There’s been a lot of talk, and a lot written, by writers more articulate than me, about the ways in which fiction that explores love and relationships as a theme is often written off as lightweight or somehow not worthy of closer intellectual consideration. As a writer of what has been termed ‘women’s fiction’ by the industry, with three novels to my name, I do feel somewhat qualified to enter into this debate, though, and poke the hornet’s nest a little. So, since I’m currently very invested in the Netflix/Marvel series Daredevil, let’s use that as an example.
I’ve been watching Daredevil over the Easter holidays. It’s been a treat, once the children have crashed out in bed, to sit down, click the button and watch an episode or two of an evening. At first glance, you might think that this is just another show about a good guy who punches bad people, but give it a few minutes and you realise it’s a bit more complicated than that. And the reason it’s more complicated, and thus more emotionally engaging, is because, actually, Daredevil isn’t about a blind guy who brings in villains; it’s about him, and his friends, lovers and enemies, and the relationships. The fact the he, Matt Murdock, also rounds up New York’s bad guys is almost incidental.
Daredevil is a story about love; the love between friends (S1, Ep 10 Nelson vs Murdock), friends to lovers (S2, episode 5), the love of a man for his city (pretty much all of it), family and parental love (take your pick of the Jack Murdock scenes) and everything in between, with some action scenes thrown in to remind you that Matt Murdock is an awesome superhero.
So many wonderful scenes play on the theme of relationships in this series. A couple of the most arresting, for me, have been the final few minutes of S1 Ep 10, Nelson vs Murdock, when Foggy Nelson realises best friend Matt has been lying to him all along about who he is, and exactly what his condition entails. To see two such great actors bringing life and emotion to the breakdown of these characters was a heart wrenching treat.
My current OTP (about a third of the way into S2 so far) is the cutely named ‘KareDevil’ (aka Karen Page and Matt Murdock). There are so many good scenes to reference including the great ‘pool table at Josie’s’ scene in S2 Ep 1, which builds the romantic tension between Karen and Matt to a real sizzle.There is something so incredibly charming about the way their relationship has grown; the subtleties in their body language and the slow burn of their developing love for each other that just makes my heart sing. Matt might have done that classic superhero thing and saved her life in the first episode, but since then it’s been more about their growing trust, friendship and love after that. There was no better example for the angst lover in me than at the end of S1 Ep 12, when he breaks down in tears in her arms (caution, watching this might make you cry, too!):
I think I might have let this investment in them as a couple slip a couple of times to my husband while we’ve been watching, as, last night, when the first proper kiss happened, he turned to me and simply said ‘there you go.’ I squeaked a bit; I admit it!
And there’s the rub. All fiction, if it’s good fiction, deals with relationships; functional, dysfunctional, perfect, imperfect, conflicted or calm, good fiction deals with them all, whether it’s tagged as ‘romance’ or ‘chicklit’ or ‘women’s fiction’ or, and here’s a radical concept, ‘fiction’. I’ve often referred to myself as a hopeless romantic, and a die hard shipper, whatever I happen to be watching. If it’s got a pairing, and sometimes if it hasn’t, I’ll find it and get invested in it. Does that make me less of a person for admitting it? And by marketing my fiction as dealing explicitly with relationships, often romantic ones, does that make me less of a writer?
So, I suppose what I’m saying in this post really is that all fiction has its relationships, otherwise readers and viewers wouldn’t get invested in the characters. Daredevil might not, at first glance, strike anyone as a romance (just look at the colour coding in the placeholders on the Netflix app and that’s obvious), but in my eyes that’s just what it is, even though Netflix wouldn’t market it as such in a million years. It’s about a man, at the end of the day, who happens to punch bad guys, but who is going through the agony and ecstasy of learning to love and trust after tragedy and loss. And that’s the way I shall continue to read it.
If you’d like to read a novel or three, here’s where to find them: https://amzn.to/2Iu2vt6