greenie_breizh: (<3)
[personal profile] greenie_breizh
OK this time I will spare you the ramble unless you want to look at it, so yay lj-cut! This is about Vanessa and Zac and how their story - what we see of it in public anyway - overlaps the high school sweethearts ideal of what love looks like. And just so we're clear - this is not about anything I've seen anyone or the fandom in general do, it's about the bigger picture and the kind of meanings that we as a Western society put onto relationships.

You can't possibly have missed that I've been paying more and more attention to Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens lately. Beyond my growing interest in both of them as individuals, there's something about the two of them together that's really grabbed my attention. I honestly have a difficult time understanding how people can think they don't genuinely love each other because you only need to watch them together to see it in their eyes. I'm not even being corny – there are countless of pictures out there where one is watching the other and there's pride and love on their face and demeanor to an extent that I think it'd be hard to manufacture it so often, in so many circumstances, in so many small ways. These two kids really, really, really care about each other. (I'm annoyed because I can't remember where I saw this awesome picspam of them looking at each other but this gif is a pretty good example.)

One interesting narrative about Zac and Vanessa is that they embody the perfect couple. They're rich, they're beautiful, they're successful, they've been together for four years, they started going out before they were 18. They're, of course, a heterosexual couple. They're – in appearance anyway – the very image of young love that we like to read about, that we put into movies, that we idolize, over and over again. And I struggle to find a way to express how much I love them as a couple, and how genuine they seem to be about their love and support for each other, and the fact that I have very little patience for young forever love as a cultural narrative.

I have nothing against young love per se. I think it's wonderful for two people to find each other and be happy with each other and to stay happy with each other for the rest of their life. I don't necessarily agree that you have to have lots of experiences before you settle down, that you're missing out if you only sleep with one person, etc. Sometimes it can be really stupid to settle down too fast, but basically young love is a neutral thing to me - it could wrong, it could go right. I think if you're in a committed relationship where the two partners respect and love each other and are mature about the relationship, you can grow together, you can help each other grow and you can support the other in being themselves. It doesn't have to be about disappearing and losing your individuality in the relationship. The thing is, though – it's a very rare thing for all of these elements to come together, for two people to find each other at the right time, to grow together but also in different directions without growing apart. It's extraordinary – literally – when it happens, and if it works for both partners, it's an amazing thing. But not only is it a rare occurrence, it's also not right for everyone.

What I dislike about the vision of young love that tends to dominate public discourse is that it's idealized. It's treated as something everyone should want, should wish for. It's wrapped up in ideas that we have about monogamy and commitment and true love and purity that get continually shored up as an ideal. It's often framed, consciously or not, as the better way to be. The problem with that is that not only is it ridiculous because it's so unlikely most of us could ever find that, but it also automatically diminishes other forms of pairing. It automatically makes people feel like failures when their relationship doesn't work out, or when they realize monogamy isn't for them, or when they haven't found someone to spend their lives with by the time they're 25, 30, 35. To a certain extent, it diminishes non-traditional couples, too, including same-sex couples... although interestingly enough a large part of the LGBT civil rights movement in the past decade or so has been about appropriating that dominant narrative to say, look, we're like you. We too have young love, we too have couples who have been together 50 billion years, etc. And I'm not more of a fan of that, but that's another rant.

Again, I think it's amazing when it happens – and that's partly because I personally see a lot of beauty in the ability to be a team with someone (someones), to work together and to learn how to grow with someone. But that's the thing about dominant cultural stories – I may think it's great on a personal level, but I keep feeling like every time I say it, every time I get super happy and excited about V and Z and how they are the cutest thing on earth (and they kind of are, let's face it), I'm adding my little pebble to this ridiculous mountain of promoting young heterosexual monogamous love over everything else.

Ultimately, for me, there is something inescapably different about celebrating a couple that's inherently everything society wants you to support, and celebrating the ones that are not. Just like I keep feeling that, in countries where marriage equality doesn't exist, it's not the same to call your civil partner your husband/wife depending on whether they're the same sex as you or not. If you're an opposite-sex couple, the speech act reinforces the status quo – because he/she could be your husband/wife, and nobody is going to question that. If you're a same-sex couple, that same speech act challenges the heteronormative system, it's an act of reclamation. I don't really think of same-sex marriage as the end all be all of the fight for LGBT civil rights, but it's still partially a radical act.

I realize that it's different, by the way, if you're talking personal life. Aka I don't feel conflicted about being extremely happy about my straight friends finding a partner they love and are happy with. Z and V is a different story to me because it's not just personal – their story, for better and for worse, is partially lived out in public and as such it plays into the construction of a broader public discourse. They're publicized and for the most part admired in a way that no non-heterosexual, non-monogamous long-term celebrity young couple is. Nor, I think, could be. (Who knows if there is even such a thing out there, but I think we would be surprised.)

It's not like I refrain from gushing about them a lot, a number of you know that. It's not that I think it's wrong to gush and love/admire them. I just feel ambivalent sometimes about loving such a straight couple, in every sense of the word and making it known, because I'm aware it's not just about me liking to see these two kids who are deeply in love with each other, it's about power dynamics and cultural meanings.

That's partly why I love every time one of them comes out and says they're not thinking about kids, marriage, any of that. I love that there is no doubt in anyone's mind that they've been sleeping together for a while (those in doubt, watch this video at 3:10 when Monique says they - the cast, of course - had a lot of firsts together). To the extent that it was something she did in private and should not have ever been shared publicly, I even like that Vanessa sent sexy pictures of herself - not that I think all girls should do that, but I like the obvious way that it jams the narrative of pure hetero perfection. And btw - I think the ridiculous amount of criticism and hate and shame that others put onto her for doing that is not unrelated to the way in which these photos destabilize the image of young love as immaculate commitment. I mean calling her a slut considering she's been with the same boy for over 4 years is really funny (in a headdesk kind of way) when you think about it, because it makes no sense, so there's obviously a more subtle version of the slut discourse at work here. Similarly Zac's quote about not wanting to get married before he's 40 (which sometimes I think means forever for him, lol) makes me happy because it is what society frames as the necessary next step to show that you are really in love and committed. But that's crap because you don't actually need the institution of marriage to be in love and committed.

My point is that I like that for all that their story is so perfect in so many respects, in some ways they're also resisting some of the cultural discourses around them and their story as perfect young love. That's also why I like that they don't talk about their relationship much, that there's none of that purity ring bullshit, that they don't comment on being each other's forever. They might be, and they might believe it, and they might tell each other that, but that's all pretty irrelevant at this point. What I like is that in public, they appear to be in love, but it's all in looks and gestures, they're not actually feeding the narrative of young forever love. It's their story, their personal private journey, and I can respect a whole lot that they try to keep it that as much as is possible when they're both under so much public scrutiny.

I'm not sure where I was going with this, to be honest, but these thoughts have been floating around in my head and I wanted to try and order them somewhat. I have a lot of growing respect and admiration for these two young adults, and part of that is how they've handled their relationship. Four years is a long time for most of us, and I can't imagine doing it with cameras following me everywhere, with people ready to start rumors at any occasion. There is undoubtedly something to be said about the way they have stuck with each other through so much, through the rise to fame, through the end of their teenage years, through Vanessa's nude scandal (insert eyeroll), and through much more that we don't know about. I just want to say that without incidentally making it about how this is what we should all dream of, about how this, an exact version of that, is what we want for our kids. It's one beautiful story, but there are many, many others out there, most of which we never hear about. And what we really should wish for our kids is for them to be happy, whatever that means for them.

As much as I hope that they continue to be happy together for a long time (as it seems to be what makes them happy), I think if they ever break up it won't diminish for one second what they had. It won't diminish their relationship, and it won't touch the way they smile at each other, look at each other, support each other, and love each other today. It won't make it any less beautiful or any less amazing. I wish we would think more about how the important thing is to be happy – to look back at a relationship, whether you're still in it or not, and be able to say, yeah, I was happy. I had an amazing time. How long it lasted, how many people were involved, what gender they were, what the rules were – that's not as important, or rather it's going to work differently for different people. But being happy, whatever that looks like for the people around us, I think maybe that's something we can strive for and hope for, and something that doesn't have to involuntarily reinforce dominant ideals of what happiness looks like.

And maybe ultimately that's really what I love about Z and V, far beyond anything else. They make each other happy.

Date: 2009-10-10 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] littlegothsin.livejournal.com
I totally love how you messed up the lj cut there like hello inconscious who want us all the read that XD

In any case, I find this entry quite amazing, because I have a lot of stuff in my head about relationship, some that I feel emotionally that clashes with what I think intellectually, some that I'm still struggling with and all I have terrible difficulty expressing.

Like I love threesome in fiction, and ok more recently I've been thinking about why, and no it's not in the hot!threesome!sex, but about an actual loving relationship involving three persons. I love how that what's implied somewhere at the end the 1st season of Doctor Who. Sure it's never sexual, never even romantic (not even between Rose and the Doctor at this point), but that definitely love, and it's a tiny part of the season but I absolutely love it, because it's so rare.
I have actually no idea if a threesome could work in a long term relationship. Not saying it can't, I just have no idea. But still for me it's like this example among many of an different way of loving that the one usually shoved in our faces, and well, I love the idea.

That got totally out of subject here, didn't it ? But yeah, I like what you wrote about relationships. That's basically what I wanted to see here, I just had to include geeky references.

Date: 2009-10-10 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
LOL I noticed and tried to fix it right away, but yeah, I guess it was a subliminal message :p (unrelated note: this east coast thing is weird, by this time in Vancouver it should be near impossible for French peeps to comment on my LJ!)

I sort of had the same discussion with myself regarding relationships with more than one person. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it myself but I really like the idea of it. I particularly like the idea of understanding family as a broader term, something that can include far more than bio-mom and bio-dad. At the same time though I don't like the attitude you see on some people who do practice polyamory like it's fundamentally better. I really think to each their own, except of course it's easier to say that when "your own" matches what society approves of...

Anyway, I'm glad you liked the entry. I wasn't entirely sure where I was going with this sometimes, and I didn't want to sound offensive or dismissive or whatever. But I really wanted to write it because it's been sort of a strange experience getting so excited about this hetero couple that (involuntarily) embodies so many things that bother me on a political level. Damn hegemony. ;)

Date: 2009-10-10 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] littlegothsin.livejournal.com
And they're stuff you wrote, the parts that are or should be obvious like that " I personally see a lot of beauty in the ability to be a team with someone (someones), to work together and to learn how to grow with someone." Which is an beautiful definition of relationship.

And this part there "It won't make it any less beautiful or any less amazing. I wish we would think more about how the important thing is to be happy – to look back at a relationship, whether you're still in it or not, and be able to say, yeah, I was happy. I had an amazing time. How long it lasted, how many people were involved, what gender they were, what the rules were – that's not as important, or rather it's going to work differently for different people. But being happy, whatever that looks like for the people around us, I think maybe that's something we can strive for and hope for, and something that doesn't have to involuntarily reinforce dominant ideals of what happiness looks like." (and that's very long for me to be quoting back at you sorry) and well I have no experience at all in relationships which always makes me feel insecure about talking about the subject, but still, it's beautiful. I see and hear about so much bitterness, drama, and sadness over relationships that ended, for whatever the reasons, and I actually never though of that, like that.

I also just discovered it's actually late here, and I'm not that coherent anymore (rather, even less than usual), so I'm gonna stop and try to get myself to bed. There way to many levels to discuss in your entry and times zones are bitches. (I'm still actually living in Iceland time, way to not be able to deal with 2 tiny hours me)

Date: 2009-10-11 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
Thank you :) The part about being a team sometimes I struggle with in the sense that I think it's a tough balance between that and still feeling like you can make decisions for yourself. Does that make sense? Like a friend who recently got divorced was saying, it feels so good to be able to make decisions on my own again. And I feel like that shouldn't have to be contradictory with being in a relationship.

For the second quote, that might actually be one of the parts of this post that matters most to me. I hate to think that if these two ever break up, all we're going to hear is how things had been going bad for a while and they never belonged together anyway and Zac is too good for her and he never really loved her and whatever else some people are already saying except with more righteousness because they'll feel the break-up validates their theory. But the truth is sometimes things don't work out and it's OK. I hate that we're incapable of imagining break-ups without drama, and that the break-up becomes the defining point of the relationship. Like because the relationship didn't last forever, it loses all its worth. It's stupid. Alice and I didn't work out but I look back at the time that we spent together and I had a great time with her, it was amazing and yet clearly this wasn't meant to be forever... but I'm completely at peace with that. I see Zac and Vanessa and it looks like they're amazingly happy together and have been for a while and I hope they always remember that, no matter what happens. You're right, there's too much bitterness and drama and sadness, and I can understand it sometimes, but I think it's also because we're so obsessed with the fact that relationships have to work out, otherwise it's a failure. I think if you two were happy there's no reason to only remember it as a failure.

You're pretty coherent to me! I love talking after I've posted because it's really interesting to hear people's thoughts, so please feel free to continue sharing. :) And lol at you still being on Icelandic time, jetlag is stupid. But it allowed you to comment 'til late so I like it a little too. :p

Date: 2009-10-10 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nicoli-dominn.livejournal.com
I just want you to know that I thought your post very interesting and thought-provoking...and I will eventually write an in-depth response, just not now, and not here. For one, it would be way too long for the comment field, and for another, my brain is fried from all of the schmoozing and music business panels I've been attending this week. I already have a backed up list of things I have to write about that I don't know when I'll get to.

However, I would like to continue a discourse on this topic and related topics in the future, and I hope we will get the chance to. :-)

Date: 2009-10-10 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
I would love to discuss this further with you! And now I'm going to be wondering what you think and stuff. ;) But I can only imagine how much you brain needs resting from all the schmoozing, so good luck with that, and I hope it went well at the conference :)

Date: 2009-10-10 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] treasuring.livejournal.com
I mean calling her a slut considering she's been with the same boy for over 4 years is really funny when you think about it, because it makes no sense, so there's obviously a more subtle version of the slut discourse at work here

THIS.

Anyways, bby. I love you. SERIOUSLYYYYYY THIS IS A+ (it took me forever to read the whole thing WITH distractions mind you... but who's counting :P)

Your post is making me happy... times INFINITY <3

Date: 2009-10-10 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and LOL at it taking forever. It's kinda ridiculously long, but I tend to do that. And I'm not sure why it made you happy, I wasn't thinking of it as a happy post really, but yay. :)

The reactions around Vanessa's nude pics never fails to make me headdesk on many, many accounts. I wrote this massive rant about it when the second set of pics came out because it bothered me so much, and the whole slut thing is only one part of it. But it drives me crazy to think a girl who follows so many of the rules of heteronormativity in public is still at risk of being disparaged and attacked so violently as soon as she sidesteps even within her relationship. Ugh.

Date: 2009-10-11 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calcified.livejournal.com
...the part about being a team sometimes I struggle with in the sense that I think it's a tough balance between that and still feeling like you can make decisions for yourself.

Which isn't even from the post but from your comments. I think there is a necessary sense of surrender in a relationship, and it is the degree to which you feel you are actually losing something that defines the health of a relationship. But that is a very very good barometer, and I think one that Zac and Van are quite determined to excel on.

I think there is a certain sense of "what do you put into their relationship?" from the standpoint of observers who make giant posts about it (as I used to do, though I've stopped for...frankly idk what reason, I just needed to pull back for a second). I'm less than a year older than Z, and I've been in one relationship nearly as long. I shudder to think that the very private sexual acts that I...you know, do, are in any way "slutty." I don't know to define the complete lack of gain for V that was involved in the leaking of her pictures. If anything, the trust she must have lost and the sense of ...faith in others? is really tragic. And frankly I think Zac lost it with her; people see him as sadder afterward, but I think he's not sad in the slightest - just intensely jaded and wiser.

I really could talk forever about them and who they are and whatnot, but there is this thing, that I was actually talking about last night: "I love V something precious and it hurts me when people are cruel to her because GAH THEY DON'T GET IT AT ALL. And I haven't met her (ed: I was talking to someone who just did, and was over the moon about the experience) but it's so glaringly obvious to me that...I don't know. I always see Zac and Van as the same - same goodness, same genuineness, etc - and the fact that people outside of select forums treat them as super different people, omg-he's-so-awesome/omg-she's-such-a-lame-ho, is aggravating."

Date: 2009-10-11 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
I think there is a necessary sense of surrender in a relationship, and it is the degree to which you feel you are actually losing something that defines the health of a relationship. But that is a very very good barometer, and I think one that Zac and Van are quite determined to excel on.

First sentence: Agreed 100%. We're always defining ourselves through others and the relationships we have with them. In a sense, it's no different in a romantic relationship. And I think that's fine, I don't think there's necessarily such a thing as a more authentic self when you're on your own, anyway. But when you start to resent - more or less strongly, more or less consciously - the other for the choices you feel you have to make because they're there... that's probably going to be a problem.
Second sentence: I get that impression from them, too, and to be honest I don't think their relationship would have lasted this long if it wasn't the case. Not considering what they've had to go through, and I only know of what's been public or what's common knowledge. That's something else that I really respect about them. They're working and doing their own thing and I'm sure it's not always easy, but they're supporting each other through it all and that's pretty mature of them.

I always see Zac and Van as the same - same goodness, same genuineness, etc - and the fact that people outside of select forums treat them as super different people, omg-he's-so-awesome/omg-she's-such-a-lame-ho, is aggravating.
I don't really understand how people can look at it that way. Maybe it's because Vanessa has been growing on me through my interest in Zac (which in no way means I think her value lies solely in being his girlfriend - precisely the opposite), I don't know, but it's so obvious that they care deeply for each other and there's a reason for that. They work together, even when one is not right there. It's fascinating to me that they seem to have fairly different personalities and ways of interacting with the world and yet at some base level, like you said, there's clearly something that brings them together, a genuine niceness and a certain maturity about how they're handling life... and that way that they make each other so earnestly happy. And I think that's all crucial to why they've been able to grow together, not necessarily in the same ways and doing the same things, but together anyway, in a manner that enhanced each of them individually and their couple at the same time. I don't know. In a way, they're like this beautiful puzzle to me. I have no clue how they've made it work under so much pressure

Also: I love what you said about how the nude scandal must have affected them, you put it so perfectly. I'm sure as a result they're both far more guarded than they should have to be. I have honestly no words for how much I hate the way people have reacted to this and to this day feel entitled to their reaction; it's maddening to me in so many ways. The whole concept of sluttiness is ridiculous and I despise the way it restrains girls and women - it bothers me enough all the ways in which so many women feel like they can't desire certain things or in certain ways. So I can't imagine what it's like when on top of the pressure that society puts onto all of us, you find yourself at the center of a group execution in honor of the slut discourse, with you as principal culprit. It makes me so angry she would have to go through that and had to fucking apologize to the world on top of it all, while no one apologized to her. I hope that it hasn't touched her and her desires too much, or at least that she's worked through that, and that in private she still does whatever feels good and whatever she enjoys, because I hate to think that it might have affected that profoundly. (And I realize there's a good chance it has, but yeah.)

Date: 2009-10-11 02:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
Wow sorry for the massive response, lol. There's so much that I feel the need to discuss around these two, apparently.

Date: 2009-10-18 03:25 pm (UTC)
ext_30914: (FF family)
From: [identity profile] petit-rhino.livejournal.com
when it happens, and if it works for both partners, it's an amazing thing. But not only is it a rare occurrence, it's also not right for everyone.
It is. Funny thing is, I thought it was the norm when I was growing up, not only because society idolizes it, but because it happened to both my siblings. My brother was 19, his now-wife 16. My sister and now-husband were 13 & 14 when they went out together the first time, then reunited at 18 & 19. Both couples are now over 30, married with kids and as happy as can be (though everyone has their problems).
Today I think it's pretty extraordinary, but at the time it made me feel inadequate.

It automatically makes people feel like failures when their relationship doesn't work out, or when they realize monogamy isn't for them, or when they haven't found someone to spend their lives with by the time they're 25, 30, 35.
My thought exactly. Trying to explain to friends and family that their traditional couple model is not what I'm looking for is a nightmare.

I don't know much about Z&V (just what I've read here), but I like the way you think :-)

Date: 2009-10-18 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenie-breizh.livejournal.com
Today I think it's pretty extraordinary, but at the time it made me feel inadequate.

I'm still not quite sure how to fight that, tbh. Maybe if we had more relationships that look different and that we can call extraordinary, too. But I hate this feeling of inadequacy and failure that gets passed on.

I don't know much about Z&V (just what I've read here), but I like the way you think :-)

Aw, thanks! They're pretty swell - and very dorky together, which I find ridiculously endearing.

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