It’s the kind of thing that I tell myself, now, is a bad thing, insofar as it takes up so much time, but one of the most delightful things I used to do with my ex was marathon different seasons of 90 Day Fiance, a show on TLC where Americans (namely, singles who feel they’ve met their foreign soulmate online) fly their loves into the United States to live with them for 90 days, leading up to a wedding. The reason for the 90 days is cuz that’s how long their travel visa will let them stay here without being a citizen–which they’ll be once they marry an American.So it’s like a test to see if they can actually stand living together for 90 days.
I’ve always found it tricky to describe.
Anyway: we see these couples–who forged their bonds online, via oceanic distances, some of them having never met in the flesh before–suddenly thrown together into cohabitation just a couple months prior to the wedding.
The audience is compelled by two morbid curiosities:
- (foremost) Is this overseas lover only coming here for a green card, and do they actually feel nothing but contempt for the stupid lonely American who brought them (it happens just rarely enough, and with varying shades of obviousness, that there’s a vibe of genuine risk and suspicion)
- Are the lovers hopelessly incompatible, despite the sincerity of their affection?
The show’s got moments of warmth that are genuinely endearing where the viewer is reminded that romance is a beautiful thing and that this really would be the happiest ending if things could be made to work out between the characters.
But a disastrous ending is also fun. Like the one between Mohammed and Danielle–a romantic clusterfuck so sordid and cringey it’s been made into memes (at the altar, on their wedding day, he said it was against his religion to kiss her).
But so my ex and I watch two or three seasons of 90 Day Fiance and it gives us the impression that we’re naturally interested in stories of strange romance. Off-the-beaten-path kinds of unions and kinks where the participating parties are comfortable with the adversity against them and find some way of making things work.
This is what compelled us to watch Age Gap Love on Netflix–a British reality show whose premise is exactly what it sounds like.
Old fucks and young fucks.
So we went to Little Caesar’s a couple blocks down from my apartment for a Hot-n-Ready $5 pepperoni pizza with a side of breadsticks and ranch dressing, and we settled in to watch Age Gap Love only to find that…it somehow wasn’t interesting.
The portraits are definitely all jarring at first, seeing the tongue of an octogenarian snake into the mouth of a twentysomething, and as they go about detailing their lives, their peaceful cohabitation, their pastimes, one gets the impression that the show isn’t so much about shock, or scorn, but that it aims, simply and nobly, to de-stigmatize its subject. To suggest that, as Lin Manuel Miranda put it during that acceptance speech a few years ago, “Love is love is love” and so forth etc.
Incidentally, at the time of that speech, I was paying a literary agent’s assistant to read and offer notes for a novel I’d written. I was following her on Twitter and, literally two days after his speech, while it was still trending, she got “love is love is love” tattooed on her wrist in meek-looking cursive, looped in an infinity sign.
The scars of 2016 run deep.
So anyway: we’re watching Age Gap Love and we’re talking shit, the show is super weird…and then super cute…and then uninteresting.
The writer [deep breath] Henry Marie Joseph Frederic Expedite Millon de Montherlant appears to be mostly forgotten except for having said “Happiness writes in white ink on a white page.” What he means by this is that it isn’t interesting.
Happiness isn’t sexy (at least not until you’re old enough to’ve dated and gotten seriously involved with a few consummately miserable people). Happiness isn’t dramatic or exciting.
And this is the problem with Age Gap Love–or not the problem, necessarily, but it’s the reason why the show’s not as interesting as 90 Day Fiance–where the showrunners know what makes good drama. Even if the couple is pefectly happy, the director finds some sort of adversity to highlight.
I also read something recently about writers not allowing themselves to get over things because the trauma or the upset makes for good material, it galvanizes your language or whatever, and I wonder sometimes if, like a showrunner on TLC, I’ve latched on to certain unfortunate things, like last year’s breakup with the above-mentioned binge-buddy, and refused to let them go because…happiness is just boring.