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You’re Bad, I’m Bad, And That’s Okay: What Netflix’s Love taught us about relationships

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Love is the brainchild of Judd Apatow, of 40-Year-Old Virgin fame, Girls staff writer Lesley Arfin, and Paul Rust, who co-stars in Love alongside the acute and talented Gillian Jacobs. Their offering is as refreshing as it is confronting.

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix

Together, Mickey Dobbs and Gus Cruikshank haphazardly navigate the waters of a modern relationship in LA, replete with painful self-awareness and a bored, upper-middle class white affluence that is sort of relatable if you squint.

Beneath the surface, however, there is insight to be gleaned.

Mickey is the cool girl, unattainable and scary. She always has a cigarette on-hand, irreverently refers to everyone as “dude” and has cool friends, attends cool parties and does cool things. She’s also someone most people would avoid on the basis that they were “too much”. She’s impulsive and destructive and hurts people in her life as a result.

Gus is kind and straight-edge; he’s wholesome, has ambition and strong support network of friends. He’s also down on his luck and impotent in nearly every area of his life. He’s professionally unfulfilled, recently single as a result of his cloying relationship energy, and approaches all of his relationships in life with doormat kindness.

Love does a great job of endearing us to Gus initially, and we root for him, as much as we’re suspicious of Mickey. But then Love does something interesting: it turns these appearances of their heads.

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix

Everybody loves to hate Mickey. She's selfish and hurts the people in her life. She hurts Gus on several occasions, including cheating on him. She has an awesome job that she initially doesn’t really care about. She curates daytime outfits from swimwear and t-shirts borrowed from boys and embodies an unselfconscious cool, which masks the fact that she's often unpleasant.

But on the other hand, she’s honest. She challenges the damaging myths of the ‘sexy depressive’ and the ‘cool girl’. Mickey knows her flaws and is open about them. She admits she has issues, and makes steps towards addressing them by attending SLAA meetings, embracing sobriety and keeping an open dialogue with those in her life. Mickey also knows how to be vulnerable: she’s a self-confessed addict and is honest with herself and others when it comes to her bad behaviour.

Gus thinks he’s a nice guy, and we were with him on that. He genuinely cares about his friends, his dedication to his job is admirable, and he doesn’t, on the surface, go out of his way to hurt anybody. But Gus is Mickey’s mirror with bad behaviour. He breaks Mickey’s sobriety to her father in an effort to bond with him, which suggests that he cares more about appearances rather than being there as a supportive boyfriend. He thinks he’s owed something by the world, which is clear when he frustratedly throws a laptop across the room in work in response to being challenged on his ideas. He’s also manipulative, lying to Mickey about past relationships in an effort to gloss over his flaws and using her as an excuse to his parents for not wanting to think about a family yet, rather than just admitting that it’s him who has issues with responsibility and commitment.

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix

Anyone who’s had a relationship knows that when a break-up happens, borders are drawn and sides are picked. People are either wholly good, or wholly bad. What’s interesting about Love is that by the end of the series, we are encouraged to be neither Team Mickey or Team Gus.

Although they have problems, they grow together, knowing each other’s flaws and working around them. There’s a tendency when we are presented with a relationship, particularly on-screen, to make judgements on people’s behaviour. We say to our friends: “They should have done this, rather than this”, “I would never have behaved that way in the same situation” or “I would just leave them.”

Love, like its characters, is flawed. But that’s what’s so great about it. Modern day relationships aren’t perfect. We aren’t the carefully curated cut-outs we present as on social media. We behave badly, we make decisions that we regret, we learn. It’s time we embraced Mickey’s self-awareness, and tempered it with Gus’ good intentions, and realised that in the process, we’re probably going to act badly. The main thing is to accept responsibility and learn from it, and try to judge others less along the way.

Love seasons 1 - 3 are streaming now on Netflix

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