Being Bitch-Slapped by Love

I’ve been thinking about love lately.

As you do.

Specifically I’ve been thinking about why so many women get sucked into the notion that True Love – the sort with capital letters and everything – should be hard work. That the more tears are shed, and sleepless nights wasted, the better.

Should love hurt?

If we look at books and movies and TV, it’s not a sunny outlook. Love’s a bitch, isn’t it? And usually, the ones being bitch-slapped by Love are women.

Take Bella and Edward. Or Buffy and Angel if you’re a bit older – it’s the same story, with different actors, let’s face it. She’s a young girl, he’s a vampire who’d like to kill her. It’s not hard to see how that relationship might tip over into the self-destructive.

Then there’s Joey and Pacey. Or Felicity and Ben. Or Blair and Chuck. Or Rory and Jess. Or Johnny and Baby. I can keep going all day if needed – my knowledge of trashy media is almost without limit *proud face*.

It’s always the same old story – girl falls for boy, boy turns out to have ISSUES, which result in girl being sad a lot of of the time, but girl hangs on in there until boy is almost entirely reformed, and they can live happily ever after.

Is this really a good message? Shouldn’t Blair really have dumped Chuck the first time he slept around, and just left it at that? Shouldn’t Bella really have decided life would be more fun without killing herself to be with the man/vampire she loved?

I know, I know. It’s romantic. You can go all the way back to Chaucer and see that romance has always been about the quest. And there have to be obstacles, or it’s not a quest. But when do the boys get a turn at bashing their shins as they try and get over the hurdles?

Take this scene between Veronica and Logan in Veronica Mars.

Logan is the leading man in this season. And why not? He’s drunk, sleeping with one of his friend’s stepmothers, facing a murder charge, has punched pretty much everyone Veronica knows, and has recently admitted supplying the drugs that led to our heroine being date-raped.

SUCH a catch.

If you can’t see the video, the conversation goes something like this:

Logan: I thought our story was epic, you know? You and me. 

Veronica: Epic how? 

Logan: Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, blood shed. Epic. But summer’s almost here, and we won’t see each other at all. Then you’ll leave town and… it’s over. 

Veronica: Logan… 

Logan: I’m sorry. About last summer. If I could do it over.. .

Veronica: Come on. Ruined lives, bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard? 

Logan: No one writes songs about the ones that come easy. 

I get it. Really, I do.

When presented with a kick-ass soundtrack, mood lighting and soulful eyes, it’d take a stronger woman than me not to think, however fleetingly, that all the bad boy needs is someone to take care of him. And I know from bitter experience that most woman have one or five two self-destructive, tortured relationships in their past.

But it bugs me that the stories are so one-sided.

Can you think of a single popular TV show where the hero waits patiently while the Bad Girl sleeps around, breaks the law, disgraces herself repeatedly and then – after all that – realises she just wasn’t looking for love in the right places?

I can’t.

The boy equivalent of this story is She’s All That, where the boy accepts a bet to take the nerdy girl to prom, gets to know her, and decides (brave little soldier) to overlook her shortcomings – which are basically being smart and independent. Thank goodness, though…  prom comes around, the girl lets down her hair and puts on a slick of lip gloss and it’s all, Why Miss Jones, you’re beautiful!  


I’m going to petition for a re-write of The Breakfast Club where Molly Ringwald tells Judd Nelson where to stick it, keeps the diamond ear-ring, and teaches all her friends that trick with the lipstick.

Who’s with me?



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 1st April 2013 / 3:26 am

    I loved this article! It’s so true. I often wonder how much effect tv shows had on my view of relationships. To be fair other than your parents and older family , they are the most common medium a young thing can watch and use as a guide to how they handle issues in life. Let’s be honest, the youth of today are a squared eyed bunch and I am just as guilty when it comes to my love of television and have been know to partake in “shipping” ( being a fan of a couple on a tv show and hoping they get together) I think of my faves “Buffy and Angel”, “joey and Pacy” and later on ” Carrie and Big”. Not one of these ran smoothly and I do believe that part of me enjoyed the angst of some of these relationships. The above made me think a lot. Would I have as being forgiving, as long winded in my eventual disconnections with people if I hadn’t in some way brought into the “love is a rocky road” teachings? Of course unlike Hollywood, tv shows have much longer to lay foundations in character relationships and need to ad the drama to keep us interested, but it is interesting to think what impact these have on viewers! Ekk 🙂

    • 1st April 2013 / 3:24 pm

      Yes, the angst is all horribly entertaining and I do love a good WB show, I really do – it’s just all the same story, over and over, and I think it’s just struck me lately how compelling that storyline is. I wonder if we’re raising women to think that’s the romantic ideal?

  2. 1st April 2013 / 9:29 am

    Amen to that! As the mothers of daughters we have to set them on the right road, and even though I’ve made many, many bad choices when it came to relationships I’m the first to point out the hypocrisy and misogyny of fictional relationships. When my girls were little our versions of fairy tales usually ended with the princess turning down the offer of marriage in favour of going to university or travelling the world. I’d really hate for them to fall for the same relationship mistakes I made.
    Jean recently posted..Silent Sunday ~ 31st MarchMy Profile

    • 1st April 2013 / 3:23 pm

      Amen to that!

  3. 1st April 2013 / 10:12 am

    I’ve never understood this fascination with reforming the bad boys or that the start of a new relationship must be full of angst and drama and near-misses if it’s to mean anything. I don’t hold with any of that at all.

    It also means I have very little sympathy for female friends who moan about being hurt by the latest in their line of shitheads that they date, because you know, there are plenty of truly decent, loving men out there who are intelligent, fun, witty, romantic, sweet and loyal. If they are only attracted to the bad boys, let them deal with the emotional fall out.

    About time we (as a society/ culture) celebrate decency and stop putting shitheads on a pedestal.

    Oh and in Big Bang Theory, Penny has always gone for the lookers, no brains, bad boys, and slept around. But she eventually ends up with Leonard, geeky, decent, not a bad boy, not really a looker and realises what’s more important… is just one of the reasons I like BBT, it turns the normal stereotypes around a bit whilst totally running with others. I know friends who totally fit the main male characters, they’re far more realistic than most people might think!!!


    • 1st April 2013 / 3:23 pm

      I have sympathy but not when the complaining goes on and on and on – there comes a point where you want to say, “Well, you do keep letting that person treat you badly over and over, so how are you surprised that he still treats you badly?”

  4. Mrs Teepot
    1st April 2013 / 10:17 am

    You are so right, and I am a complete sucker for the bad boys, the being treated like poop. Man, the media has a lot to answer for!

    • 1st April 2013 / 3:22 pm

      Yes. The media. Also, possibly, hormones.

  5. 1st April 2013 / 2:13 pm

    Hang on just one cotton-picking minute there woman. Johnny and Baby? It’s BABY who has the issues, not Johnny. He does nothing but good, and she’s the one who’s embarrassed by him and has not-good-enough heritage. She’s the one that takes him leaving lying down, he’s the one who does the running. He reforms as soon as he’s ‘with’ her, with no effort on her part, and finds what he’s been looking for.

    Tsk. I’ll hear not one word said against him, thank you.

    Apart from that? yes. All that angst and hard work makes me exhausted. Love’s EASY with the right person. It’s the life stuff that gets in the way, and that you have to work at.
    Laura recently posted..Easter Hot Cross Buns – Recipes lie. Also, they take 3hrs people.My Profile

    • 1st April 2013 / 3:22 pm

      He’s a gigalo. I dunno – call me picky but I’d have a slight issue with that.

      I love that we’re arguing Dirty Dancing. My blog is so highbrow.

      PS – I still totally would.

      • 1st April 2013 / 6:44 pm

        No no no! You can’t blame Johnny for that! He was being exploited by his employer and the rich holiday makers. He didn’t have the power in that dynamic – if he’d refused the advances, he’d be gone….as indeed he was after he started to say no and challenge the authority. More sinned against than sinning!

        • 1st April 2013 / 10:43 pm

          Oh look at you, blinded by that scene where he dances without his shirt on. Not that I’ve memorised that scene, or anything. Or watched that extended version on YouTube a bit more than is probably healthy…

          Anyway – yes, he’s got a heart of gold, eminently forgivable 🙂

  6. 1st April 2013 / 6:41 pm

    oh, that always bugged me about Grease – why did Sandy have to change to be accepted. Grrr

    It should be different. Women shouldn’t have to cure them, but so many of us are drawn to the bad boys. ANd you know what they say – “Nice boys don’t play rock n roll”.
    Barefoot Mahala recently posted..The One Will All The WorryingMy Profile

    • 1st April 2013 / 10:42 pm

      Well, quite, bad boys have their place. I could comment on where that is, but this is a family blog, after all 😉

  7. 1st April 2013 / 7:43 pm

    I agree the whole Bella and Edward thing is a bit ridiculous. (I still love the story though!) But Buffy and Angel? She turned into a bit of a bad girl herself once she grew up a bit, the whole thing with Spike? And in the end she did tell them both to shove it so she could live her own life.
    Oh and Battlestar Galactica! Starbuck is definitely a bad girl but Apollo loves her anyway. They don’t really end up together though so not sure that counts…
    I should get out more I know :-/
    Amanda Balmain recently posted..Masterclass at Heaton House FarmMy Profile

    • 1st April 2013 / 10:42 pm

      Ah, good pointed but I’m going to differ on Buffy and Angel – because actually after they were reunited, she was planning their life together and HE left her after Buffy’s Mom visited him in his spooky lair… spin-off series aside, she was definitely the dumped, not the dumper. That makes her sound like a truck, doesn’t it…?

  8. 1st April 2013 / 10:42 pm

    Oh my gosh, how much does all this ring true?!! I’ve been guilty of waiting around far too much in the past hoping for the same happy ever after scene to play out inmy house. Although I have to say that Skylar from Breaking Bad did pay her husband, Walt, back by sleeping with her boss!! I’m with you on the Breakfast Club as long as we can also re-write Pretty In Pink and make Andi (also Molly Ringwald) go off with Ducky! 🙂

    • 1st April 2013 / 10:44 pm

      Oh Ducky. Poor Ducky. I don’t think I’ve ever got over that one.

  9. 3rd April 2013 / 4:54 am

    Nice guys are a dime a dozen
    and you know what a dime is worth
    always gotta be a villain in your life
    thats why they’re here on earth

    Yeah thanks mum for all the country song dittys you bought me up with !

    I have always tried to reform a bad guy, Its only in my old age I finally realise I want friendship, reliability , partnership and steadiness from my man . No longer do I want a bad boy who I am trying to tame…its not much fun when you have kids to think about and a job to do.

    I WISH someone had told me this 2 marriages and MANY boyfriends ago!

    Mind you I have just been reading about love languages and I have some new tricks up my sleeve…!!!
    Becky recently posted..Tuesday TreatsMy Profile

  10. domestic goddesque
    3rd April 2013 / 9:46 am

    Fair to say that though I had my share of bad-for-you boyfriends, I did eventually listen to my inner self and found someone who would be less stress-inducing than those television melodramas portray. But I do so enjoy watching them and laughing at my younger self. Of course, with two daughters, I am confident that I will be living the bad-boy-good-love rollercoaster once again soon enough. That’s enough to make me scream for change.

  11. I feel so much better for seeing five (scratched out) self-destructive, tortured relationships and not such an idiot for them being my lifetime’s habit! I agree, it shouldn’t be so exhausting, but people did used to write about love that isn’t wasn’t, normally when there wasn’t any shagging, let alone the shagging around. *sighs*
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  12. 4th April 2013 / 10:11 am

    Hey Sally, I’m so glad I read your post. I’m definitely ‘with you’ on this. There’s so much rubbish out there about how life is meant to be – in the negative sense and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for most. Not only does Hollywood dictate that being in love is hard and painful (or boring) after the initial rush, but it also suggests that break up have to be cataclysmic and that you must indulge in a fair bit of self-destructive behaviour afterwards and also hate your ex etc. Where the heck do they get this stuff from?
    Tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary… was it ‘difficult’ or ‘painful’? HELL NO!! Not even with a 2 year long-distance relationship and we’re very much in love to this day. Are we exceptional or a lucky minority? Again, NO! It just doesn’t fit in with the tired and recycled idea that life has to be hard and that people have to be generally miserable with just the odd bit of happiness thrown in.
    I hope your message spreads far and wide. I’m going to share this post on Facebook to help things along.
    Here’s to happiness, love and fun for EVERYONE : )
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  13. 18th May 2013 / 7:32 am

    I agree with you so much! Protecting our kids from all those warped, ridiculous and quite frankly harmful stereotypes is so, so hard. They’re everywhere not just the T.V. We only have to walk down the highstreet and our children are bombarded with sexualized mannequins and billboards full of ridiculously unobtainable images of “perfection”. I hate having to walk my kids past the Ann Summers shop. What version of truth are they getting there??? Grrrr gets me so cross, and d’you know what really winds me up is that despite the intellectual side of me knowing it’s all a load of old tosh I’m still a woman that hasn’t left the house without mascara for probably over ten years! How blooming ridiculous is that! Thanks for a great article.
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