May This Post Have Your Hand in Marriage?
The fifth of Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots is ‘Comedy’. The classical form of comedy follows an arc from chaos to peace. When the lovers at last unite in marriage, the world is put right. It’s interesting that the classical form of tragedy follows the reverse arc: from peace to chaos. When the protagonist’s fatal flaw is revealed and put into play the world is torn asunder. It’s interesting that for the ancients comedy was essentially intersubjective while tragedy was individualistic; you need two people to set things right, but it only takes one screwed up person to tear everything down.
I was thinking about more recent comic stories. Are they always romances with happy endings? Take the two recent hit comedies, Borat and the Trailor Park Boys movie, both feature a marriage near the end that signifies the dawning of a better world. And yet I doubt anyone would label those films ‘romantic comedies’. Take the Marx brothers. They rarely marry anyone themselves, but you’ll notice that there is usually a cute couple whose eventual jointure is brought about by their antics. These lovey-dovey stories seem dull compared to the anarchy of the brothers. But in the only one of their films that dispenses with this organizing principle, Duck Soup, there is a sourness by the ending. The world isn’t really set right. What’s the point of having a laugh if it doesn’t change the world? And how do we know that the world’s really changed unless some two people start having babies? I guess it makes sense, even though I find this rather depressing.
I wonder if there isn’t a darker spin, though, to put on the marriage at the end of the comic plot. Often comedies are romps. The funny guy at the center has a whole set of wacky adventures. The trouble is… how do we end things? It could go on and on and on. Well, there’s nothing that ends a man’s wild adventures like getting tied down. Perhaps the marriages at the end of Tom Jones and the Shakespeare comedies aren’t so sunny. The fun stops once the ball and chain are attached. Isn’t that correct, Seth Rogan?
I notice that one of the interesting alternatives to the romance is the buddy comedy. Move over
The interracial buddy comedy has been a trend in American film- Eddie and Nick, Tim and Martin, Adam and Damon, Eugene and Samuel. Perhaps that’s the marriage that needs to happen in
Can we have comedy that doesn’t end in a kind of marriage? Could we have a funny story about getting out of a terrible marriage? The world set right by the end would be the dissolution of the union. Would people like it? I wonder. Can we actually believe that ‘all is right with the world’ if there’s even one person left single? I wonder. I mean, I hope so, but I truly do wonder.