By Mariah Secrest
I dont think that the television show Friends is meant to evoke deep emotion or dredge up tears from the unknown deep within. Yet as I flipped on the show last night, looking for a quick distraction from work while I ate dinner, I was surprisingly caught off guard by the symbolism of the storyline.
In this particular episode, Ross finds himself withering at the prospect of his new flame Emilys return to her home in London. He feels defeated and helpless, and his sister Monica manages to draw out of him the realization that he does in fact love this girl.
When Monica hears this, she jerks into reaction, bidding him to make a grand appearance at the airport where Emily is about to depart, and confess his true feelings for her. What got me was Monicas fervency that accompanied her advice to Ross. She explained that her brother had to do this for her, so that she could live through him the story she had always fantasized about. The story where two people from faraway lands chance upon each other, take an impetuous risk, and fall madly in love from that pivotal moment.
Ross takes her up on it, musters all the courage in his nerdy little professors heart, and catches Emily at the final boarding call of her return flight to London. What happens next feels closer to home, more familiar to my realm of experience. Pushing out the reckless words I love you, hes met with only the sinking return of an awkward, Thank-you.
Utterly humiliated, he returns to his sister Monica and dejectedly reports the outcome of his grand gesture. When Ross later gets a phone call from Emily admitting that theres another guy in London, he feels that all hope is lost.
But Monica is undeterred, pointing out that the stakes have been raised that much higher and Ross triumph will be that much sweeter when against all odds he proves his love for Emily and wins her back from the arms of the other guy. But this calls for a drastic measure. Ross must fly to London and surprise Emily and fight for her heart.
So again Ross must make the choice either to protect his heart from further devastation or to go down fighting. He chooses the latter, and seems to be thwarted yet again when he sits on her doorstep all night and Emily doesnt returnevidently out with the other man.
But just when it seems that all hope is lost (again), Ross receives a phone call from Emily. The reason she isnt there is because she had flown back to the States to talk to Ross and announce the realization that he is the one that she loves.
Now thats Hollywood, of course. And we dont really get to write our scripts. But I think Monicas hope to live vicariously through her brothers story is the reason we consume stories and media and moviesbecause it validates this longing to be part of some big story in which the stakes are high but we eventually overcome them.
The part about the stakes being high is the curious bit. I remember early on as a very young writer listening to a lecture on writing fiction that every good story has to have a good problemthat is, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that the character must overcome.
And there arent really any chick flicks where a guy meets a girl, asks her out, the relationship develops breezingly and they plan the wedding for their happy-ever-after. There has to be a twist, some dark threat to the trajectory of their success.
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Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she just finished a philosophy degree from the University of Arizona. She enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on MySpace .