finding common interests and themes, sexual fantasies that both share – this is the reality the directors of “smart” movies show us. It is not as fabulous and cute as the one from fairy tales, not that bright and attractive. But it’s in no way plastic. It smells like sex and spreads the heat of activity and the taste of real emotions and feelings.

It is only a cursory glance at fabulous stories that makes one believe in illusory-perfect relationships and monogamy until death. Alternative movies show real people, individual destinies and relationships arranged by own rules and without relying on any plots and storylines.