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Author Topic: The purpose of thwarted desire in Futurama  (Read 676 times)
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sparkybarky

Liquid Emperor
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« on: 09-03-2011 22:59 »

I've been wanting to post this topic for a while now. I've been wondering about the importance of desire is in Futurama. Now, before you start hearing porno soundtracks in your head or the wah-wah intro to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On," sex isn't what I'm talking about. And not even necessarily romance. What I mean is, it seems that in the "classic" episodes, the ones that aired before Futurama's run on Comedy Central, there was the pervasive thread of Fry's unrequited love for Leela. To me, "Time Keeps on Slipping" epitomizes the agony of Fry's thwarted desires. I will forever associate the slow whistle of "Sweet Georgia Brown" with complete heartbreak. And that episode is one of the ones that has made the most impression on me. Not necessarily because it was all that funny, or had a riveting story, or what have you. I was just so moved by Fry coming so close to getting the one thing he really, really wanted (a relationship with Leela), and having that opportunity literally destroyed.

And no, I'm not a shipper, for the sake of shippiness. I guess you can say I root for Fry and Leela, but that's because I like their characters so much, and the chemistry between them makes a romance plausible (but not like that has been depicted at all in this season).

But unrequited love and, more broadly speaking, the quest for something that looms so large in a character's psyche has always intrigued me. e.g., Pip yearning for Estella in Great Expectations, but she would never have him. Harry Potter's  longing to know his mother and father but of course, that was impossible. Wild Bill Munny's quest to kill the violent cowboys and collect the reward money in Unforgiven.

The drive to attain the desired object has fueled novels, plays, movies, TV shows, operas, real people's lives. So, I'm wondering, without the element of Fry's unrequited, thwarted love, is that part of the reason why some perceive the show as declining? That somehow, the "wind has gone out of the sails?"  Has an element of tension and suspense been taken away, now that Leela and Fry have some kind of relationship (reportedly, not like the viewers have been shown it at all).

(I do realize that lots of PEELers have other, major gripes with the current show, like the writing is perceived as sloppier, the humor crude and "South Park-ish", thought-provoking storylines are missing, etc.)
coldangel

DOOP Secretary
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« Reply #1 on: 09-04-2011 01:58 »

I don't really think it's slipped that much.
The problem is just that nothing will ever match up to the rose-tinted recollection that is nostalgia.

You're talking about the literary construct of character motivation. There's more than just 'getting the girl'. If that was all there was to it, then the show would be a bland one-dimensional romantic comedy. It's not. It's a sci-fi comedy.

That being said, it could use a more encompassing plot thread or two. Something that extends beyond the single-episode stories. This doesn't have to be the same old 'yearning for the girl's affection' bit. I say they ought to bring back the Brainspawn and have them serve as an ongoing antagonist that the show's everyman antihero must defeat.
sparkybarky

Liquid Emperor
**
« Reply #2 on: 09-04-2011 02:57 »

You're talking about the literary construct of character motivation. There's more than just 'getting the girl'. If that was all there was to it, then the show would be a bland one-dimensional romantic comedy. It's not. It's a sci-fi comedy.

"Character motivation"--yes, thank you for articulating succinctly some of what I was trying to say.

But...and I was really struggling to make my meaning clear in  my post...no, I'm not just talking about romantic desire, though Fry's love for Leela is the most obvious example of what I'm getting at. I'm talking about yearning for the unknowable, the unattainable. Like, Leela's desire to know where she came from, who her parents were, where she belongs. That provided some tension and suspense to the show.

This story was limited to just one episode. but I'm also thinking of Bender haranguing Bubble Gum Tate to let him be a Globetrotter, and he was rejected again and again.

I guess I'm talking about the "what if" and "if only" scenarios that can dominate a person's thoughts until it borders on obsession. Unrequited or unfulfilled love is just a prime example of that, but there's also examples like, a botched college career or screwing up a sweet job opportunity.

Eh, I don't know if these thoughts really warrants an entire thread.
i_c_weiner

DOOP Secretary
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« Reply #3 on: 09-04-2011 06:44 »

Maybe five of the episodes of this 26 episode production season deal with their relationship in some regard. The first, Rebirth, directly precedes an episode where they go back to on-again-off-again in which Leela and Zapp re-nastify. Then you have The Late Philip J. Fry, where they seem to have more of an "on" relationship, but there's still a degree of Fry having to fight to get in the door. Then The Prisoner of Benda and The Mutants Are Revolting deal with one or both being turned off by the other's (and moreso Leela being turned off by Fry's) changed physical state. Then came Overclockwise, where Fry still seemed to be fighting, and the story's ending was less a "resolution to being a relationship" and more akin to how The Why of Fry or Devil's Hands ended: there's some resolution to the plot, but no definite status of their relationship is established.

The episode is meant to be taken two ways just like Devil's Hands and Green Yonder are supposed to be taken. You can view it as a series finale, in which case Fry and Leela live happily ever after upon Leela seeing Fry struggle to create music for her from his heart/Fry going out of his way to save her/their future being told to them. Or you can view it as a season finale, in which case Fry and Leela (moreso Leela) realize that the relationship can work out and that it's worth a shot... or they could just say, "Screw the future that was told, I can be whatever I want to do," and future episodes can just act like the last scene never happened and return to the tension-rich formula for which the classic run was known.
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