15 Fictional Relationships That Give Us Hope

We all have that ONE couple on TV, right?

Parks and Recreation

How often do you finish watching a TV show or a movie, and realize you’ve spent an absurd number of hours waiting for two love-torn characters to end up together? And what’s payoff? A kiss? Five to seven minutes of rushed montages of a “happy” future? I wrote a bit about how frustrating and un-helpful this pattern is and our EIC, Meg, commented on the crux of the issue:

I believe that falling in love is essentially the same as your brain being very very high on drugs. Staying in love is… the dishes.

Which explains why so there’s so much media about falling in love, and so little about staying in it. Who wants to read about chores? Who wants to watch a family try to balance their books? Well, as it turns out, APW does. Shortly after that article we got a message from a reader that said:

When reading Najva’s post (and the comments) about how love stories usually stop at the love declaration (or the wedding), I realized that I’m really missing seeing actual functional relationships depicted… anywhere. I desperately need better role models than the ones around me in real life!

I decided to pull a fairy godmother and grant this reader’s wish—mostly because I, also, need these role models to refer to. The only functional relationships I’ve seen lately, are the fiercely loyal mom and pop Weasley from Harry Potter, the solid-even-when-they-fight moms from The Fosters, or the super-sex-positive Morticia and Gomez. That’s a pretty sadly low number consider how much media I consume (and I consume plenty). However, being that APW is basically a goldmine of smart humans with insightful opinions, I figured the staff could compile a few more romantic role models to dig into. I wasn’t wrong.

What was fascinating to realize, as the suggestions rolled in, was how often the healthier couples popped up in TV instead of film. As it turns out, our digital director, Maddie, literally studied TV and film production in college, so she can explain a little bit of why that happens:

Part of the reason you’ll find more positive and feminist married role models in TV is because television—but sitcoms and soap operas especially—has always been a female-dominated space, while film has historically been an old boy’s club. (Fun facts: Lucille Ball actually invented the modern sitcom, and the longest running TV show in the history of the medium was the soap opera Guiding Light.) I mean, think about who all those household products were marketed at in the early days of television. I’ll give you a hint: not husbands.

With that bit of history, here’s a starter list of 15 relationships that inspire (fictional) relationship goals, from the APW staff:

1. Zoe & Wash, Firefly. “I loved that as First Mate, Zoe outranked Wash on Serenity, but that the “my wife outranks me” thing was never a storyline they played out (though I did love the one time when he tried to do her job and realized he’s not cut out for it). There was a lot of mutual respect between them, and despite being basically always in mortal peril, they were totally hot for each other.” —Maddie, Digital Director

2. Sandy & Kirsten, The OC. “I still love Sandy and Kirsten Cohen from The OC. So many of the plots were… ridiculous, but I feel like they solidly had one another’s back through a lot of (believable and unbelievable) events. They made a point of emphasizing being good parents and good partners and everyone knew it—they both knew they were dedicated to their kids, and the kids knew they were dedicated to each other.” —Stephanie, Staff Writer

3. Jackson & Sookie, Gilmore Girls. “I think this really says it all.” —Najva, Content Manager

4. Mindy & Danny, The Mindy Project. “I don’t know what it says about me that the relationship most closely resembling my own is that of Mindy Lahiri and Danny Castelano. There’s a lot of stuff I appreciate about their relationship, but I think the thing I like most is that she’s unabashedly feminine and it’s never villainized or assumed that she’s less intelligent for it.” —Maddie, Digital Director

5. Jesse & Celine, Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight. “These movies actually are as big of a deal as you’ve maybe heard they are, they’re worth every single second you spend watching them, and the three films remain the clearest, most honest portrayal of longtime love, longtime commitment, that I have ever (EVER) seen.” —Stephanie, Staff Writer

6. Eric & Tammy, Friday Night Lights. “While he out earns her and has the ‘high powered’ career, she never lets him put his first. She questions him and challenges him, and it looks like he hates it sometimes, but you know he picked her for a reason, and that gives you a huge amount of respect for him. Also, she uses her femininity in a very powerful traditionally Southern way, that I think has too often been dismissed by the feminist movement. See: this analysis.” —Meg, Editor-in-Chief


7. Miranda & Ben, Grey’s Anatomy. “Grey’s Anatomy is beyond absurd in its storylines, but I love that Shonda makes sure her marriages are respectful. I particularly love Miranda and Ben, because she is so very much the central character in their relationship and, well, because he is fine.” —Maddie, Digital Director

8. Rosemary & Dill, Easy A. “The parents in Easy A, forever.” —Emily, Contributor

9: Leslie & Ben, Parks and Rec. “They’re adorable, and also super supportive of each other’s careers. And the scene in the wedding episode where he (kiddingly) tells her that he wants her to take his last name is hilarious.” —Hayley, 2014 Writing Intern


10. Dre and Bow, BLACKISH“You see a lot of couples on TV who grapple with different personalities, but I really appreciate that Dre and Bow also deal with being a married couple who have different values systems and manage to stay on the same page. They grew up in different socioeconomic classes and use that to balance each other out. But sometimes the conversations they have with each other hit really close to home, and I appreciate the realness of that.” —Maddie, Digital Director

11. Morticia & Gomez, The Addams Family. “Because when do you ever see a couple in TV or movies who are so casual about their BDSM? (And so into each other.)” —Najva, Content Manager

12. Stef & Lena, The Fosters. “I would NEVER throw shade at the moms on The Fosters.” —Kelsey, 2014 Writing Intern

13. Brad & Jane, Happy Endings. “Sometimes it slipped a bit into the ‘uptight wife and laid back husband’ stereotype, but something about the spin they put on it, made it not bug me so much. They’re such a team. They are both super quirky but they support each other’s crazy antics so much. And they have all the sex.” —Hayley, 2014 Writing Intern

14. Lily & Marshall, How I Met Your Mother. “When I got married, I really need some positive married role models that I could look to (living in New York City meant the only people I knew who were married were executives in their fifties). Lily and Marshall were one of the first couples I saw on TV who acted like they actually loved each other, who maintained close relationships with friends, and who acknowledged the challenges that come after having kids. I also loved that Lily was the one who had to go find herself, and that Marshall was always more of the family man. Plus, Lily kept her last name and this exchange on the subject is my favorite.” —Maddie, Digital Director

Outlander 2014

15. Claire & Jaime, Outlanders. “To put it in Gabaldon’s own words, ‘A romance novel is a courtship story, period. Outlander books are story of a marriage.’ And they’re a story of a marriage in which Claire will have none of your patriarchal bullshit, thank you very much.” —Lucy, Contributor

Tell Us, APW, who Do you look to for long-term-love on the big and small screens? Which fictional relationships inspire you?

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