The Fictionalization of Love
"This is the fictionalization of love, the fact that the confidences that couples exchange are provided for them, structurally, because it is structurally necessary that these confidences by exchanged. Modern love would be unthinkable without fiction, romantic fiction in particular.... consider the modern situation. Each modern couple has to devise for itself a history which will justify its existence as a couple, on the basis of zero personal experience. Lovers cannot model their conduct on that of siblings or friends because even the best of friends or the closest of siblings have to hold back, for the sake of discretion. Hence it is necessary that sentimental education should take place via fictional rather than real exemplars, relayed via romantic novels, films and soaps on the TV. Fictions are plentiful, life-chances are few; it is not a condemnation of modern society to remark, as has often been done, that popular fiction proceeds and guides the actions of real-life lovers, rather than representing real life after the fact. Fiction is a giant simulation, an external thought-process, which provides individuals with the scripts they cannot do without and which non-fictional experience cannot supply. This means that we cannot put love-fiction to one side as if it were less authentic than real life. Fiction is, where modern societies are concerned, what genealogy is in those societies which have marriage rules, i.e. the means of producing the relationships on which social life depends. Fiction, re-enacted as real life, produces the histories on which relationships and society at large are grounded."
Alfred Gell, On Love