1) The Carterets from Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (1901): Philip and Olivia Carteret are not good people—he’s a proud white supremacist who helps orchestrate a racial massacre; she’s spent her whole life denying the existence and rights of her mixed race half-sister (that hottie Janet Miller from yesterday’s post). But Chesnutt’s novel is nothing if not complex and nuanced, particularly in its creation of multiple perspectives; and what the Carterets are very good at is caring deeply and powerfully about each other and then fragile young son. Hard to argue with those emotions, or any actions that are influenced by them.
2) Ántonia Shimerda and Anton Cuzak from Willa Cather’s My Ántonia (1918): It’s difficult to read Cather’s novel and not root for Jim Burden to end up with Ántonia. He doesn’t (spoiler alert), but it’s equally difficult not to be very happy when we meet Ántonia’s husband Anton in the novel’s closing Book. He complements Ántonia perfectly, and helps her create a family and home that finally do justice to her own strengths and character.
3) Sybil and Kelly Stone from The Family Stone (2005): There’s a lot to like about this zany family comedy, including great performances from a ton of impressive actors and actresses, but ultimately the movie works because at the heart of the chaos and conflict is a genuinely loving and committed couple, played to perfection by Diane Keaton and (surprisingly, at least to me) Craig T. Nelson. We have to believe that all their kids would want to come back to their home for Christmas every year, chaos notwithstanding—and we most definitely do.
4) Jin and Sun Kwon from Lost (2004-2010; that linked scene is a serious mini-spoiler for the show’s final episode): Unlike the other couples listed here, Jin and Sun had plenty of relationship problems—when we first met them she had been learning English behind his back in order to facilitate her leaving him, at least in part because he had been (without her knowledge) working as a hired killer for her gangster father. But over the course of the show’s six seasons, their bond and mutual dependence only deepened—ultimately bridging time and space in multiple, genuinely inspiring ways.
Some strong models to live up to, fictional as they may be! More tomorrow, a special post as the NEASA conference finally gets under way,