It’s Valentine’s Day, and while many people are looking at romantic movies or best fictional couples, here at Elementary Politics we thought we’d do something a little different and look not at necessary the happiest or cutest couples, but the couples we should all aspire to be. The couples where their relationship causes both members not just to be a better person just for themselves but in a way that make the whole world around them a better place. Yes, we may love Jim and Pam on The Office, and we may find Zoe and Wash from Firefly to be unquestionably adorable, and pre-Capaldi there was nothing that could make our hearts melt like the Doctor and River. But in none of these cases were the romantic relationship really driving them to not just be better people but to make the world a better place.
So here are our criteria: (1) The couple has to be fictional, otherwise John and Abigail Adams are the perfect couple in all ways and we’d have to go on about them for page after page after page.
(2) Both members of the couple have to be driven to make the world a better place with their relationship reinforcing that—we may all love Westly and Buttercup, but he was a badass to start out with and she’s kind of useless (I hate to say because I do love the movie, but she really is just a damsel in distress and not much more). This is a key point because while our own personal happiness and the happiness of our significant other should be primary goals of our lives (and then the happiness of our children), there is a simple fact that no man is an island unto himself. We are social creature and while fiction likes to show us individuals whose lives are happy just in their own little circle, the fact is that few of us ever reach that full Aristotelean Happiness unless we work not just for the betterment of our own lives or the lives of those around us, but for the world as a whole. If we don’t feel like we’ve accomplished something that leaves the world a better place than we found it, there is always some small part of our lives that seems missing. Further it has to be that both push the other (so Robin Hood and Marion is out because Robin Hood was already a hero).
(3) They have to be in each other’s lives for a good portion of their lives. Yes Ilsa and Rick both drive each other to be better than they would be, but they don’t end up together, so they’re out.
So what do we have in terms of couples that define the kind of relationships that drive both member to improve the world around them, in other words the kind we really should want. Regrettably since the Adam’s are out for not being fictional, we seldom see great couples who use their love for each other to push them to make the world a better place, as more often than not this is always on the small scale in real life and seldom shown on the silver or small screen in anything but overblown situations, but that’s what we have to go with—and with tyranny on the rise the world over, we have more than a few overblown situations to work with in our own lives.
Honestly these are going to be a little short on details because these are shows and movies that should be watched.
#9 Ethan Chandler and Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful
Vanessa: Let it end. With a kiss.
Ethan: With a kiss. With love.
Vanessa: With love.
Facing the forces of evil you often need a significant other to rely on, lean on, and in some cases offer you a release. This is the saddest entry here, but with the exception of #2 and #1 it’s probably the one that makes me cry the most. Both these characters are deeply flawed, deeply tormented by their own sins and demons, but together they create a line which the forces of darkness cannot cross. Even if the price is a high one.
#8 George and Mary Bailey, It’s A Wonderful Life
Yes, we don’t think about It’s A Wonderful Life outside of the Christmas season much, but the Bailey’s are obviously a couple whose love does drive each other to make the world a much better place. That they’ve made the world a better place is the central point of the film, so it’s not too hard to establish this point. And that it is their love for each other that drives them is also pretty easy to establish, without George Mary’s life was that of a rather useless librarian in a town that clearly had no use for knowledge, and without Mary we know that George would have just bummed around on cargo ships and probably never actually amounted to much.
As to being a perfect couple, there are simply too many instances in the movie to list to deal with how perfect their relationship is. But if you feel the need to point out something, while George questions just about every aspect of his life on a regular basis he never questions Mary.
#7 Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls, Veronica Mars
Until the release of the eponymous film this couple would not have been included, but as the theatrical release did the right thing and reestablished these two as the couple they were meant to be they get included. As with our last couple their improvements to the world are more locally based, but similar in effect that they are often working against corrupt local figures. It is all too clear from the ups and downs of the show that they are both at their best when they’re together (and usually at their most self destructive when apart). They consistently bring out the best in each other, and have some of the cutes banter in modern cinema. The only flaw here is that unless there is another film they still are in the middle of their collective fight against the corruption in their town and have yet to actually succeed.
#6 Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man Series
How can you not love a pair or married smartasses who solve crimes for fun? Such is the genius of The Thin Man movies. William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora are always a delightful pair who seem to overcome any problem and any mystery with grace and wit… Although the hilarity might have something to with the truly obscene amounts of alcohol they consume in between solving crimes. And they do drive each to be better—Nick would be a drunken lazy lout if Nora didn’t prod him, Nora would constantly be getting herself killed if Nick wasn’t there to constantly save her.
#5 Oliva Dunham and Peter Bishop, Fringe
Trying to save two separate universes and stop a takeover by tyrants from the future is unquestionably on the side of making the world a better place. And how many couples can say they broke the barriers of the universe and even defied getting deleted from existence to ensure they stayed together.
#4 Lord & Lady Blakely from The Scarlet Pimpernel
Now I have always loved the original book The Scarlet Pimpernel and while some may like older versions I have always loved Richard E. Grant’s interpretation of the original hero pretending to be a worthless playboy (yes, the character predates Bruce Wayne and Don Diego de la Vega). I prefer the A&E/BBC from the 1990’s version with Grant as Percy Blakely and Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Marguerite Blakely because the
miniseries focuses a little more on their relationship after Marguerite learns who her husband really is. The constant fighting between the two (both for show and for real) is endlessly adorable and only out done by their moments of tenderness. This might seem an odd inclusion, but if you know the story you know the relationship of Lord & Lady Blakely is always taking center stage with the swashbuckling as the secondary plot point. And you have to love that together they work to destroy the forces of the French Revolution.
#3 Emma Swann and Kilian Jones
On their own: A loner and a pirate. Together they are saviors of the world they live in. Cross dimensions, go to hell and back, defeat gods and sorcerers, face absolute evil. All in the day of fighting for your true love in a fairy tale. They are constantly tempted to fall but since season 3 they have been center of the show, and the reason to believe in true love and it’s redemptive power (because god knows Rumple is constantly disappointing us).
#2 Clark Kent and Lois Lane (DCU)
“You are my world.”
The pictures really do say it all, but while both could be great without the other, together this version of the characters created by Cavill and Adams is one of the most touching that has ever been brought to this iconic pair.
#1 Delenn and John Sheridan
Delenn: I have been monitoring the situation and I would like to make a request.
Capt. John Sheridan: Ambassador, we can’t allow anyone off this station.
Delenn: I would like to be allowed into the isolation zone. I have already spoken with Ambassador F’shar and he’s willing to allow us entry.
Capt. John Sheridan: Why?
Delenn: They’re in pain. Frightened. Dying. Minbari are taught that at such a time, the afflicted should be ministered to, comforted.
Capt. John Sheridan: They’re not your own people, Delenn.
Delenn: I did not realize similarity was required for the exercise of compassion. They are afraid. We wish only to do what we can.
Capt. John Sheridan: We?
Delenn: Lennier has asked to accompany me.
Capt. John Sheridan: Delenn, I cannot allow this…
Delenn: I understand the risks, Captain. If the disease is limited only to the Markab, then we will only have a short time to help. But if it is not, then we must give comfort because, very soon, we would require it ourselves.
Capt. John Sheridan: You will be exposing yourself to massive contamination! If I let you into that isolation zone, I… I can’t let you out again.
Delenn: I know.
Capt. John Sheridan: Okay. I’ll tell Security to let you through.
Delenn: [Delenn touches Sheridan’s hand] Thank you. Don’t look away, Captain. All life is transitory. A dream. We all come together in the same place at the end of time. If I do not see you again here, I will see you in a little while in the place where no shadows fall.
Capt. John Sheridan: [as Delenn walks away] Delenn. When I do see you again, call me John.
The ultimate power couple. Not only do they fight tyranny and genocide on multiple fronts and bring liberty to the entire galaxy. But in amongst all that is one of the most touching and supportive relationship in any TV show.
So this Valentine’s Day remember to lean on the important person in your life as we try to make the world a better place.