Recently at a grocery store, this writer overheard a woman talking who had gone to see Marley and Me, the romantic comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. She said it was “cute,” but she felt “depressed, because I’m not in love like they are.”
Pop culture relationships can inspire us—to want to love as fiercely as Romeo and Juliet, for example—but they can also make us feel inadequate. Though it’s important to consider that we see these couples through an air brushed lens, the effect they have on our everyday lives is hard to ignore. Below are some of the well-known couples that we’ve laughed with and cried for throughout the years.
Romeo and Juliet
One of literature’s oldest and most famous couples, Romeo and Juliet made the term “star-crossed lovers” famous. If only Romeo were not a Montague, and Juliet not a Capulet, perhaps this relationship would not have been doomed from the beginning. Every time we see a performance of Shakespeare’s classic play, we all hope the ending will be different for the titular characters and think, “Don’t do it!” when Romeo and Juliet both take their lives. But perhaps that’s why we love them: we know they’re reckless, but the thought that they would die because they could not stand to live in a world without each other is so romantic that we keep coming back for more.
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy are arguably Jane Austen’s most beloved couple. They defined the ‘love-hate’ relationship that is so often seen in movies, TV shows and novels today. Elizabeth tries to avoid Mr. Darcy after initially judging him to be snobby and rude, but eventually comes around to like him when she realizes he’s not such a bad guy after all. The fact that most girls can relate to Elizabeth in some way, and that the old saying “there’s a fine line between love and hate” comes to life in this love story, is what makes this Pride and Prejudice couple so memorable.
Ross and Rachel
The most famous fictional couple of the ‘90s, Ross Gellar and Rachel Green from Friends were the definition of the “almost on again, almost off again” relationship. The finale had viewers glued to screens everywhere when it aired, wondering if they would finally decide to stay together. Ross and Rachel are also a prime example of the “nerd with the popular girl” couple. Even though everyone thought Ross was kind of annoying and weird, we all rooted for him to finally settle down with Rachel in the end.
Mike and Carol Brady
Mike and Carol Brady are the couple famous for being the parents of a blended family on The Brady Bunch. Mike, a widower, and Carol, a divorcee, marry each other on the show that aired in the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. This storyline came at a time when getting divorced and remarried was starting to happen more and more in society. The fact that their marriage and lives were pretty much cookie-cutter perfect (they did have problems, but they usually resolved them within an half-hour) probably helped the idea of remarrying after a divorce to seem more desirable.
Tommy and Gina
Tommy and Gina, the couple who persevere against all odds in Bon Jovi’s classic 1986 song Livin’ on a Prayer, are two people everyone roots for. Who can’t sympathize, what with Tommy being “down on his luck” and Gina “workin’ for her man”? They are the everyday, working class couple. In today’s economic climate, Tommy and Gina should be especially inspiring to us. Even though the cards are stacked against them, they stick together: “We’ve got each other, and that’s a lot for love / We’ll give it a shot.”
Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist
Ennis and Jack from the critically acclaimed movie Brokeback Mountain are a more modern version of “star-crossed lovers.” Played by Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack and the late Heath Ledger as Ennis, this couple falls in love in the ‘60s, a time when a homosexual relationship was quite scandalous. This results in their relationship being pretty much doomed from the start—not to mention the fact that they both marry, making their relationship with each other even more difficult. Perhaps one of the most unique characteristics of this couple is that they broke down the stereotype that gay men are feminine, and gave a whole new perspective on the way we view cowboys.
Published in Volume 63, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 26, 2009)