Tag Archives: love

Swing Volume 3 Review: How An Open Marriage Matures

For some couples, monogamy is great.

It works for them. They meet, they fall in love, they get married, they have sex, and they have children. They go onto live predictable, but satisfying and respectable lives. There’s nothing wrong with that.

That sort of thing just doesn’t work for Dan and Cathy in the world of “Swing,” Top Cow Comic’s ambitiously sexy slice-of-life saga. Their story, and the many sexy details it entails, has offered many colorful insights into a world that actually exists outside the book. It also explores the life, love, and growth of two endearing characters as they navigate that world.

There are no superheroes in this story. There are no James Bonds or Pussy Galores, either. The world of “Swing” is a world that never attempts to break the laws of physics, psychology, or believability. Compared to the fanciful spectacles offered by other comics, it’s a breath of fresh air. It also helps that it’s sexy as hell.

The first two volumes of “Swing,” which I’ve reviewed and praised, set Cathy and Dan on this path to a sexy, swinging world. I’ve been following their story closely, watching these characters grow together through and not just in terms of romance and intimacy.

“Swing Volume 1” showed how they met, fell in love, had a family, and became interested in swinging.

“Swing Volume 2” showed how they entered this world, began exploring, struggled at first, and learned to embrace it. Now, “Swing Volume 3” provides us the next step in Dan and Cathy’s story as a couple involved in this lifestyle. It explores how they grow and mature. It’s not an entirely smooth process, but that’s part of what makes this entry of the story the best of the saga thus far.

Like its predecessors, “Swing Volume 3” picks up at a pivotal time in Dan and Cathy’s life. They’ve settled into the lifestyle. They’ve become a lot more comfortable with the unique dynamics of an open marriage. Writer, Matt Hawkins, makes every one of those dynamics both believable and rooted in real life examples.

Yes, there are real couples who engage in this lifestyle and it does work for them. I’ll give the puritanical crowd a moment to stop gasping. At the same time, that’s an important context to consider in appreciating the type of narrative that “Swing” has to offer.

It’s not entirely built entirely around sex scenes, innuendo, or the kind of shallow characters you often find in cheap softcore porn. A big part of the story is where this lifestyle takes Dan and Cathy, as a couple. It’s not all fun and sexy games. They have jobs, children, and career ambitions outside their sex life.

Dan is still trying to become a published author. Cathy is still building her career in the entertainment marketing industry. They also love their kids deeply and want to give them the best life two loving parents can give them. That element of the story is not glossed over, more so in “Swing Volume 3” than the previous two entries.

How does any couple balance that sort of thing? How does a story like that work without becoming too pornographic or too bland? Well, “Swing Volume 3” finds a way and the artwork of Yishan Li and Linda Sejic makes it a sight to behold every step of the way.

Both characters take major steps forward in their professional lives, as well as their sex lives. However, those steps don’t happen without some conflict along the way. In fact, much of Dan and Cathy’s growth in “Swing Volume 3” stem largely from those conflicts.

Some are small, as is often the case in any functional relationship. There are misunderstandings and miscommunications. There are also instances in which Dan or Cathy makes a choice that doesn’t sit well with the other. On the surface, it just seems melodramatic. However, the way it plays out feels real and genuine.

At every turn, Dan and Cathy make clear how much they love each other. They want nothing more than to make one another happy, both in and out of the bedroom. It’s a simple desire, but one prone to many complicated efforts.

Even though they’ve been involved in the world of swinging for a while now, there are still missteps and mishaps. The couple takes quite a few baby steps in the first few volumes, but “Swing Volume 3” is much more ambitious, both in terms of the sexy details and the emotional ramifications.

Whereas Cathy led the charge through much of the last volume, Dan is a lot more involved this time. I would argue he undergoes more maturation in “Swing Volume 3” than the previous two volumes combined. The details involve some spoilers, including some of the NSFW kind. Make no mistake, though. Both Dan and Cathy mature a great deal in this story and it’s a satisfying process, if that’s not too loaded a term.

For a story like “Swing,” which doesn’t rely on superpowers, superheroes, or supernatural forces, it’s important to come off as genuine. The story can’t work if the characters don’t feel real and believable. Otherwise, it has little depth beyond the sexy stuff.

The events of “Swing Volume 3” further affirms that genuine spirit for Dan and Cathy. The more they go through, the more real they seem. Nothing about the challenges and struggles they face feel like something that has no real-world parallels. It’s easy to relate to them. It’s even easier to root for them.

In essence, “Swing” is one of those rare erotica romance stories that strikes a perfect balance between erotica and romance. The sex positive spirit of the story ensures that one complements the other. Sex doesn’t define Dan and Cathy’s love for each other or vice versa. Their desire to explore this world is as sexy as it is romantic.

That dynamic has been a hallmark of the “Swing” series since it began, but “Swing Volume 3” really takes it to another level. Dan and Cathy are done with the baby steps. They’re diving deeper into this sexy world together.

That process will bring drama and a few consequences, as the cliff-hanger ending shows. That just makes these couple all the more likable. For that, I applaud Hawkins, Yi, Sejic, and Top Cow Comics for what they’ve achieved with “Swing Volume 3.” If I had to score it, I’d give it a solid 4.5 out of 5. It’s not perfect. Very few things in this world are. It’s still sweet and sexy to the utmost. In a year like this, we need that.

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Filed under comic book reviews, sex in society, sexuality

On My Way To A Wedding!

Today is a very exciting day. This year may have been awful in so many ways for so many people, but that only makes days like this even more precious.

Today, I’m set to attend a wedding for one of my siblings. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t offer much in terms of details. I’ll just say that I’m very excited for them. They found a wonderful person to spend the rest of their life with and, being the romance lover I am, I’m going to cheer them on.

While a wedding in 2020 has plenty of complications, we’re still going to make this work. That does mean some attendees will have to observe these precious moments via Zoom or FaceTime. It’s not the same as being there, but they can still be part of this.

We’re keeping this wedding simple and sincere. You don’t need a palace, an oversized cake, or hundreds of people throwing rice. You just need friends, family, and two people who love each other enough to get married.

To all those who have braved the horrors of 2020 to share in this moment, I commend you. Love is a beautiful and powerful force. No pandemic can stop it, even in a year like this.

It’s a beautiful thing. I’m excited to be part of it. As one of the lucky few who will be there in person, I intend to make this day as special and as awesome as I can for my family.

Wish me luck, energy, and awesome as I cherish this day with my family!

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, romance

The “Perfect” Sex Robot Thought Experiment

There’s a good chance that you’ve encountered someone who has a very strange kink. It’s probably not illegal, disgusting, or damaging. It’s just something that would make most people cringe if said out loud with a straight face. I won’t speculate on what that kink might be. I’ll just trust in the lurid imaginations of anyone reading this article to fill in the blanks.

With that in mind, I’d like to add another detail to that concept. Say you know this person’s kink. It rightly disgusts you. You believe it could be harmful to both the person and whoever they’re doing it with. However, you also know that they’ve never acted on this kink with anyone. On top of that, you know they’ll never act on it. Would you still trust them?

I know that last part is a bit of a stretch. We can never truly predict how anyone will act in the future. They could be the most disciplined person who ever lived, exercising restraint every day of their lives for years on end. They would only have to have one lapse to undermine others’ trust in them.

That’s why I’m framing it as a thought experiment. This is the sort of thing that just has no analog in the real world. It’s still important to contemplate because it can provide insights into who we are, who we trust, and how we conduct ourselves as a society.

Now, I want to throw sex robots into the mix. I promise there’s a legitimate point to that. This isn’t me speculating about the future of sex robots and other technology that’ll likely impact our sex lives. In fact, for this thought experiment to work, I’ll have to push the concept of sex robots to an extreme that is probably beyond any technology we’ll see in our lifetimes.

That’s because it requires that we envision the concept of a “perfect” sex robots. Now, I put “perfect” in quotes because perfection is subjective, especially when it comes to complex issues like human sexuality. It’s just a useful way to envision a form of sexual expression that goes beyond just sex with robots.

For the sake of the thought experiment, here’s a quick definition of what constitutes a “perfect” sex robot.

The robot is of a humanoid form and composed of universally malleable matter. It can effectively shape-shift into anyone, taking on any appearance the user desires, including that of celebrities, fictional characters, or private citizens. The robot can also take on inhuman forms. It can have fully functional sex organs of any gender or entirely new genders.

It also has an artificial intelligence that allows it to perfectly mimic any identity, role, or personality the user wishes. There are no restrictions or taboos. The robot is completely obedient, cannot be harmed, and never suffers.

In essence, the perfect robot is like Mystique from the X-Men combined with Rosie from “The Jetsons.” It can look any way a user wants. It does anything the user wants. It’s basically the ultimate sexual outlet. It doesn’t matter how tame or perverse your kink is. This robot will act it out with you whenever you want.

Why does that matter?

Well, it matters because horrible sex crimes and abuse still happen. As disgusting as it is to acknowledge, people do horrific things to other human beings to obtain sexual gratification. While most people aren’t like that, those deviant individuals still exist. These twisted desires still exist. There are those who don’t act on them, but if the desire is there, it’s still worthy of concern.

I think it’s relevant, given how much concerns over sexual assault and sexual abuse have become in recent years. On top of those concerns, there are other taboos and cultural attitudes that have been skewing our collective sexuality for centuries. From organized religion to sexy video game characters, there are many forces influencing our desires.

That brings me back to the essence of this thought experiment. This is where we have to both use our imaginations and speculate on how we conduct ourselves in a society.

Imagine that this perfect sex robot exist.

Now, imagine that everyone has one or several as soon as they reach an age at which they can consent to sex.

Everyone can carry out whatever depraved sex act they wish with this perfect sex robot, even if it’s illegal.

It doesn’t matter what their income is, where they live, or what their background is. Everyone has access to this perfect sex robot.

People can still form relationships with real people. They can still have children and raise families, like they always do.

What would change in this scenario? How would everyone conduct themselves in a world where they always had an outlet for whatever sexual desires they wanted? From decadent billionaires to working class people, they can all live out whatever fantasy they want with whoever they want.

Take it a step further. Imagine you met someone whose predilections you knew. Maybe they share it with you or you find out. Whatever it is, you find it abhorrent. You believe that, if they did this with anyone other than a sex robot, they’d be guilty of a horrific crime. However, they’ve never done it with anyone other than the robot and never would. Would you still associate with that person?

Even if you had a guarantee that nobody ever acted out their perverse desires on anyone other than a sex robot, would you still be comfortable around that person? Hell, flip the roles. Imagine you told someone about your kinks and they found it horrifying. How would you feel if they resented you, even if you never acted on them with real people and never would?

Keep following the possibilities.

Imagine someone uses their perfect sex robot to sleep with your spouse, parent, sibling, or child.

Imagine someone who claims to be heterosexual, but engages in homosexual acts with their sex robot.

Imagine someone who is never abusive with anyone, but horrifically abuses their sex robot.

I’ll stop short of adding more layers to this experiment. I think I’ve gotten my point across. For now, I encourage everyone to contemplate this. Think about how you would conduct yourself around people in this scenario. Think about what it would mean for society, as a whole.

There are no wrong answers, but the possibilities are as profound as they are kinky.

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Filed under health, human nature, sex in society, sex robots, Sexy Future, Thought Experiment

Romance Is Real: Men Recount Their Lover’s Greatest Romantic Gesture

The world is really messed up right now. I don’t think I need to remind everyone how or why. I’m trying to stay as positive as I can. Lately, though, I’ve been failing. Every day, I wake up and read my news feed, only to lament how fucked this world is right now. I know things have to get better at some point. That point just seems so far off.

I admit, it’s been very depressing. I’ve found myself feeling more depressed than usual and I know I’m not alone. Thankfully, being a big romance fan can have unexpected advantages. As bad as things are, you can’t stop people from loving each other and expressing that love in beautiful ways. You can quarantine populations, but you can’t quarantine passion.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer something uplifting to all my fellow romance fans. Thanks to the fine folks of the Reddit Recap channel, we have a list of real stories from real people about the most romantic gesture their lover ever did for them. Even on my worst days, reading stories like this puts a smile on my face and brings a tear of joy to my eye.

Please take a moment to enjoy this little montage. The last one should really warm your heart.

I hope your day is better because of that. If you have another story like this to share, please do so in the comments. Seriously, the world needs those kinds of stories right now.

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Another Awesome Story About My Awesome Mom On Mother’s Day Eve

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For some people, it’s just one of those Hallmark Holidays that requires that you purchase a card, make a phone call, and watch a few cheesy 1-800-Flowers ad. For those lucky enough to have an awesome mom like mine, it’s more than that.

I’ve said it before on multiple occasions. I’ll keep finding other ways to say it until the entire internet hears it.

My mom is awesome.

That is not in dispute. That’s just an objective fact on par with math and gravity. I knew that when I was still a kid. I know that now as a full-grown adult. With each passing year, I come to appreciate my mother’s awesome more and more. That makes celebrating Mother’s Day extra special.

For a mom like mine, a card just won’t cut it. Even during a pandemic, I’m going to find a way to go the extra mile to show my mom how much I love and appreciate her. As part of that effort, I’d like to share another personal story that further proves my mom’s greatness. If this doesn’t get the point across, then you’re just being difficult.

This particular story is small in scope, but incredibly revealing with respect to the kind of person my mother is. I don’t know if she’ll remember this. I know she reads this site every now and then. I hope she does because for me, it’s one of those powerful memories that has only gotten more meaningful with time.

The setting of this story is simple, but still requires a bit of context. It occurred when I was in my late teens. It was the middle of summer and I was home from college. For me, that didn’t just mean sitting around all day, waiting for the fall semester to begin. I worked during the summers. I was also expected to do chores on the weekends. One of them involved mowing the lawn.

Now, that was one of my least favorite chores and my mom knew that. I still did it, but was rarely thrilled about it. I need to establish that before I lay out what happened. It matters with respect to how this ordeal played out.

It occurred on a Saturday morning. I was downstairs in the basement, watching TV and working on my laptop, as I often did. Then, my mother comes walking down the stairs and she’s not in a good mood. It has nothing to do with what I or any of my siblings did. She’s just miserable, restless, and tense, as people can get for no apparent reason.

While in that mood, she tells me to mow the lawn and she’s not nice about it. She doesn’t ask me to do it. She doesn’t even say, please. She just tells me to do it in a crass, callous way that is not typical of my mother. It shows just how bad a mood she was in that day.

Naturally, I don’t react with much enthusiasm. I groan and roll my eyes, but it’s not just because I hate mowing the lawn. That’s not how anyone wants to be told to do something. My mother senses this, as I’m not subtle about it. Not surprisingly, goes off and tell me not to give her any attitude.

Then, in a response I honestly didn’t think much about, I tell her, in so many words, that she could’ve at least said please. She also could’ve been less rude about it. I even threw in a comment about how she’d taught me to be courteous and polite all my life. I don’t remember exactly what I said because, like I said, I didn’t give much thought to my response. A part of me still dreaded my mother’s response.

What happened next is a further testament to my mother’s character. Almost immediately, her crummy mood changed. She put her hand up, shook her head, and apologized. She acknowledged that she was rude and in the wrong. I instinctively accepted that apology. I still agreed to mow the lawn later that day and I did.

What stands out so much about that moment was how much humility my mother showed in that moment. I’m her son and she’s the parent. Usually, the dynamic is reversed. It’s the parent who’s supposed to call the child out when they’re being rude or impolite. When the roles are flipped, it doesn’t go the same way.

My mother was well within her right, as a parent, to just brush off my comment. She was also within her right to pile onto it and call me an asshole for daring to call her out like that. She could’ve just said, “I can talk to you however I want because I’m your mom. That’s that.” Instead, she chose the more respectable path.

She showed that she practiced the values she preached to me and my siblings. She holds herself to the same standard that she holds me. When she’s wrong or rude, she owns up to it. She takes responsibility and apologizes, just as she would expect of me if I were in that position. It was a small gesture, but I gained a whole new level of respect for my mother that day.

I know more than a few people whose parents take full advantage of their authority. To them, respect is not earned from a child. It’s a given, even when it’s not reciprocated. There are instances when that’s necessary, but this wasn’t one of them. My mother was self-aware enough to recognize that and set a better example. Since then, I’ve done my best to meet those standards.

There are so many other wonderful stories that I could share about my mother. Some are more elaborate than others. This one is small by comparison, but it’s those kinds of stories that help you really appreciate the kind of person someone is. My mother is wonderful in so many ways. This is just one of them. It’s part of what makes Mother’s Day worth celebrating.

To my awesome mom, I love you with all my heart.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Ode To “Hold My Hand” By Hootie And The Blowfish: My First Favorite Love Song

When we’re kids, we rarely listen closely to the songs we love. It starts almost immediately after we graduate from singing along to nursery rhymes to singing along to whatever song is on the radio. We rarely understand the meaning of the song, the lyrical structure, or any subtext or innuendo. We just like how it sounds.

As a result, some of the songs we love as kids age better than others. Kids who sung the lyrics of Prince probably didn’t pick up on the incredibly sensual undertones to his lyrics. As adults, it can be somewhat jarring to learn just what those lyrics meant.

On the other end of the spectrum are the songs that only seem to get better with age. They’re not nearly as common or appreciated, but they hold a special place in our hearts, none-the-less. For me, one song in particular stands out. It’s a song that I think everyone who was alive and had a radio in 1994 probably heard at least once. It’s “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish.

I know they’re not the coolest band from that era. In fact, they’re one of those bands who people love to hate for shallow reasons. They’re an easy band to be cynical about. They had one massively successful album, but they never duplicated it. Their songs are cheerful, upbeat, and fun. That kind of thing just doesn’t work in a world steeped in cynicism, pessimism, and internet trolls.

However people might feel about them, they’ll always have a special place in my heart for one simple reason. That song, “Hold My Hand,” was the first love song I ever genuinely liked as a love song.

That matters a lot to me because, at the time, I was still a young kid. I was just starting to develop a taste for romance. I started noticing the romantic subplots of my favorite cartoons. I began appreciating romance in a way that set me apart from others. Then, this song came out.

It was a simple, genuine love song. The lyrics were easy to understand and follow. The tune and rhythm was catchy. Everything about it just clicked with me. While it’s not my favorite love song right now, it’s always been in my top ten. Even if you’re not a fan of the music of that era, I encourage you to appreciate the sentiment of the song.

What makes it stand out even more is just how well this song has aged. Whereas some love songs have gained a more creepy, if not stalker-like subtext, the sentiment in “Hold My Hand” actually works better today than it did in the mid-90s.

The song doesn’t involve someone professing complete and utter captivation.

It doesn’t rely on the kind of fairy tale love that exists only in Disney movies and bad romantic comedies.

It relies on love that feels real. Just read the lyrics.

With a little love and some tenderness
We’ll walk upon the water
We’ll rise above the mess
With a little peace and some harmony
We’ll take the world together
We’ll take them by the hand
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you, oh
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Yesterday, I saw you standing there
Your head was down, your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair
I said, get up, and let me see you smile
We’ll take a walk together
Walk the road awhile, ’cause
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you
I’ve got a hand for you
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Won’t you let me run with you, yeah
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to a place
Where you can be
(Hold my hand)
Anything you wanna be because
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can
See I was wasted, and I was wasting time
‘Til I thought about your problems
I thought about your crimes
Then I stood up, and then I screamed aloud
I don’t wanna be part of your problems
Don’t wanna be part of your crowd, no
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you
I’ve got a hand for you
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Won’t you let me run with you
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to the promised land
(Hold my hand)
Maybe we can’t change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can, yeah
Let me walk, oh won’t you let me, let me
(Hold my hand)
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to a place where you can be
(Hold my hand)
Anything you wanna be because
I oh no, no, no, no, no
(Hold my hand)
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to the promised land
(Hold my hand)
Maybe we can’t change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can
Oh, best that I can

It feels like an honest, sincere love letter. It says I’m not going to try and love you like a queen, goddess, angel, or something other than human. I’m just going to try and love you the best that I can. I don’t want to take you far away and do all these strange, lurid things. I just want to hold your hand.

As a romantic sentiment, it’s hard to have something as simple and sweet.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, romance

A Simple Thought Experiment On Romance Vs. Stalking

At what point does love become obsession?

At what point does infatuation become unhealthy?

At what point does a romantic gesture become creepy?

These are all relevant questions that don’t have clear answers. Those who unlucky enough to have dealt with a stalker probably have different answers compared to those who’ve never had that experience. I haven’t, so I won’t try to speak for those who have.

Even without that experience, I think those questions are still worth contemplating. They help put our understanding of love, romance, and relationships into perspective. We may think we know what it means to be romantic, in love, and in a relationship, but tend to forget that this entire perspective has been shaped by our circumstances.

What constitutes romance today is not the same as it was 50, 100, or 500 years ago. It’s easy to forget that the concept of marrying for love is relatively new, historically speaking. The idea that you seek a partner, go out on dates with multiple individuals, and eventually settle on the one you fall in love with is downright radical compared to how society went about sanctioning intimate relationships.

It’s something I’ve mentioned before, but now I’d like to take it a step further. Take a moment to think about all the ways you were romantic with a current or previous partner. Then, try to take a step back and ask whether this same gesture could be done by a stalker for the same reason. How does that affect your perception of the gesture? What does it reveal about your concept of romance?

As an example, consider the following romantic gesture, but through the eyes of a stalker.

I love you. I love you so much that I want to spend the rest of my life being with you. My love for you is so intense that I want the law to sanction it in a contract that will legally bind our love. I also want to put this ring with a shiny stone on your finger and have you wear it every day to let the world that you love only me. Nobody else is allowed to love you. Only I can love you.

What I just described is a gross perversion of a marriage proposal. In one context, it’s the ultimate romantic gesture. In another, it’s an incredibly disturbing rambling by a stalker who desperately wants to secure the love of another.

Here’s another example, but from the eyes of a romantic.

I love you. I love you so much that I want to live with you, share my life with you, and bear part of your burdens. I want to be close to you constantly. I want us to be under the same roof and share the same responsibilities. I want our love to be the basis with which to share our lives.

It’s another sweet gesture. It highlights that critical step when a romance goes from just sharing affection and intimacy to sharing lives and building something together. At the same time, it also sounds like something a stalker would suggest.

With those two examples in mind, take a moment to contemplate the implications.

What is it about these actions make them romantic?

Why do we go about romance in this particular manner?

What do these gestures and rituals imply about our perspectives on romance?

I don’t present this experiment as a way to undermine the way we go about romance. I’m a genuine fan of romance, in general. The novels I write and the sexy short stories I tell reflect that. However, I think it’s helpful and somewhat necessary to scrutinize certain concepts, especially if they’re important to you. You may be surprised by what they reveal.

Please try this thought experiment on your own time when you get a chance. If you have any insights you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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Developing Quality Romance According To “Chuck”

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone to get creative in alleviating boredom. At some point, there’s only so much binge-watching you can do with new shows. That’s because, along the way, you find out just how many of them turn out to be utter crap. As such, you find yourself returning to older shows that you haven’t forgotten, but haven’t seen in a long time.

I found myself in that exact position recently. Over the weekend, I was in search of a new show and came across one that I once followed closely. That show is “Chuck,” a quirky, yet endearing spy thriller/comedy/drama from the late 2000s. It’s one of those rare shows that sounds good on paper, but is even better in execution.

The premise of the show is simple. A once-promising young man named Chuck Bartowski is stuck in a dead-end job at a Best Buy-like electronics store, his future having been derailed by getting expelled from Stanford after being wrongfully excused of cheating.

Then, one day he gets a mysterious email from his old roommate, Bryce Larkin, who just happens to be the one responsible for him getting expelled. That email turns out to be a top secret program called the Intersect, a compilation of every NSA and CIA secret ever assembled. It gets downloaded into his brain, making him the most valuable intelligence asset in the world.

It puts Chuck in a strange position that requires him to become a spy under the protection of Major John Casey and Agent Sarah Walker. Action, drama, romance, and various hijinks ensue. The show often has a comedic undertone, but it gets serious in just the right amount to still be entertaining.

I started by just watching the first episode.

Then, I watched the second.

Then, I watched five more.

The next thing I know, I’m already in season two and the show is every bit as fun as I remember. It’s even aged remarkably well. I believe that if this show came out today and was completely unaltered, except for some of the technology, then it would still be a hit. It might even do better than it did when it came out because of just how well every character is handled.

This brings me to the part about Chuck” that stood out most for me while re-watching it. Once again, it has to do with romance. There’s a lot I could say about how this show handles its romantic sub-plots, but I’ll sum it up in a simple statement.

This develops TV romance in a believable, balanced, and endearing way that everyone can appreciate.

A lot of shows have major romantic sub-plots that play out over the entire run of the show. Shows like “Castle” and “X-Files” are famous for drawing those plots out over years. The problem that often plagues these plots is that, by drawing them out, they often become stale. Some even become downright toxic. A show that successfully develops a balanced, sincere, believable romance is exceedingly rare.

I would gladly cite “Chuck” as one of those rare success stories. From the first episode to the emotional series finale, the primary romance that drives the plot of this show is between Chuck and Sarah. It’s set up in the first episode as a ploy for Sarah to get close to the man who possess the intersect, but it evolves into so much more over the course of five seasons.

There are many things that make this romance great, but a big part of what makes it work is how it gets the basics right. It’s a romance that never feels lopsided, forced, or insincere. It’s also not a romance that robs either character of their agency or their personality. It doesn’t move too fast or too slow, either. It evolves in a way that feels real and heartfelt.

Chuck and Sarah isn’t a run-of-the-mill, love-at-first-sight type romance. It’s also not one of those pretty-girl-falls-for-dorky-guy romance either, although that is how it seems initially. It starts off basic. One day, Sarah walks into the store. Chuck sees her and is attracted to her beauty. Call it shallow, but that’s how many romances start in the real world and this one certainly doesn’t remain shallow.

As their relationship and their partnership evolve, each character develops in their own way. Through their romance, we learn where they came from and who they are. Chuck was once a promising student at Stanford who had big dreams that got crushed by forces beyond his control. Sarah is the daughter of a con-man who was recruited to put those skills to use for the CIA.

Both characters have traits and histories that function outside the romance. They each develop along their own path. Chuck goes from being a bumbling, anxious, often-unwilling spy to a determined, capable, and dedicated agent. A big part of that evolution is due to the influence and support of Sarah.

Sarah goes from a simple role-player into someone with her own hopes, dreams, and ambitions. She has plenty of changes to become cold and callous like her partner, John Casey. She chooses to avoid that path and Chuck is a big inspiration for that choice. He makes her better, just as she makes him better. That’s exactly what a healthy romance should do.

As for the evolution of their romance, it’s hardly worthy of a fairy tale. Throughout the course of the show, Sarah and Chuck find themselves caught up in other romantic entanglements. Sarah has a romantic history with Chucks rival, Bryce. Chuck has more than a couple flings that range from a girl working at a sandwich shop to his lying ex-girlfriend, Jill.

Remarkably, none of these side-romances come off as basic obstacles. There are reasons and motivations behind these romantic pursuits. Even if Chuck and Sarah have feelings for one another, circumstances and uncertainties keep them from developing a functioning relationship, at least at first. Eventually, they are allowed to get together, be together, and even get married.

In many shows, that level of maturity is an endpoint. For “Chuck,” it’s another key component of their romantic evolution. That’s a big part of what makes both the series and the romance work. It doesn’t just end when the guy gets the girl. Being in a relationship and consummating that relationship is just part of what makes it function. The show finds a way to work that into the plot and it works beautifully.

There’s so much more I could say about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, but there’s no way I could capture the full scope of their love story without recounting nearly every episode. That’s why I highly recommend bingeing the show on whatever platform it’s on. Last I checked, the show is on Amazon Prime.

In just watching the first two seasons, it’s easy to see how much time, effort, and thought was put into the Chuck/Sarah romance. It also helps that the acting skills of Zach Levi as chuck and Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah are maximized through plenty of dramatic moments.

It’s a romance that helps develop and benefit both characters over the course of the show. It’s easy to root for them and you really feel it when they’re hit with some devastating moments, especially in the penultimate episode of Season 5. It also shows that balanced romance can be told over the course of a show without it getting stale, hallow, or toxic.

In real life, quality romance occurs when two people bring out the best in one another. Chuck and Sarah prove that over five memorable seasons of “Chuck.” Their love may get messy, complicated, and convoluted at times, but it still feels real and genuine. If you’re a romance fan in any capacity, I encourage you to revisit this gem of a show.

Even if the romance doesn’t do it for you, the show is worth watching for Jeffster alone.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, romance, sex in society, television

Wonder Woman, Relationships, And Misguided Standards For Female Heroes

I love superhero comics. I love romance. Naturally, I love it when they’re combined into a perfect package of super-romantic sentiment. I’ve singled out a few favorites of mine in the past, as well as a few not-so-favorites that act as cautionary tales. Chances are I’ll find plenty more excuses to write about superhero romance in the future.

That said, I’d like to take a step back from the specifics of superhero romance and assess the forest from the trees, so to speak. Instead, I thought I’d highlight something that I’ve been noticing within the pages of some of my favorite comics. It’s not necessarily an egregious flaw, but it is a distressing trend for lovers of romance like myself.

It has to do with how superheroes are portrayed when they’re in romantic relationships. Almost every popular superhero is caught up in a romantic sub-plot. Superman has his ever-iconic love story with Lois Lane. Cyclops and Jean Grey have decades of romance and drama. Spider-Man gets around so much that he has multiple iconic romances.

Not every superhero is defined by their romantic sub-plot, although some are more effected by it than others. It’s hard to tell the story of Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards without involving her husband and children. However, certain characters are held to different standards when it comes to romance.

That’s to be expected, given the diverse circumstances of each hero. Not every hero is going to be affected by their romantic sub-plot in the same way. That effect also changes through different eras. Even the iconic relationship between Superman and Lois Lane has changed a great deal over the years, although not necessarily for the better.

However, this particular era has really twisted the standards for female superheroes in romantic relationships and not in a good way. I won’t go so far as to call it a double standard like the others I’ve cited, but the differences are stark. It goes like this.

A male superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses, he enters a relationship with his romantic interest, and continues being the same hero he’s always been. The relationship supplements his story.

A female superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses and she enters a relationship with her romantic interest, but the relationship conflicts with her ability to be a superhero. It gets to a point where the act of her being a hero is detrimental to the relationship. She can have one or the other, but not both.

These scenarios are somewhat generic, but they convey a similar message. Male superheroes can be in romantic relationships without it undermining their heroic persona, but female superheroes can’t have those relationships without it becoming an obstacle.

This strange, unbalanced dynamic played out recently in the pages of “Wonder Woman #754.” I’d even go so far as to argue that Wonder Woman suffers the most from this dynamic, despite being one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Given that she’s the ideal that other female superheroes are compared to, I think that’s telling.

The main plot of the issue isn’t important. The side-plot is where this dynamic showed up. There were frequent flashbacks that highlighted Diana’s recent “drama” with her long-time romantic interest, Steve Trevor. I put drama in quotes because it feels less like drama and more like forced excuses.

It’s been an issue for Wonder Woman for decades. Despite being her most iconic love interest, going back to the 1940s, Steve Trevor has never been that official with Diana. Even though they’ve professed their love for one another in many forms and in many timelines, they’re rarely ever shown as being in a functional, mature relationship.

It’s not just with Steve Trevor, either. Even in the classic “Justice League” cartoon in which she was romantically linked to Batman, nothing ever became official. There’s was never a point where Wonder Woman went from being single to being in a real, functioning relationship.

In fact, the only time Wonder Woman was ever in a functional romantic relationship was when she dated Superman during DC’s short-lived New 52 era in the comics. During that time, Wonder Woman and Superman had their own comics and their own stories. Sometimes, those stories became entwined. Sometimes, they didn’t. It never undermined their relationship or vice versa.

I know comic fans have strong opinions about the New 52 as a whole, but I find it telling that this was really the only time Wonder Woman was allowed to be in a relationship while still being Wonder Woman. For her to be someone’s girlfriend and still be the hero she’s always been, her significant other had to be Superman.

Take a moment to think about the scope of that standard. Wonder Woman, the standard-bearer for female superheroes for decades, can be in a functional relationship, but only with someone as capable as Superman. She and Steve Trevor can be in love, but they can’t have a relationship. He’s just an ordinary man. He’d just undermine Wonder Woman’s ability to be the ideal female hero we know and love.

Meanwhile, male heroes like Batman and Spider-Man can become romantically involved with far less capable individuals, many of which don’t have superpowers and can’t fly across the planet to be on time for date night. They’re still allowed to be in those relationships, but Wonder Woman can’t even make the effort with one of her most iconic romances with Steve Trevor.

As a fan of superhero comic, romance, and Wonder Woman, I find this both flawed and frustrating. While the “Wonder Woman” movie did an solid job establishing genuine romance between her and Steve Trevor, they still never got a chance to actually be in a relationship. It’s as though a female hero can’t be in a relationship without losing something. At the same time, a male hero can’t have a complete story without one.

It’s a strange disconnect and I think it’s getting worse. In recent years, superhero comics have made a concerted effort to develop female characters and I applaud that effort. It has led to some major successes. The problem is that, like Wonder Woman, these female characters aren’t really allowed to become anyone’s girlfriend. Being in a relationship is seen as an obstacle to being strong, independent, compelling characters.

Respectfully, I call bullshit.

Being in a relationship isn’t detrimental to any character, male or female, if the relationship is well-written. In addition, female characters don’t have to be completely, 100-percent independent to be great. In fact, making them that emotional single-minded is a good way to make them unlikable and unrelatable because, in the real world, people have relationships. They form bonds, rely on others, and are effected by those close ties.

Now, I don’t deny that writing great female characters is challenging, especially in recent years. It feels like you can’t write female characters without having an agenda anymore, even when it’s not printed on a shirt. Again, I call bullshit. Female characters, like all characters, are deeply affected by the loving bonds they form. They deserve the same development and exploration as their male counterparts.

Why can’t Wonder Woman be in an official relationship with Steve Trevor?

Does being Steve Trevor’s girlfriend make Wonder Woman any less a superhero?

Does any female superhero lose something when they become someone’s girlfriend?

These are relevant questions that are worth asking. If someone as iconic as Wonder Woman can’t be in a relationship with someone without undermining what makes her Wonder Woman, then that’s not a problem with her as a character. That’s a problem with the standards and assumptions we have about superhero romance.

I’m sorry if this rant feels dragged out, but this has been bothering me for a while. I’d be happy to discuss it more. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under DC Comics, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero comics, Wonder Woman

A Troubling (But Probable) Thought Experiment Involving Sex Robots And Stalkers

It’s an unavoidable rule of technology. Nobody truly knows how a new machine, gadget, or invention will be used in the future. I doubt the person who invented ski masks knew it would be a common tool of criminals. We can try and anticipate how certain technology will affect society, but there will always be unexpected impacts that come from unplanned uses.

When it comes to sex robots, the impacts are far greater in scope and scale than anyone can possibly predict. I’ve made a concerted effort on multiple occasions. I don’t gloss over the more distressing impacts, either. Chances are this technology will effect people, society, and culture in ways nobody will be able to predict, including aspiring writers who use sex robots in multiple short stories.

It’s often through writing sexy short stories and erotica/romance novels that I often come up with ideas I hadn’t previously considered. Some of those ideas lead to larger thought experiments. Since sex robots are making the news more and more often lately, I thought I’d share one.

It goes as follows:

A man or woman meets someone. They immediately fall for them. It’s love, lust, and passion all rolled into one. They become so obsessed with this person that they can’t imagine not being with them in some way.

Naturally, they pursue this person. They try befriending, flirting, and seducing them. It doesn’t work. They get rejected. At first, it’s just a setback. They try harder to win the love of this special someone. It ultimately fails. Eventually, that someone threatens to call the police and put a restraining order on them.

The person is dejected and sad, but not dissuaded. Since they can’t be with this person they love so dearly, they seek the next best thing. When their would-be love isn’t looking, they scan their body. They then send those specifications to a company that makes sex robots.

They request that the company make them a robot that perfectly resembles the love that rejected them. They also request that the robot be programmed to love them unconditionally and obey them. The company agrees. They make a sex robot that looks, sounds, smells, and acts like the lover they couldn’t have.

Naturally, the person is overjoyed. They lovingly tend to the sex robot, treating it like a real lover. They live out the love they wish they’d had. At some point, it becomes so real that they don’t bother with the person who rejected them. They’re content to leave them alone and live out the fantasy for as long as they please.

Take a moment to think about what I just described. I admit it has some disturbing elements. Stalkers who obsess over someone to an unhealthy degree is a real phenomenon. It ruins lives and can be very damaging to both people.

Throw sex robots into the mix and things get more complicated. What I just described is not technically impossible. It probably won’t be feasible for decades, but there’s nothing against the laws of physics that prevent people from creating perfect sex robot duplicates of random people they see on the streets.

All that anyone would need is the right data. Whether it’s done directly with a device or surmised from a collection of pictures, practically anyone can be made into a sex robot. I’ve noted before how this could effect the porn industry with stars and celebrities licensing their bodies as sex robots. However, I doubt it would stop there.

Whereas celebrities might have the money and legal resources to license their bodies and combat unauthorized use as a sex robot, most ordinary people wouldn’t have that luxury. In the same way most people don’t have access to high-powered attorneys that keep celebrities and rich people out of jail, the average person probably wouldn’t have much recourse.

If some random person found out their high school crush made a sex robot of them, how would they combat it? Could they sue them? Could they sue the manufacturer? What if the sex robot came from an illicit source? How they deal with that?

Moreover, would it even be worth the effort? If a would-be stalker is content to make a sex robot of their obsessive crush, which in turn stops them from stalking altogether, then why would anyone care? Who’s being harmed in this situation?

You could argue the would-be stalker is hurting themselves, but how could we possibly police that? We can’t stop people from hurting themselves. Prohibition proved that. However, with sex robots, we essentially give people a way to cling to an obsession and never move on. Is that healthy? Is there any way to stop it? Is it even worth the effort?

Try to put yourself in this scenario. How would you feel about it? How would you go about confronting it, if at all?

This is just one of the many scenarios that may play out once this technology matures. Again, there will likely be other effects I can’t imagine. Unfortunately, not all of those effects will be inherently sexy.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, psychology, sex in society, sex robots, sexuality, Sexy Future, technology