the hall of good relationships!

I’ve previously discussed my love of academic action heroes and lady action heroes. Today I’d like to talk about a different character type entirely. Or should that be characters? Because these are my favorite romantic couples across the media hemispheres, and I probably should have saved this post for February but WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT KIND OF FORWARD PLANNING.

As I put this together, I realized I was much more likely to find happy, healthy couples in series (book series, TV shows, movies with sequels) than one-off stories, which tend to focus on the first blush of romance and fail to follow through on life after the HEA. Or else they find their story conflict in relationship conflict, and I don’t have time for toxicity, no matter how much drama fodder it provides. Final observation: There is a lamentable dearth of healthy long-term LGBT+ couples in the media I consume. Part of that, I’m sure, is me not casting a wide enough net (I live mostly in the action/adventure and scifi/fantasy genres). Another part of it, I’m even more sure, is a failure OF the media I consume. But I digress.

Without further ado, and in no particular order: The Hall of Good Relationships!

Hal and Lois Wilkerson – Malcolm in the Middle

Hal and Lois might be my favorite TV parents. In large part that’s due to their subversion of the usual sitcom dynamic, which tends to pit overbearing Mom against beleaguered Dad for some “haha women are nags, men are clueless idiots” humor. Which, need I say, I loathe. In Malcolm in the Middle, Lois is overbearing, and Hal is beleaguered, but instead of battling each other they are battling their nightmare children. Hal and Lois manage their house and fight their kids as a united front, and their continued passion for one another is a frequent plot point. I can actually believe they’ve stayed married because they love and support one another, whereas in most family comedies I can’t imagine the passive aggressive snipery leading anywhere but divorce.

Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson – the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters

Amelia and Emerson are my favorite married couple in ALL LITERARY HISTORY. They are turn-of-the-century Egyptologists who accidentally get caught up in a murder mystery every year. Like you do! Emerson is gruff and Amelia is exceedingly practical, and after butting heads on their first adventure together (naturally) they fall madly in love, get married, have one (FABULOUS) child, and continue to excavate artifacts and solve mysteries together henceforward. There are no plots about them getting into fights over stupid misunderstandings and then making up again. They remain madly in love for decades and face everything together AND I LOVE THEM.

Alexia Tarabotti and Conall Maccon – the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

In a steampunk/paranormal Victorian England, Alexia is a soulless preternatural, capable of nullifying the supernatural nature of vampires and werewolves with physical contact. Conall Maccon is a werewolf and head of the Woolsey pack. They get together in book one of the five-book series, and remain a dedicated couple through that and subsequent related series (minus one ‘misunderstanding’ plot, I will forgive ONE and ONLY ONE). I got about halfway through the first book  before realizing that the reason I loved Alexia and Connall so much is that they are a paranormal Amelia and Emerson. Exceedingly practical woman in her mid-30s assumes she is destined for spinsterhood, meets a gruff passionate man who madly adores her, they settle into a life of adventure, and they win my heart forever. Apparently, I have a type.

Zoe and Hoban Washburne – Firefly

She’s a tough-as-nails military veteran, he’s a goofball pilot with zero combat skills, they are ADORABLE, and in my head canon she carries him to safety and they have three babies and Wash does most of the childcare while Zoe continues to run dangerous smuggling missions, and you CANNOT TAKE THIS FROM ME. I like to see relationships where the characters appreciate each other’s strengths, especially if those strengths aren’t the stereotypical tough-guy/smart-damsel dynamic.

Evie and Rick O’Connell – The Mummy

Another adorable couple who face adversity together and play to one another’s strengths, and the finest example of tough-guy/smart-damsel I know. Because Rick might be the tough guy in terms of being the fighter, but he’s also funny, and reluctant to go into danger for no reason, and basically not a macho jerk is what I’m saying. And Evie may be kidnapped at one point, but her smart is more important than her damsel. She’s the one who saves the day through the powers of Egyptology, and it doesn’t challenge Rick’s manliness to have his ass saved by hieroglyphic translation.

All the main couples – Parks and Recreation

“I love you, and I like you.” Just watch, okay? This show proves you can have long-term relationships in a TV show and generate a ton of comedy without resorting to some stupid battle of the sexes. EVERYBODY LIKES AND SUPPORTS ONE ANOTHER AND I LOVE THEM.

Marge and Norm Gunderson – Fargo

Are Marge and Norm my favorite married couple in cinema? Possibly. It may seem like an odd choice, but just watch Fargo again and try to tell me that isn’t where you want to be in ten or fifteen years. Marge is the chief of police, Norm is an artist, and they are both extremely loving and proud of one another in a completely sweet, understated way. From Norm getting up in the wee hours to make Marge breakfast, to Marge giving Norm a pep talk when his painting is only picked up for the 3 cent stamp, they have one of the nicest relationships in Hollywood.

Phèdre nó Delaunay and Joscelin Verreuil – Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey

She’s a holy courtesan who specializes in S&M! He’s a warrior priest in a brotherhood that requires a vow of chastity! LET THE DRAMA AND SEXUAL TENSION UNFOLD. Okay, so here is an example of a relationship that begins with some primo your-lifestyle-is-anathema-to-me kind of drama, but since it’s a series we get to follow them after they get together. And, once again, I love me some people who accept each other wholeheartedly even if they have radically different points of view. In this case, we watch them work through their issues and actively decide that love means acceptance. Does Phèdre give up her calling? Psh hell no. Does Joscelin suddenly give up his stoic values and become a sexaholic? Also no, though he does get booted from his brotherhood, you can’t win them all.

Xena and Gabrielle – Xena: Warrior Princess

What are they doing here, you ask? Let Past Sam educate you on the wonders of Xena and her galpal Gabrielle. It’s called subtext, people!!

So there you go, love one another, people. Feel free to tell me who I’ve missed!

10/26/17 ETA:

Gomez and Morticia AddamsThe Addams Family and Addams Family Values

How could I forget Gomez and Morticia?? I’m talking the first two movies here because they’re the version I know best, but I believe the dynamic was the same in the show (and the jokes darker and a bit different in the comics). They’re another great example of a couple who are 100% supportive of one another and extremely passionate years into their marriage. The best thing about Gomez and Morticia is how nice they are to everyone around them. They’re creepy and they’re kooky, but they aren’t mean or cruel. They’re content and confident and their philosophy is: just be yourself and never miss an opportunity to show your spouse how much you adore them.


I’ve been re-watching Xena: Warrior Princess for the first time since high school, and it is just as glorious as I remembered. Back then I would watch it every day when I got home, because the SciFi Channel did not buy something in syndication and then let it languish in one slot per week. Now, I also watched a bit of Hercules, but I must say this: Xena is campy as hell, but Hercules? TOO MUCH EVEN FOR ME.

There are many reasons Xena is the best show. I don’t mean in a contest versus Hercules, either. I mean best show. Also, caveat that I am in season 3 of my re-watch and will definitely come back to this topic when I finish. Back in the day I stopped watching before the final season because of a plot line that DEVASTATED ME, so I have never-before-seen episodes in my future.

All that aside, let us begin.

First of all, Xena don’t give a shit about timelines. She is simultaneously part of every heroic Greek myth (aka like a thousand years BCE) and also crossing paths with folks like Cleopatra and Caesar and the Knights of the Round Table. At least these Knights weren’t Arthur’s crew, and in addition to fighting some hilariously dressed banshees this plot line gives us the excellent background joke of Xena casually plucking the sword from the stone and putting it back. OH XENA.

Secondly, Xena don’t give a shit about geography. Greece is so small she just bumps into everyone she knows walking town to town. She can dart home to visit her mother within a day’s ride on Argo. Heck, the entire world is so small that on a whim she can help a random guy they meet sail to Brittania (where of course she’ll fight alongside her old friend Bodecia) and in the next episode she’s headed to the ancient land of Chin.

The support cast is sublime, a true Sam Raimi production. Bruce Campbell, Karl Urban, that guy from Lord of the Rings, Karl Urban again, LOTR guy again, Karl Urban as a third guy–hey, you don’t under-utilize Karl Urban once you’ve got him. And while the main crew is quite white, the rotating episodic cast is the entire population of New Zealand, which means instead of anybody actually looking Greek we’ve got white, black, Maori, you name it, and every once in a while somebody slips into a thick New Zealander accent and nobody cares. Shall I mention Cleopatra again? Because she is played by one of my all-time babes, Gina Torres.

Um, there is an episode in which Xena goes undercover in the Miss Known World beauty pageant and not only does a transgender woman win the pageant–but it isn’t played for laughs. She confides her secret in Xena, Xena doesn’t bat an eye, and they share a smooch at the end (which makes trusty sidekick Gabrielle look a little jealous, because this show is also full of SUBTEXT).

The costume department had free reign and they used it. Leather fetish? SURE. Anachronistic push-up bras and Victoria Secret lingerie? WHO CARES. This is a TIME OF ANCIENT GODS. WARLORDS. AND KINGS. The land is CRYING OUT FOR A HERO.

Even the worst episodes are wonderful in their own car crash kind of way. Vampire dance club, anyone? I don’t know what they were thinking. Also any time they Mickey Mouse the sound effects or laugh into a freeze frame. Grooooaaaaan.

The sheer goofiness is alternated with Very Serious Bizness. Every Callisto arc is fabulous. Every time we get a flashback to Evil Xena is fabulous. Gabrielle gets her ass kidnapped every few days and it is equal parts self-aware slapstick and actual dramahz.

Oh and the subtext. I did mention The Subtext, didn’t I? This was the late nineties, early aughts, so they unfortunately never got explicit, but there is no way the writers or actors were oblivious to the blunt hints they were throwing at the audience. Seriously. Every time Xena gets bathed by another woman, that’s got to be a euphemism. Every time she and Gabrielle act like a married couple? Every time they get jealous of each other’s male attention? Every time they actually kiss?

And of course one cannot praise Xena without praising the PURE FLIPTASTIC ACTION. She’s blessed by the god of war and she learned some sweet floating kung fu in China, but all that is hand-waving. I don’t care why this woman can defy all the known laws of physics and I don’t care. I want her somersaulting through the air, I want her scaling castle walls with a single bound, I want her fighting atop posts and on the edges of thin tree branches, and I want her stepping across men’s heads like a frog across lily ponds.