Words by Robyn Cowie

As this column is being published just after the day of St.Valentine, I thought it would be necessary to, instead of talking all about the stereotypical forms of love we celebrate on February 14th, to rather discuss a far more universal perspective upon this over-commercialized ‘holiday’. 

That being, love as a never ending, all consuming emotion. How it can come in all forms of relationships and the universal thing to which all of humanity desires in one way or another. 

Modern Love begun as a humble column in the New York Times, printed in the weekend edition of the paper in late October of 2004, and little did the columns creator, Dan Jones, know what he was offering people, not only an opportunity to have their words published, both as a platform to share their stories and their greatest heartbreak, their happiness, true love, regrets and everything in between. Since the first story, ‘Just Friends? Let Me Read Between the Lines’, was published with no expectations and yet, with over 750 subsequent articles having been published for the column, containing countless stories of love in any and all forms that it can come in. From; all different people, experiences and walks of life, being bravely shared in no more than 1500 words. 

The column has grown and grown. Modern Love has been deemed an editorial masterpiece in capturing love in all forms, the sheer magnitude of it, both its elation and vulnerability. As something which is the most common feeling and desired concept in the world. The column has evolved from its weekly edition in a far more expansive concept which has allowed, much like love itself, for it to transcend into a multitude of media platforms. 

“Modern Love is a weekly column, a book, a podcast — and now, in its 16th year, a television show — about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations”

The concept has grown in a best-selling book. An award winning television series on Amazon Prime, where a star-studded cast; Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Andrew Scott, Jane Alexander, Julia Garner and James Saito (to name just a few), present the highly diverse range of stories which have been published over the years and bring to life these very frank, honest and vulnerable retelling of love. From finding love again whether reunited after years, to rekindling romance in middle age, attempting to date with mental health issues, platonic love, intergenerational, familial love and most importantly self love, the series has been renewed for a second season. Another success in this franchise is its podcast, where famous celebrities voice popular publications of the column and at the end of each retelling the writer themselves is invited to discuss and further humanise their experience. The show allows for people to re-examine their stories of their very real life experiences of love through both storytelling and the after thoughts with honest conversation of very raw human emotion. 

“You’d think after 14 years at this, I would have seen every love story imaginable. But then I pull up some strange tale full of surprising wisdom and am floored all over again.” 

What started out as a hopeless romantic venture by one New York Times staff writer has evolved in a modern endeavour of human emotion, pain, elation and experience. Modern Love is a weekly reminder of all of that. But most importantly the column and its subsequent forms all us to all remember that both life and love are never easy, everyone has a different story when it comes to both of these, all of which are worthy of being heard and no two are ever the same. But they are worth having, learning and listening to. 

I implore you to go and explore one aspect of this highly successful series and although I realised how overly romantic i currently sound, the reason I feel this concept has been so successful is because at the heart of it is, it is simply people from all ages, ideas and walks of life opening up and sharing their most sensitive and exposed parts of themselves, as well as the people, experiences, relationships and incidents which have made them who they are. Modern Love is a timely reminder of what makes us all human which is a uniting thing when the world seems to be one of only divisions in the last decade in particular. No matter who we are, love is arguably the most powerful and desired thing, a thing we all deserve and hopefully are all lucky enough to encounter in one way or another. 

Words By Jess Hake:

‘What is love to you?’. It’s the sort of question that gets thrown around when you’re 16 and using your AQA poetry anthology to address a question on romance. You barely understand the concept, let alone have the ability to start to analyse what exactly ‘love’ means. When we consider love, the hegemonic portrayal is shrouded in roses and rain drenched kisses and walks accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack. However, I would like to challenge this (not solely due to my single lifestyle…). When we only recognise love in a romantic and (occasionally) sexual way, then we refuse to value other amicable and platonic relationships.

Friendship. Loving your friends. Your ‘chosen family’ enables a level of friendship that can provide a fulfilling intimacy. In these pandemic riddled times, my friendship between my housemates has been a blessing, providing comfort and support as well as humour and the much-needed distractions from everyday life. By loving my friends and appreciating them as such, I was able to reject the mundanity of life and embrace the precious moments friendship held.

Another love is the love for life, manifested for me currently in the grieving of pre-pandemic sociality. As I am an Arts Editor and this is a column in the arts section of the paper, I guess it would only be right if I admitted to my media coping mechanism for such grief… Made in Chelsea. Our relationship began when I binged the show in Year 11 when I was off school for a whole week (yes that is roughly 14 seasons in 5 days). Initially it stemmed from the want for social drama, something pre-pandemic life I used to wish my life had no involvement in whatsoever. Now, this isn’t to say that I want to follow suit of season 5 Spencer Matthews or experience the turmoil Miles Nazaire has seen to display since… well ever since his introduction to the show, but I am definitely willing to entertain some sort of drama. I think my ideal character, in all honesty, is Lucy Watson. Although quite a controversial character for some, it was only her veganism that I had to learn to accept (joke of course, this is Brighton). Her loyalty, honesty and sheer decency was a welcome change to the Chelsea scene and although I did want her to end up with the show’s iconic Jamie Laing, I loved her entire storyline (and think James Dunmore and her will produce beautiful babies).

However, as my Lockdown 3.0 binge spiralled, I realised there was an awful superiority complex I was giving in to. I adored watching the show with the knowledge of what was going to happen to the characters a few seasons on, whilst they were loved up with the partners, they thought they would be with forever (despite nearly all cheating on each other, some with their partners best mate). On the other hand, the knowledge of where they would all be in 2020 allowed me to enjoy certain moments even more – the development of Louise Thompson and, now fiancé, Ryan Libbey was pure and sweet. The sporadically dramatic aspects of their relationship, I was comforted with the knowledge that he was going to propose, she would say yes, they’d move in together and have a dog.

My love for Made in Chelsea was not only acknowledgement of my love for social life and media, but also tapped into another form of love. Rekindled love. My stumbling across the show again on Channel 4 catch-up was the equivalent of running into an old flame in a crowded bar. Years on, both still as beautiful as the day we met but now a more developed and accurate portrayal of our quintessential selves. Going into the binge I knew it would either be a night of passion or the start of something special. I am worryingly pleased to say it was the latter.

Well, it was for three weeks.

I have now moved on to re-watching Extras and Afterlife on Netflix because, as controversial as he may be, Ricky Gervais really can produce some quality shows.

Focusing again on love, heartbreak (or perceived heartbreak) can be easily remedied through a 10-day course of Maisie Peters and Taylor Swift. Peters’ slow release is the worst edging that I’ve ever experienced in the musical world but luckily Swift’s excessive production of music during these pandemic times more than makes up for it. The Fearless album is the perfect band-aid to a broken heart and the reimagined version that will be hitting Spotify imminently, is sure to be an emotional paracetamol for the ages. Coupled with this, Someone Great (available on Netflix) is the perfect film to compliment the discography of Swift and Peters.

Well, that’s it from me folks. Have a fantastic month and try to identify the love in your life.

Categories: Arts In Review

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