Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Whole Package

Following on vaguely from last week's themes of marriage and equality, today I would like to talk about why I believe Rick O'Connell and Evelyn Carnahan (later Carnahan O'Connell*) from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns** are cinema's most perfect couple***.

I'll start off by admitting that I love these movies so I might be a bit biased. I essentially wrote every single one of my university essays with these two movies on a constant loop in the background to keep me from flipping out or leaving the room.
But despite my almost Stockholm Syndrome level of regard for them as entertainment, I maintain that the points I am about to make stand on their own.

Why Rick O'Connell And Evelyn Carnahan/Carnahan O'Connell Are Cinema's Most Perfect Couple by Ricochet, age 28

  • They're Not Perfect And They Get To Stay That Way.
    When we meet Rick and Evie, Rick is a jaded and disillusioned soldier who doesn't have the best of luck and Evie despite her academic achievements hasn't achieved much success or regard and is somewhat unworldly. This is a fairly normal introduction to people involved in a romantic movie storyline but what isn't entirely normal is their continuing characterisation. They each have their own areas of knowledge, skill, insecurity and ignorance that form their personalities and their relationship isn't shown to artificially fix or negate these the way a lot of movie relationships seem to. They get to keep their imperfections as well as their strengths and therefore get to keep their personalities. They're not 'fixed' now that they're in a relationship, they're just in a relationship.

  • They Are Self-possessed Enough To Stand By Their Own Convictions And Don't Back Down Or Defer To Each Other During Arguments.
    They don't always agree and when they disagree they do so vocally and confidently. There's no hushing up to avoid trouble or condescending false agreements, they stick to their guns. For the purposes of the movie this was done for drama and comedic effect but in terms of a relationship it is a healthy airing of emotions and shows that they are individuals who are determined to have their say. There is compromise and sometimes they agree to follow one person's suggestion rather than the other but there's none of the simpering or suppressed fuming that is usually put forward as normal in heterosexual relationships.

  • They Aren't Afraid To Show Fear, Vulnerability Or Doubt In Front Of Each Other.
    When things are going completely bonkers-nuts-bad, Rick feels free to look completely terrified and admit that he has no idea if they're going to live, there's no putting on a false front of bravado in order to impress anyone. When their son is in danger the second movie they both show a completely understandable level of fear and concern. This allows an emotional honesty and a deep connection that gives them the opportunity to support each other. When Rick grieves in The Mummy Returns it feels very natural and honest.

  • They Respect Each Others' Individual Strengths And Don't Harp On At Each Other About Individual Failings.
    Rick is good at general jumping around, heavy lifting, navigation, reading situations and getting them out of tough spots. Evie is good at translating, problem solving, archaeology, thinking under pressure and prioritising. They're both good at other things but I'm having a nice lazy generalise here. The point is that they each play to their strengths and don't start yelling at each other when the other person doesn't share the same level of competency in every situation. They complement each other and in The Mummy Returns we get to see that they have managed to build a life together that allows them both to do what they're best at, neither of them having to give that up in order to allow the other partner to follow their interests.

  • They Maintain A Passionate And Romantic Love For Each Other Even After Years Of Marriage And Raising A Child.
    One 'trick' I really despise in movies is the '1st movie has a happy ending, 2nd movie opens up with bickering and recriminations and over the course of the 2nd movie they learn to love each other again' ploy. It's annoying, it feels lazy and it teaches kids that no matter how much you love a person, you'll eventually end up screeching at and belittling each other. They didn't pull that trick with The Mummy Returns and I will always love them for it. After at least 10 years of marriage Rick and Evie still love each other and still treat each other as individuals. They don't swap between being people who are in love to parents when they interact with their child, they are those same people who just happen to be parents. It's the most hope-inspiring depiction of having a relationship and a family and still getting to have a distinct identity that I have seen in mainstream cinema.
    True getting to have athletic battles with intruders/aggressors interspersed with public and genuine declarations of affection add a bit of spice and aren't everyone's experience (except in The Incredibles, also a great movie) but their dynamic remains good.

  • They're Ready To Risk Everything To Save And Protect Each Other And Their Family.
    Rick and Evie have their priorities all sorted out. They travel, they have work they love, they have an insanely nice house and a slightly annoying precocious son. And when someone tries to threaten their family, they don't give a damn that their nice house has been shot to shit, they drop everything and they rally together to protect their loved ones.

  • They Don't Selfishly Protect Their Knowledge/Specialities.
    In The Mummy Returns we get to see Evie kicking fairly impressive amounts of ass and wielding a sword in a fairly competent fashion because Rick cares enough about her to teach her how to defend herself. We get to see Rick involved in and more knowledgeable about Egyptian lore, history and archaeology because Evie has shared her passion with him. Instead of keeping their strengths to themselves so that they have 'one thing that they're good at that the other person needs them for' (something that can unfortunately be seen in far too many real life relationships), they offer their skills and knowledge to each other in order to expand each others' experience and capabilities.

  • They're Able To Function Separately And Confidently Without Each Other When They Need To.
    When they have to split up to get things done they do, no questions asked. They don't shilly-shally, there's no screaming or wailing or hesitating. They aren't co-dependent and that is something that is rarely explicitly demonstrated. Even though they ultimately are trying to reunite, they aren't scrambling to get back together because they are freaking out or can't manage without each other which seems to be the case with many action or action/comedy or even romantic/comedy couples.

  • They Love Each Other.
    This might seem a fairly 'well duh' thing to say but the amount of movie couples who only seem to get together as wish fulfilment for the audience, whose only points of compatibility are artificially created by the crisis they've endured together are the ones who end up bickering in the sequel. Rick and Evie have inherent similarities and compatibilities that are demonstrated before they met and which are brought out during their shared crisis. And once the crisis is gone, they still love each other. I mean look at them!
    Who rubs their nose on somebody else's nose if they don't love them!?
    Nobody that's who.

I rest my case!

*See? Even Evie kept her original surname in her name after marriage!

**I don't include The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor because I have thus far refused to watch it. No Rachel Weisz, no my eyeballs. You're probably lovely, Maria Bello, but you are not Evie!

***In the category of movies that I've seen and can remember right now at this very minute.

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