Thursday, April 22, 2010

“I love you, too!”

I caught an episode of the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory the other night.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s the charming but improbable story of a hot girl (Kelly Cuoco) sharing living arrangements with four nerdy guys.  This was only the second episode I had seen, so if you do watch the show, feel free to point out any nuances I’m not aware of.

This particular episode started with hot girl in bed with nerd guy #1.  (Like I said:  highly improbable.)  After briefing talking about how great the sex was, NG1 blurts out, “I love you!”, to which HG responds . . . with a pause, and then a mumbled, “That’s nice.”

The thing is, this oddly parallels the development of my own relationship with Mrs. Φ.  While she initiated our physical relationship (by asking me to kiss her), she didn’t say ILY until about a week after I said it.

Questions:

  • Is this asymmetry typical?  Is it only typical for us nerds?

  • Has it always been thus?  Perhaps it is a more recent development?

  • Is the use of this asymmetry in entertainment plot lines, when the audience is expected to feel sympathy for the characters, driven precisely by its confounding of expectations?  Does this constitute a double standard?  Consider the movie (500) Days of Summer.  The writers of the movie appear noncommittal on whether or not the Summer character is a stone-hearted bitch, but imagine if it were a man who had coldly dumped a woman in like manner.  Would their (and our) attitude been as benevolent?  Likewise, when the story is of a man reticent about declaring his love for the woman he is sleeping with, isn’t this a cue to the audience that we should lose all sympathy for him?

5 comments:

Professor Hale said...

Since, by current custom, a declaration of love is itself meaningless, it is irrelevent that the declaration is asymetric.

It would be more truthful to say, if one must say something, "I am swept away by the emotions of the moment".

Ironically, having a deep discussion about what you mean when you say "love" and its limitations is also a mood killer.

Erik said...

This just sounds like a 180-degree shift (and parody of) the usual situation with the girl pining for and saying "I love you" to the cold alpha who is winding his watch....

Professor Hale said...

I don't know why the Alpha would be hesitant to say "I love you too". It is just words, like everything else he might say to get into her pants, and just as meaningless. It brings with it no commitment and is not binding. Sure, I love you. But now I love THAT girl. Tomorrow I am going to be seriously in love with someone else.

Φ said...

a declaration of love is itself meaningless

Well, I would say that it isn't meaningless to the girl not making it.

trumwill said...

There's a case of it going the other way swimming around in my mind, but I just can't quite identify it. There may be two. I think it's generally the case, though, that the person says it by the end of the episode or the next.

That this does not appear to be happening with TBBT is more what makes it unique than the gender roles.

I can't really bring myself to disagree on the whole, though, about double standards. I think the archetypal imagery and associations of the guy that can't say the words to someone he is sleeping with is simply different than that of the girl.

Very, very few guys get pissed off about being used for sex. It's just not something we worry about. Not something that hurts, most of the time. Something of a different matter for ladies, some of whom may have no regrets but a far higher number of than guys do.