8.17.2005

QAF Postscript.


Sorry, kids. Brian and Justin are splitsville for good.


I found this interesting post on another site, which I think is interesting. Turns out that someone was all pissed about the last episode of QAF and wrote to one of the writers for explination.

The answer actually makes me even madder, believe it or not, because it essentially states that there's no more Brian/Justin. No ending up together. No Kinnetic NYC. But, dammit, it does all make sense when you read it.

Basically, I was trying to make him aware that there was an overwhelming sense of displeasure with the finale. And while there are those fans that wanted a wedding, not all of us were displeased about that it didn't happen. Basically we were expecting Brian and Justin together in some form and the ending provided no sense of closure in that respect. I also wondered what the message was with Brian ending up alone at Babylon. In all, I told him that I didn't understand how this ending could be seen as "satisfying" and asked him why they chose to end it as they did.

Shawn was kind enough to write her back with the following explanation:

Hello (name withheld),

Thanks again for your e-mail, to which I'll throw in my two cents.

I'll start by talking a bit about that old chestnut, Love. I tend to think there are four main kinds of it: Love of Self (in a good way - as in self-esteem - not in a negative way as in selfishness); Love of Friends (i.e. Platonic); Love of Family; and love of someone deemed to be "significant" and thus falling into the category of Romantic Love. The entire series has been an exploration of these different kinds of love, with some characters dabbling more in certain areas than in others. In the case of Brian, I'd assert that he operated most obviously in the realm of Self-Love, and had significant storylines with respect to Platonic Love (i.e. Michael).

In the area of Familial Love, there arguably wasn't much, but part of what the show tried to demonstrate is that in a queer world family is often created rather than inherited. Brian's biggest growth over the five seasons, however, came in the development of his ability to admit and accept Romantic Love into his world through the character of Justin. I'm hoping this is all fairly self-
evident and can be accepted at face value. I'm sure many arguments could be made regarding inconsistencies in what I've just outlined, but as this is my opinion, I'll base the rest of my response on the framework presented above.

Not that it's at all objective, but I'm going to plot Brian's 4 kinds of Love as I think they were when we first met him in Season 1:

Self Love: 10
Platonic Love (most notably with Michael): 9
Familial Love (most notably with Debbie/Michael): 7
Romantic Love: 1
Naturally, this kind of quantification of love is completely absurd,
but it's useful as a tool to illustrate my point. Bear with me.

So as far as writing goes, if a writer is going to approach Brian's character and say, "Okay, where do we take this Brian fellow in order to evolve him over the course of the series?", the answer is pretty clear: This character needs to go on an adventure of Romantic Love. Note that this isn't an adventure in the sense of a tour package with sunsets and cruise ships and beaches - but in the QAF sense of learning how to navigate Romantic Love in a world filled with sex parties, drug use, hedonism, political activism (or apathy), homophobia, and all the so-called normal things that straight people try to cope with. Given that Brian's character is already pretty well evolved in other areas, the challenge in writing him becomes one in which we (the writers) don't want to compromise the other forms of Love in order to develop the Romantic Love. In other words, if Brian is established in episode 101 as a character who is happy and proud to be single and sexually voracious, this is what makes him so intriguing and so much fun to write/watch. If we (the writers) are to keep him dramatically interesting and consistent, we can't start chipping away at the Self-Love part of him in order to use those pieces to build up the Romantic Love. A perfect example of this is how Brian's character seemed so strange in the closing episodes of Season 5: his entire being as a Self Love 10 was being eroded as he tried to become a Romantic Love 10.

Obviously, there are easy ways to refute the above paragraph:

Why do these so-called "building blocks" of Love only come in limited quantities? Can't Brian remain high in Self-Love and also become high in Romantic? Sure. But then I'd take the argument a step further: Is Brian the kind of person who would want to be a Romantic Love 10? There's no doubt that most of the online fans are screaming for a "Yes!" But I disagree. Just because fans want something doesn't mean that the character himself would or even should want it too. I believe the reaction over the end of the series is based on the assumption - which Brian has worked hard to dispel over the course of the show's run - that achieving a state of permanent, long-term coupledom (i.e. successfully reaching a Romantic Love 10) is the ultimate realization of happiness and fulfillment.

And I stress that word: Assumption. It's the kind of burning assumption that's fueled and fanned by Hollywood's incessant Romantic Comedies, where the subject-matter is supposedly built around Romantic Love. But it's important to keep in mind that most of these genre movies never actually deal with the true and gritty realities of Romatic Love: more often than not, they're only courtship movies in which the bulk of the drama centres around a) How will the couple meet? b) How will the couple come together? and c) How will the couple declare their undying love for one another? Once these questions are answered, the credits roll and we leave the theatre under the assumption that the couple lives happily ever after.

I think that a key strength of QAF is that it spent five years taking a very hard, critical, and honest look at what happens after the credits roll. It asked a totally different set of questions: Is Romantic Love really all it's cracked up to be? Is it a panacea? Is it just a sham? And perhaps most importantly - Is it for everyone?

In the case of Brian, we discovered in the writing room was that answer was a definite No. After five years of taking Brian on a roller-coaster of Romantic Love, one of the things we realized (and this is what I meant when I told you earlier that the ending felt "emotionally right" to us) is that after 5 years, Brian's character would still fundamentally reject the assumption that Being a Romantic Love 10 = Being Happy. But that's not to say he hadn't grown as a character. I'd say that his Romantic Love score at the end of 513 was about a 6. Which means that somehow, Justin had gotten to him and had had a definite impact. At the end of the show, Brian was able to admit and verbalize that he did indeed love Justin, in a way that was understood to be Romantic.

So then why did they go their separate ways? Because for Brian, his Self Love and his Platonic Love were the keys to his fundamental happiness. Those are the Loves that trumped the Romantic. And because Justin knew this, he refused to lock Brian into a life in which he wouldn't be completely happy.

Notwithstanding this fact, they both knew that they were connected at a deep level. Said Justin, "We don't need rings or vows to prove that we love each other." In other words, "Our definition of Romantic Love falls outside the assumptions that mainstream society wants to graft onto us." Their Romantic Love is self-defined - not socially defined. And after 5 years of experimentation, negotiation, heartache, and headache, they finally managed to define their Romantic Love in such a way that it didn't compromise Brian's happiness, which is (and has always been) built around his Self- and Platonic Loves.

I hope that makes sense. At the very least, I trust it was a valiant enough effort on my part to shed some light on what I personally was grappling with in the writing room as the final episodes were pieced together. Although I certainly don't speak for Ron or Dan or the other writers, I suspect similar thoughts were going through their heads as well. I invite you to share this response on the discussion boards, and hope it will inject another perspective into the raging debate. And of course, I thank you
again for your enduring passion. Long live the fan fic! ;^)

Best,
Shawn

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person x at 3:54 PM

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1 Comments

at Thursday, August 18, 2005 7:57:00 AM Blogger annamaria said...

Damn you, Shawn, for shattering my illusions--I don't think I like the finale anymore!

And while I obviously cannot argue with the writers (they know what they meant more than I do!), I'm still going to call bullshit. If they truly meant to imply that Brian's character trajectory mandates a celebration of Self Love (okay, that sounds dirtier than I mean it to!), then they shouldn't have made Brian the most selfless character on the show!

I love the character of Brian not just because he is unapologetic about who he is, but because you understand that the forces in his life (evil parents & family) lead him to question his self-worth relative to others, and in a way that makes you root for him--you want him to realize that he is a good person. Does that mean that he didn't enjoy being over-sexed? Of course not. But I don't necessarily believe that behavior to be evidence of Self Love. I've always seen it as the opposite--a manifestation of his belief that that is all he has to offer (beyond the cash that his "inherited family" is always so willing to take). That's why it makes sense that Brian would push Justin away when he has cancer--he lost a ball, what use could he possibly be?

To me, letting go so that Justin can pursue his dream is Brian at his most romantic and least self-loving: he recognizes that Justin needs to go to New York to be an artist (and whether or not he really needs to do this is irrelevant--Justin believes his destiny is in New York), so he sacrfices his happiness for Justin's. Makes sense, given that he's done it so many times in the past (from taking the kid in when his parents kicked him out to--literally--fucking himself at the Rage party so that Justin can find happiness with the fiddler).

In my opinion, this is the only way you can look at Brian's actions as being a) consistent with the character and b) evidence of growth as a character. Any other view (particularly the one Shawn sets up) seems to be a betrayal of the character. Unless they just did a shitty job of writing Brian for four seasons, and then finally got it right in the last one.

On a related note, I read something interesting. I'll have to see if I can find the link later. Anyway, as you may know, Randy Harrison (Justin) has been pretty critical of the show and the Justin character in a few interviews in the past few years. Basically, he's argued that Justin is becomming ridiculous, and if he were real, he wouldn't be his friend. There is some speculation that the season five development of Justin is a reaction to Randy's statements--punishment, if you will. Which certainly explains Justin's transition from integral character to glorified plot filler.

 

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