Tuesday’s Reviews – The Answers by Catherine Lacey

books, humanity, love, meh, romance, society, women

For a recent Instagram challenge I was asked to review my favourite September read using only emojis. This proved difficult for various reasons. The first being that I, shamefully, only read 2 books this month and wouldn’t really say I loved either of them enough to name a favourite. Then there was the problem of the actual review. It’s going to be difficult enough to sum up my feelings for Catherine Lacey’s The Answers with words so doing it using tiny digital pictures wasn’t exactly going to turn out great. I’m already working from the disadvantage of being a fucking idiot so trying to dumb down my already dumb opinions was a recipe for disaster. Anyway, I cobbled something together but it’s hardly the most useful review I’ve ever written. Not that I’m sure any of them have ever been any help to anyone but we’ve all got to have a hobby. I never read Catherine Lacey’s debut novel Nobody is Ever Missing but I was drawn to her second novel from the first time I read about it. It featured in my ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2017’ list and I spent most of the year lusting after it. I don’t really know what I expected from this novel. Part of me thought it sounded like an episode of Black Mirror and the other thought it might prove to be a bit more chick-lit. Whatever it was going to be, I knew it was going to be better than the truly disappointing One of Us if Lying that was my other September read. There’s very little that could have been worse but I’ve already discussed that.

The Answers has a very promising title. Even Douglas Adams couldn’t provide us with an adequate answer in Hitchhikers Guide. So, in her second novel, could Catherine Lacey really provide us the answer to life, the universe and everything? On the surface her novel is the story of a 30 year old woman with a chequered past and riddled with debt. After escaping from a childhood spent in isolation with a religious fanatic for a father, Mary found freedom in New York but spent beyond her means. It was then that her mysterious illnesses made her life a misery and modern medicine scratch its head in confusion. Unable to find any other way out, Mary turned to holistic healing in the form of PAKing; a strange alternative treatment that not only helped her immensely but added to her already considerable money troubles. In order to fund the necessary therapy Mary answers a vague job advertisement that changes her life.

She is accepted to take part in something called the Girlfriend Experiment or the GX for short. It is the brainchild of superstar actor/director Kurt Sky and a group of scientists interested in studying relationships and love. After experiencing years of romantic indifference and creative despair, Kurt is turning his attention to finding out what makes people tick. Why do human beings have such a deep seated desire to pair off and bond for life? Is it something that holds them back or helps them on their journeys? To find this out, Kurt hires a gaggle of women to perform specific duties in his life. Mary is the emotional girlfriend and is responsible for listening to Kurt’s feelings, fears and secrets. There are separate women acting as the Anger girlfriend, the Maternal girlfriend, the Mundanity girlfriend and a couple of Intimacy girlfriends. Can Kurt understand the human experience by scripting his entire relationship needs through these perfect strangers and will any attachments form along the way?

The Answers follows this basic narrative whilst skipping between perspectives. We start and end with Mary’s first-person narrative but the main portion of the novel flits between third-person perspectives of Mary, Kurt and Ashley (the Anger girlfriend). Lacey uses these differing perspectives to question different aspects of the human psychology and various attitudes to relationships in general. I have to admit that it was jarring at first but the switching narratives ends up working with Lacey’s purpose. The Answers isn’t, strictly speaking, a novel but, for the most part, reads more like a study of humanity. It is a very clever novel that spends more time ruminating over the question of love than it really does on its plot. It is highly intelligent and forces you to think about things in a way you never would have otherwise. It’s an exciting exploration into such a huge aspect of humanity and social constructs that there are times when you really forget you’re reading a piece of fiction.

That’s not to say that it isn’t a decent novel. It is very driven towards character and features a great deal of amazing writing. Lacey has a command of the English language that is both beautiful and fascinating. It is at times highly lyrical and fanciful and at others staunchly scientific and stiff. It is a style that only highlights the various questions and ideas on display. She also creates some interesting characters along the way. Both Mary and Ashley are fascinating and have a lot to say about gender and equality. They are two women who have experienced different forms of abuse in previous relationships and are hiding secrets from the world. They are both running from their pasts but using very different methods. The pair find themselves both drawn to and alienated from Kurt but are tied to him through financial necessity. The Answers raises questions about the place of females in society but it never quite manages to give the answers that its title so proudly suggests it will.

I really liked most of Lacey’s novel. I loved the set up of the narrative and was really drawn into her analysis of the human condition. There is a great deal of deep and wonderful writing on display and I was sure that I was going to love it. However, the ending left me a little cold. It kind of felt like everything got away from her a little and she just didn’t know where to go with it. Everything was set up for something magical but it just, sort of, fizzled out into nothing. But not in that “I’m being clever and saying something important” way. In the “what the fuck do I do now?” kind of way. It’s a shame because Lacey builds towards something important and intelligent throughout most of the novel. She just fails to provide the answers that she promises. Maybe she just wasn’t asking the right questions?

TBT – To Rome With Love (2012)

disappointing, ensemble cast, Jesse Eisenberg, love, meh, TBT, Woody Allen

I said this last week to but I always struggle to find something relatable to review for TBT when my Tuesday post is about a book. Without any real ideas of my own I madly searched Netflix for any film with “love” in the title. The one that jumped out at me the most was the Woody Allen film from 5 years ago. I wanted to see it when it came out but I don’t think I have any friends who still have hope that Allen can produce a film worth paying to see. I understand where they’re coming from. The last few years really haven’t shown the great director at his best. I’ve also struggled to keep my faith alive over the years. It’s only thanks to his random successes (Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris) that keeps me coming back. For every film I love there’s at least 2 duds. Still, I like to think that one of my strongest attributes is unflinching and, potentially, misguided loyalty so I’ll always keep getting drawn back in.

I’ve waited to see To Rome With Love for years so I started off being really excited as the film started. I was experiencing the same feelings that I always feel with Woody Allen films: that is the familiar nostalgic warm feelings that mainly come from remembering his golden age. You know, the films that just seemed to get everything right. This film is a collection of four separate stories that all take place in Italy’s capital city. There is the story of an American tourist (Alison Pill) and her Italian fiance (Flavio Parenti) and the trouble that arises when their families meet. Then we have a newly married couple (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) who get themselves into all kinds of farcical scrapes. There’s the famous architect (Alec Baldwin) who is revisting the Rome of his past and meeting a young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig) and their friend (Ellen Page) who threatens to come between them. Finally, there is the story of a regular office worker (Roberto Benigni) who becomes an overnight celebrity for no reason and who struggles to deal with the consequences.

Of these four narratives it is the latter that is the least successful. The premise, based around people who become famous for being famous, is an interesting one but Allen doesn’t seem to know where to take it. The plot just meanders around in a forgettable and unexciting way. You can’t help but feel that this could have been missed to give more time and attention to the other narratives. All of which have some great aspects to but, also, give you the idea that they weren’t developed enough. The best, by far, is the story of Alec Baldwin’s architect, John, and his chance meeting with a young architect student, Jack (Eisenberg). Jack lives in Rome with his girlfriend, Sally (Gerwig), but finds himself drawn to her friend, Monica (Page). Monica is a pretentious wannabe who knows just enough to fake a depth that she doesn’t have but it is enough to cause Jack to start imaging their life together. As his connection with Monica strengthens John becomes the voice in his ear that warns him of the dangers. The problem  with this story is that I so wish it could have been longer because it feels like there was lots of potential there. Is Jack real or is he simply a distant memory that John is conjuring up as he re-familiarises himself with Rome?

The final two stories both have their charms but I really found myself caring less and less as they went on. The story of the newly married couple is something that kind of outstays its welcome and only survives thanks to Penelope Cruz’s turn as a prostitute who accidentally gets caught up in a family drama. It is this narrative that I found most annoying because it falls too far away from reality and well into the realm of sitcom farce. The couple are continually kept apart by a series of ridiculous events that just gets more absurd as time goes on. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t happen in real life because people would have the sense to admit the truth to everyone. The actors who play the husband and wife are both very charming but I could have done with less of this.

The final vignette is a bit of a mixed bag. It features Allen himself who is visiting Rome to meet the parents of his daughter’s fiance. Having recently retired and never feeling accepted during his role as an Opera director, he is overcome when he hears his future son-in-law’s father sing in the shower. He quickly gets carried away and, before anyone can stop him, soon has the poor man in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, he is only comfortable enough to perform whilst in the shower so Allen’s character must make some creative staging decisions. There is a lot of good material within this narrative but, again, it feels as though it could have been pushed a bit more. As it is, it is difficult to accept this reality and it feels a bit too farcical.

I wanted to love this film, as I do with every Woody Allen release of recent years, but it feels as though he came up with 4 half ideas and shoved them together. There isn’t a fully developed idea in the bunch and pushes the magical realist genre further into the realms of farce. Even the dialogue, something we’ve come to expect will be perfect in any Woody Allen film, feels off in places, There is something awkward about the conversations and things don’t flow as they should. Of course, alongside those moments there are some fabulously Allen scenes where the acting, script and imagery just work. It’s just a shame they couldn’t happen more frequently.

TBT – Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, love, meh, rom-com, romance, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, TBT

It’s been a few days since I watched La La Land and I’m still obsessed. I’ve been singing that bloody “City of Stars” song non-stop and listening to the soundtrack on my way to work. I’ve shocked a lot of the people I work with by enjoying the film. I guess because I’m such a seemingly heartless and cynical person. I mean I am a cynical person but I get swept away with a good love story as much as the next person. I say this as someone who, admittedly in a state of exhaustion after 3 days back at work, was crying at footage of Kiss Cams earlier tonight. Yep, I am, underneath it all, just as sentimental and lovey dovey as the rest of the world. And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s romance in the film is made more adorable thanks to their fantastic chemistry. This is their 3rd film together so they’ve clearly become quite comfortable. So, in order to keep this feeling going, I decided to go back to where it all started way back in 2011.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the romantic comedy about a recently divorced man (Steve Carrell) trying to get back his masculinity with the help of a Lothario he meets in a bar (Ryan Gosling). Cal Weaver is caught off guard when his highschool sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), tells him she wants a divorce after she slept with her coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). He moves out of the family home and starts frequenting a bar where he tells anyone who will listen about this infidelity. Unable to allow Cal to wallow in self-pity any longer, womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and offers to help him get his life back on track. With an updated wardrobe and new techniques for talking to women, Cal discovers a new side to dating and becomes a new man. His new lifestyle only reiterates his love for wife, however, and Cal must attempt to win her back. Meanwhile, Jacob’s wild lifestyle stalls when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone) a law student who rejects his advances. Finally getting bored of her dull boyfriend, Hannah tracks Jacob down to accept his offer. Things don’t go to plan and the pair end up bonding and eventually start dating.

Then, because it’s a romantic comedy, some awful shit comes out to stop both couples enjoying happiness for a bit before the inevitable happy ending. It’s standard stuff that riffs on aspects of midlife crises and questions of what it means to be a man. To be honest, the narrative itself isn’t exactly original or exciting. Nor is is as “crazy” or as “stupid” as the title promises. For a comedy starring someone as talent as Steve Carrell, it’s kind of lacking on humour and plays more towards the sentimental angle. Something that doesn’t really work with this story. We see Cal being moulded into the perfect ladies man where he is kitted out with the right fashion accessories and the key phrases needed to get a woman back to his pathetic bachelor pad. It’s an area that should be easy comedy gold but, in reality, is only able to bring up some mild titters.

This film’s major problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. There are far too many subplots and ideas thrown together that it can’t control them. At nearly 2 hours long, it is in dire need of some editing because it drags during the middle. It strives to be a jack of all trades but, as the saying goes, manages to be a master of none. It needed to be funnier or more sincere instead of wavering between the two. It’s a confusing pot of so many ideas and plot strands that it’s just lost it’s whole identity. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good ideas there. It’s just that it needed a lot of work. I mean the big twist near the end is, when you really think about it, both incredibly stupid and completely meanigingless. It doesn’t add anything to plot and doesn’t make any sense. It’s clearly just been included to make the narrative seem more intelligent than it actually is.

What makes Crazy, Stupid, Love work is the cast. They may not have the right stuff to work with but they all put everything into it.However, each actor has done way better things than this since so it’s difficult to be kind about it knowing that they can do so much more. Ryan Gosling may not have been known for his comedy skills back in 2011 but, with his more recent films, we know that he is more than suited to the funny stuff. It’s awful to see how uncomfortable he looks in certain scenes here. Still, it is undeniable that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling really do gel well on screen and the first evening that Hannah and Jacob spend together is utterly charming. Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore are equally charming and, despite the dire circumstances that their characters find themselves, the actors always manage to keep you onside. You might not completely care about their tale but you always want Cal and Emily to be happy. Basically, this is the not incredibly funny or exciting story of good people who are trying to find love. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see but it’s not the best either. It’s perfectly watchable… and that’s probably the nicest thing I’m going to be able to say about it.

Belated Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Literary Couples

books, couples, George RR Martin, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, lord of the rings, love, much ado about nothing, romance, Shakespeare, Tolkien

Valentines Day is coming up and love is in the air. People are obsessed. I’ve been seeing chocolate hearts, soppy cards, and stuffed animals for bloody ages now. I’m getting sick of it but decided I couldn’t really avoid it. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of Instagram challenges, which has been fine but there are times when I really have to think about certain prompts. The most recent one I struggled with was “Favourite Literary Couple”. When it comes to traditional views on literary love I tend to buck the trends. I hate Romeo and Juliet. Heathcliffe and Cathy are a disaster. Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester is a creepy relationship. Gatsby and Daisy are in no way relationship goals. And the less said about The Fault in our Fucking Stars the better. So I struggled to find a literary couple that I actually was rooting for. It was pretty difficult, So what was the next logical step? To force myself to come up with 9 more. Obviously.

Ten: Rob and Laura – High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I know I come back to High Fidelity so often but it is one of my favourite novels. So sue me. Still, I have to admit that I had to stretch my parameters a little for this one. I mean Rob’s initial relationship with Laura isn’t great and he acts like a complete dick towards her. It’s no wonder she leaves him considering how much he takes her for granted. However, the beauty of the relationship is that Rob is able to learn that Laura really is the ideal woman for him. He overcomes his demons and learns to accept commitment. At the end of the novel, Rob and Laura are ready for a real relationship.

Nine: Westley and Buttercup – The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I have my doubts about this one because it’s too much of a fairytale romance. Still, there can be no denying that the story of Buttercup and the stable boy is lovely. The lengths that Westley goes to in order to rescue his love are just something you can’t ignore. And “as you wish”? Well, I still consider those to be some of the most romantic words ever uttered in fiction. Westley’s love is so selfless. He says I love you by doing what he thinks Buttercup wants. And then, later in the novel, Buttercup reiterates Westley’s sentiments with her own speech. These two are focused on each other solely. It’s hard not to get swept up in the romance of it all.

Eight: Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver – Esiotrot by Roald Dahl

Esiotrot probably isn’t a very well known Dahl story but it is one I’m kind of obsessed with. When I was younger I loved the mutliple tortoises because I was a kid. Now, I’m obsessed with the depth of Mr Hoppy’s love for his neighbour. He secretly buys loads of different sized tortoises on order to make her happy. It’s an incredibly weird love story but it’s an utterly adorable one. Who needs hearts and flowers when you’ve got magically a growing pet?

 Seven: Eowyn and Faramir – The Lord of the Rings by George RR Tolkien

When most people think of Lord of the Rings they’ll probably think of Aragorn and Arwen as the best love story. However, I’ve never been a fan of book Arwen. She’s weak, feeble and basically non-existent. The only thing we really ever learn about her is that she’s pretty. So it’s difficult to really believe or care about the depth of their love. However, Eowyn is a completely different story. Eowyn is an independent and strong woman who manages to help defeat the fucking Witch King. She’s amazing. So it’s great to see her settle down with a man who really deserves and appreciates her. The brief moments we see of them together are just glorious. A well-deserved happy ending for the two of them.

 Six: Khal Drogo and Daenerys – ASOIAF by George RR Martin

Okay, so this couple get off to a rapey start. I get it. I’m not trying to suggest that they’re perfect. However, Drogo and Dany quickly became a power couple who truly loved each other. When Dany started to take control of her relationship and become her own version of a Khaleesie this pair became almost unstoppable. She loved him and he adored her. It was perfect. He was going to give her the Iron Throne and she became the fearless and loving leader he needed her to be. Drogo’s death was definitely one of the most heartbreaking thing George RR Martin has ever done. This couple would have been the greatest leaders that Westeros had ever seen.

Five: Beatrice and Benedick – Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing is my favourite Shakespeare play. I’ve probably mentioned that numerous times. It’s mainly because Beatrice is the only Shakespearean leading lady that I can actually stand. She’s clever, powerful, and doesn’t give a shit about finding true love. Until her friends and family convince her otherwise. Yes, she and Benedick bicker but that’s all part of the fun. They have a real fiery passion and, when they come to realise that they actually love each other, then they are a perfect match. That passion and fire is turned on each other and they make a loving couple. It’s the classic Freudian thing of being mean to those you love most but it’s still a great story. These two are equals.

Four: Don and Rosie – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I wasn’t sure about including these two on my list. I mean this book was adorable and everything but I felt it was a little too twee in relation to Don’s autistic traits. It seemed to be romanticising the condition and making the whole thing seem a bit too much like a fairy tale. However, there is something fantastic about seeing this relationship come about on the page. From their first meeting when Don decides that Rosie isn’t a viable candidate for ‘the Wife Project’ to his eventual realisation that she’s the only viable candidate.

Three: Remus and Tonks – Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Remus and Tonks got short shrift in the Harry Potter films. Their relationship is glossed over so much that it barely registers. I mean their son is mentioned once and he was supposed to be the mirror for Harry himself. It’s a disgrace. Still, in the books, their romance is a subplot that hangs around from Order of the Phoenix onwards. They have their problems at the start but eventually come to really care for each other. In the end, Lupin wants to keep Tonks safe but she doesn’t want him going in to battle without her. Their death is tragic but, in a sordid way, kind of romantic. They fight and die together. They’re two very good people who lay down their lives so their son can have a better life. That’s not just relationship goals; it’s parenting goals.

Two: Ned and Catelyn – ASOIAF by George RR Martin 

 When the Instagram challenge of “best fictional couple” came up recently these two were my first thought. I know Cat was supposed to marry Ned’s elder brother Brandon but, after he died, the pair managed to make the best of a bad situation. They were loving parents to their 5 children and they really cared for each other. Cat loved Ned’s quiet, stately, and moral ways and Ned loved her strength and determination. She even allowed Ned to bring his, supposed, bastard child into their family home and allowed him to be raised alongside her children. Yes, she had a certain amount of resentment towards Jon but you’ve got to give her props for not just chucking him out or having him killed or something. She clearly loved him enough to give him his way. It’s just a shame that we only see them together for such a short time in the books. If only Ned had gone back to Winterfell before confronting Cersei. The trusting old fool. They also happen to the best couple in the whole series. The only loving and stable relationship in all of Westeros.

One: Molly and Arthur – Harry Potter by JK Rowling

I can’t believe I forgot about these two when I did my post. I mean if there was one marriage in the whole of literary history that screams relationship goals then it’s this one. Molly and Arthur are not only fantastic on their own but together they have such a loving and happy relationship. It’s not a mad or crazy passion but it’s comfortable and real. They have a normal and loving marriage where they argue and disagree but, ultimately, they care for each other and their children. I think literature is too often littered with unrealistic romantic expectations. Everything is so hyperbolic and extreme. People falling in love in difficult circumstances and overcoming the odds to be together. It’s not for me. I just want people who are happy with each other. Where the relationships are easy and safe. They can rely on each other and things work with a little effort. Molly and Arthur are the most realistic representation of love that I’ve possibly ever read… if you ignore the magic and shit.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Romeo and Juliet (2013)

bullshit, film, films, fucking awful, fucking beautiful, love, meh, review, Shakespeare, teenagers

I know this isn’t really a recent film but, with the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Romeo and Juliet last month, I decided, in order to compare and contrast, that it was time to watch the most recent film adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most annoying plays. I know people generally love it because it’s about true love and shit but I just find it boring and really stupid. I mean people build these two teenagers up because they are so desperately in love with each other but they’re actually just idiots. Firstly, they know each other for about 2 seconds before they tie the knot and secondly they both die for really unnecessary reasons. It’s supposed to be the greatest love story ever told but isn’t it actually just the greatest story about horny teenagers ever told? I mean Romeo was madly in love with another girl literally seconds before he first saw Juliet. I don’t think we can trust anything he says about his feelings. Call me cynical if you wish but the idea that “true love” is so unconquerable that you must bow to its every whim is just a hyperbolic idea. Why does all love have to be so fucking insane that it leads to untold anguish and death? Surely the greatest love story ever told is one where two people fall in love over a prolonged period and become so comfortable and happy that they spend their lives together? Isn’t that what we should be striving for as a society? Not a crazy ride full of sword fights, feuding, and the death of two young people? Anyway, this turned into a massive rant so it’s best I just get onto the review.

When you think about it screenwriter Julian Fellowes is exactly the kind of person who would be super into Romeo and Juliet. The creator of Downton Abbey, the weirdly beloved period drama about rich people having rich people, is clearly going to love the tale of two young rich kids who end up dying. It’s basically an episode of Downton Abbey set in Verona. Which perhaps explains why so much effort has been put into the look of the film. This is a production that is focused on style and lavish backdrops have been created so the lovers can happily frolic in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The costumes are fairly astounding and the picturesque settings are just breathtaking. It adds to the authenticity of the production and ensures that the film remains beautiful throughout. However, there is little beyond the visual that really makes this film worth seeing.

If you ask me, there is little to get too excited about by Romeo and Juliet anyway. The characters always seemed like stubborn and irritating teenagers anyway but, in the hands of Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld, it is even harder to feel sympathetic towards their plight. Steinfeld was only 15 years old when the film was being made and she seems to struggle from the off to get to the substance of the lines she’s quoting. Steinfeld isn’t a terrible performer, as we have seen in True Grit, but she is merely saying lines instead of exploring the feelings and consequences lying behind Juliet’s words. ConsideringRomeo and Juliet contains some great quotes, it is disappointing that the language isn’t celebrated better.  Douglas Booth, who was around 20 during production, is as handsome as you would want for the title role and seems to have a greater understanding of his character. However, he as the drama and emotions ramp up, he fails to rise to the challenge and becomes rather monotone and flat. Neither actor really creates much of an idea of the supposedly astonishing love that their words insist exists between them.

So we are faced with a film about Romeo and Juliet where the audience finds is difficult to care about either of the star-crossed lovers. When we don’t care about the doomed relationship what else is there about this story? Thankfully, there are some shining stars amongst the cast. The rest of the younger cast fair better than the main characters but they still seem to be at odds with Shakespeare’s tale. They are each starring in their own play and, when they come together, it doesn’t always gel. It is up to the senior cast members to provide the needed talent for the audience. It is Paul Giamatti who steals the show and manages to bring a credibility to normally caricatured Friar Laurence. Then Damian Lewis, Natascha McElhone, and Lesley Manville, as Juliet’s parents and nurse, all bring depth and emotion to their characters despite limited chances to do so. I can’t help but feel this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet would have excelled had it’s attention been elsewhere.

Director Carlo Carlei has placed his actors in some beautiful backdrops but doesn’t always manage to get the story across on screen. The pictures themselves are gorgeous but there is nothing about the direction that sets the audience’s passions alight. It’s all rather rudimentary and flat. The kind of shots that want to be arty and impressive but just become mindless. It’s as is the film-makers believed the film would just make itself but found the reality was less simplistic. Julian Fellowe’s script has taken the play and hacked it to pieces. It’s so oversimplified that any magic that the Bard’s script could have created is destroyed. It’s not enough to simply make a well-known love story in a pretty way. Romeo and Juliet just goes to show that there is more to adapting Shakespeare than pretty faces and good costumes.

Because you know I’m all about that Snape. ‘Bout that Snape… no I’m just kidding that guy’s a fucking creep.

books, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, love, Severus Snape

For those of you out there paying attention, I’ve recently taken an impromptu month-long break from blogging. To be honest, I’d become a little jaded and incredibly fucking lazy regarding the writing of posts. I was out of good ideas and work was stressing me the fuck out so I just wasn’t getting anything written in time. I’m hopeful that whilst I’ve been away I’ve managed to come up with a few subjects and have, in my usual big-headed way, got some grand ideas about adding more to my schedule. So, if nothing else, the past few weeks have seen me grow even more deluded than I was before. Yay! It’s going to be fun seeing how long this ‘can do’ attitude lasts for. As I’m currently taking a holiday from work I’m guessing it’ll be the second I get back to the daily grind. Adulthood is super fun, y’all.

Speaking of adulthood, I was perusing Instagram the other day (you may not be aware but I’m an Instagrammer now… and I’m such a fucking dick about it too) and I saw something troubling on a photo posted by a member of today’s youth.

For those not wanting to enlarge that picture I’ll retype it, negating any real need to include the screenshot in the first place. “It’s September!!! Snape is waiting for you! He is and will ALWAYS be my top favourite male character. Who doesn’t want a love like Severus had for Lily? After all this time…” Hopefully, some of you out there can understand why I was so concerned. Now I may be someone who is firmly situated in her late 20s and unflinchingly cynical but it unnerves me that young women are actually hopeful that someone as fucking creepy and stalkerish as Severus Snape will fall in love with them one day. For fuck’s sake, this is the craziest literary-based romantic goal I’ve heard since I realised people still lust after Mr. Rochester!

I understand that people praise the character of Severus Snape because, as anti-heroes go, he’s fucking intriguing. JK Rowling created a complex and fairly delicious character for us all to get our teeth into. He’s angry, vicious and brilliantly sarcastic: the worst teacher in the whole of history but the sort of person you want making sassy comments about the unfolding madness at Hogwarts. Of course, there was never any doubt that he was working for Dumbledore all along, no matter how fucking desperately our author tried to convince us otherwise. So I don’t begrudge people suggesting that Snape was one of their favourite characters in the series. After all, he was incredibly important to the events of the Second Wizarding War. What I take umbrage with is people turning him into this romantic hero who’s love for Lily Potter was something to celebrate. Fucking “Always” has become a catchphrase for idiots who think Twilight is the ideal we should all be aspiring to. Whatever Severus Snape felt for Lily Potter, it shouldn’t be described as love. It was nothing more than an obsession. Snape shouldn’t be lorded as a symbol of undying adoration. He’s a child who lost his favourite toy to a tougher, richer, more popular kid and spent the rest of his life never getting past that moment. He’s no better than Miss Havisham. Actually, he’s fucking worse because at least Miss Havisham was engaged to the object of her affection.

I understand the appeal: Snape loved Lily from their childhood and never met anyone as wonderful as her again. It’s the stuff of fucking Disney dreams. However, it’s all just bullshit. Anyone who gets rejected in such a final way as he did and still mopes about it, over twenty years later, is just a fucking creep. Lily straight up told him that he wasn’t the kind of person she wanted in her life and he had the choice to become a better man or a bitter one. Well, I admit, accepting bitterness into your life is a lot easier than trying to improve your entire personality. It’s no wonder the internet has rallied around Snape though. I mean aside from the fact that both Harry and JK forgive him with the simple statement “he was the bravest man I knew” (so many issues for another time), Snape has become a mascot for every pathetic, lonely person out there who is too afraid to approach someone and instead hides in the imaginary ‘friendzone’. For someone born in the wizarding world, Snape is just like every other single nerd on the internet. From Snape’s point of view, he and Lily were perfect for each other but she ended up picking his schoolyard bully who had all the advantages Snape lacked.

Except that’s not what happened at all. Let’s get back to basics for a second: friendship does not equal love. It shouldn’t be the kind of thing I have to point out but it seems as though some of you haven’t been paying attention. Just because someone likes you as a friend doesn’t mean they are under any obligation to fall in love with you. It’s tough but it’s something we all have to fucking deal with. There was never any hint that Lily ever reciprocated Snape’s feelings. They were friends, yes, but from what we can tell they’d been drifting apart ever since they arrived at Hogwarts. She was making more friends and he became more involved in the pursuit of the dark arts. To put it in the simplest terms I can imagine: they just weren’t right for each other. He was a future Death Eater and she was a future victim of the Death Eaters. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet people. It’s about as likely a romance as Adolf Hitler falling in love with a disabled, black, Jewish woman. It went against the very doctrine Severus and his friends were willing to live their lives by. Severus didn’t love Lily: he just selfishly wanted her for himself. She wasn’t a human being but an object that held sway over his potential to be happy. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to be with her but just that he didn’t want to be without her.

Let us look, if we may, at the relationship that Lily ended up having with James. We don’t know much but we do know that James was willing to die for her. He lay down his life in the hope that Lily and his son would survive. What was Severus willing to do to save Lily? Not sacrifice his own life, that’s for sure. He was, however, very happy to offer up her husband and only child to Voldemort so they could be murdered instead. Just let that sink in for a second: “Darling, I love you so much I sacrificed the two people you care most about in the world so we could be together forever.” That doesn’t sound like love to me. And nobody should be aspiring to experience the kind of ‘love’ that festers into a dangerous obsession. Any feeling that causes you to look into a seventeen-year-old boys eyes as you die so you can pretend it’s your childhood crush is something you want to avoid. I mean who knows what kind of disgusting thoughts entered his head every time he made eye contact with young Mr Potter? Blurgh! Anyone who thinks he makes an acceptable romantic partner really is just as fucking insane as Snape himself.

Just look at what became of him. He ended his life as an essentially friendless, loveless and very unhappy man just because he had pinned all of his future happiness on a girl who rejected him. It also destroys most of the reasons that made him such a wonderful character. One of the things that made Severus so fantastic was his inner struggle with morality. Dumbledore himself made a big deal about the “choice between what is right, and what is easy” and, up until the end of Book 7, Severus was the perfect symbol for that very decision. Until JK went all fucking fairy tale on us again and turned his story into a love story. For one thing, it is a massive cliche and a super lazy way for a writer to absolve a morally questionable character of his sins. I mean nobody discusses Severus’ years of muggle torture and murder; all they ever fucking talk about is fucking “always”. For another thing, when you accept creepy obsessive love as Severus’ only motivation then you remove any question of morality from the equation. He didn’t care about doing the right thing at all. He just let an old man manipulate his adoration for a dead woman to get him to change sides.

You know what, I used to be just like that person I referenced earlier. I always loved Snape as a character and couldn’t wait for his moment of redemption. What I got was an absurd and incredibly unsettling ‘love’ story that completely spoiled him for me. He deserved his moment of bravery that would show all the doubters just how fucking stupid they were. Instead, he was just Harry’s mother’s stalker who actually turned out to be quite useful. Seems like the perfect person to name your child after.