Happy wedding season! Wait, wedding season? Aren’t we in the middle of the holidays? And isn’t wedding season, like, June? Well, yes and yes, but around here as soon as the local universities break for the semester, all the wedding venues fire up the chocolate fountains and Target braces for the inevitable gifting hullabaloo. It’s just how it is. So for all you newlyweds, or nearly newlyweds (CONGRATULATIONS!), or just general readers, married or otherwise, here are ten marriages we admire from books, TV, and film.
Carl and Annie from Joy in the Morning: This book is one of the most genuine and incredibly sweet accounts of early marriage and young love I’ve ever come across. It is so tender and so heartfully written, with all the uncertainties, excitements, struggles, and delights that a newlywed couple would experience, and even though it’s set in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927, it feels like it could have been written about me in Provo, Utah, six years ago. There is nothing particularly spectacular about Carl and Annie, but that’s life–they are two normal, flawed but real people who are trying to figure out how to combine their individual lives and build a new life together, and seeing their relationship go through growth and hardship and triumph is a painstaking yet rewarding journey that will teach you a lot about what it’s like to be in a relationship.
Zoe and Wash from Firefly: A bit of an “odd couple” pairing, but by far my favorite couple of the Firefly universe, for several reasons. First, Zoe is freakin’ awesome. She can handle any situation with gravity, grace, and complete professionalism. It’s no secret she’s got the brains, the beauty, the brawn, and whatever else you’d want in a person. She is the complete and total package by herself and perhaps the very definition of “not needing a man.” And yet, she loves Wash, who’s got mad piloting skills and is kind of cute and charming and funny and all that stuff, sure, but whose real greatest strength (imo) is that he sees and respects Zoe for the amazing, sexy, smart, super-heroine she is, and he does not take her for granted, ever. And you know what? She appreciates and respects him too. They are not a bit like each other, really, but they are fiercely loyal to each other and will put aside any personal differences for a common goal, making them the best team players you could ask for in your team sport of marriage.
Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks from the Harry Potter series: Another couple I will love/mourn forever, because they are individually awesome and, as a couple, are awesome squared. Both of these characters are well drawn, compelling, and intriguing all by themselves, and their biographies would be enthralling to read. Remus is my favorite Hogwarts professor and also pretty much the only “decent” professor of the Defence Against the Dark Arts. Plus he’s a Gryffindor and a werewolf who struggles with a lot of internal conflict over whether his being a werewolf will harm those close to him. Tonks is a rebellious, free-spirited Hufflepuff with mad metamorphic abilities whose Patronus transformed from a rabbit into a wolf because she is just that in tune with her wolfish husband. She never lets fear stop her from protecting those she loves and fighting for her convictions. What a badass. Their story is so romantic and tragic and I will never forgive them for dying but at least I have this paragraph by J. K. Rowling to swoon over: “Remus, so often melancholy and lonely, was first amused, then impressed, then seriously smitten by the young witch. He had never fallen in love before. If it had happened in peacetime, Remus would have simply taken himself off to a new place and a new job, so that he did not have to endure the pain of watching Tonks fall in love with a handsome, young wizard in the Auror office, which was what he expected to happen. However, this was war; they were both needed in the Order of the Phoenix, and nobody knew what the next day would bring. Remus felt justified in remaining exactly where he was, keeping his feelings to himself but secretly rejoicing every time somebody paired him with Tonks on some overnight mission.”
Gomez and Morticia from The Addams Family: For anyone who grew up feeling weird and outcast and alone and like they would never fit in or find a partner with whom they could share the weirdest, wackiest sides of themselves, I give you this couple. How can you help but love that they are completely and unabashedly themselves, including a number of gothic and morbid inclinations, while remaining passionately and wholly devoted to each other? Clearly they’ve developed their own eccentric, strange, dark love language, which is something every couple should strive for.
Golde and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof: At least 70% of my quotes about husband/wife relationships and courting come from Fiddler on the Roof (“They’re so happy they don’t know how miserable they are!”), and though there is something to admire about and learn from every relationship, I come back to Golde and Tevye, who fulfill their obligations as man and wife as if it were their religion and culture dictating their actions but then “discover” that they really did choose/worked for/valued romantic love after all in the song “Do You Love Me?” The testing of tradition and relationships with time and progress is a hefty theme in Fiddler, and any marriage needs to be able to grow, develop, and endure the test of time while building traditions, memories, and patterns that partners can treasure and remember. I for one, look forward to having a relationship for 25 years (and more) with someone I can joke, laugh, and share my evolving hopes and dreams with, knowing that our relationship is only changing for the better with time.
Aang and Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender: I wasn’t sure about this couple in the beginning–Katara is a bit dramatic, serious and mature for her age, and emotional, and Aang is so easygoing, casual, and fun-loving, not to mention a bit of a goofball. But it turns out they complement each other extremely well. Katara helps Aang to process the scary and serious things that happened to him and to not shy away from his feelings. Aang, meanwhile, gets Katara to relax, enjoy life, and see the positive or lighter side of things, which leads to them celebrating and sharing a lot of small, beautiful moments together. Together they are a couple who can get through any challenge, and who are always learning more about themselves by trying to see the other’s perspective. I want so bad for there to be a TV show about their adult married life so that I can model all my parenting decisions off of them. Please, pretty please?
Wentworth and Anne from Persuasion: Ok, so Persuasion is entirely about the courtship of Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, but I think it’s fair to say these two are going to do all right over the course of a marriage. Advantages: maturity on both sides and proven ability to overcome misunderstanding through communication (finally!). Although there was a definite spark and chemistry when they first met, neither of them had the experience they possess by the end of the novel. They understand themselves and each other so much better than they did the first time around. I think the Wentworths had a happy, longstanding union.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith: Okay, confession. These guys are my “guilty pleasure” couple. I know with my brain that a marriage between two assassins who lie to each other about their line of work and
become disillusioned about their marriage and then nearly kill each other by accident and then try to kill each other on purpose but end up falling even more madly and deeply in love with each other is a surefire recipe for crazy disaster in real life, mkay? But so help me, when John Smith (Brad Pitt) can’t go through with shooting Jane (Angelina Jolie) and they both drop their guns to begin a full-on stormy house-breaking makeout session, I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. There is an insane chemistry and tension in their interactions that can’t be matched and watching them spar verbally and physically with each other throughout the entire movie is like an expert master class in body language. (And yes, I am just a little heartbroken that “Brangelina” is ending. Condolences are welcome.)
The Allstons from The Spectator Bird: Wallace Stegner wrote several novels about Joe and Ruth Allston, a long-married couple living in California. This National Book Award winner features the Allstons at the end of their lives, with Joe reflecting on an episode twenty years earlier. After the loss of their estranged son, Joe and Ruth took a trip to Denmark and met beautiful Astrid, a European aristocrat ostracized from society. Ruth has her suspicions about what transpired then, and Joe returns to his journal from that time, reading the entries aloud to his wife. Stegner has this way of presenting the quiet power of an enduring marriage. There are no perfect husbands, and no perfect wives, and time and experience ravage and wear us down both in life and in Stegner’s mirror of it. But when Allston comes to the truth of his marriage, Stegner’s wisdom and skill shines.
Adam and Millie from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: It ain’t the first time this couple has come up on this blog, and it won’t be the last, folks. The truth is, we all have unrealistic expectations when it comes to marital bliss, and people have all kinds of motivations for strappin’ on the old ball-and-chain. Never has that adjustment from expectation to reality been explored as delightfully in song as it was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Howard Keel’s Adam goes to town looking for a wife/housekeeper, and Jane Powell’s Millie seems to be motivated by a desire to have a home of her own. When they marry having known each other only a few hours, all kinds of misunderstandings ensue. She’s headstrong, he’s insensitive, and mistakes are definitely made. I know there are many who decry the 1950s gender stereotypes and such, but at the center of this film is a husband and a wife who, despite all the odds, are learning to love each other.