The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator


October 10, 2013 by aggiesez

Thoughtful take on why the relationship escalator holds so much power in our culture — which affects which kind of relationship escalator storylines tend to get portrayed in entertainment media.

Why are there so many stories in which reaching the top of the relationship escalator represents a new stasis/conclusion, yet so few stories in which an established escalator-style couple have their ‘stasis’ broken, and they have to create a new stasis? I think it’s because once the new stasis is set, it’s supposed to be unbreakable. People stop growing, because they’re not supposed to need that growth to confront the unexpected.

People yearn for stability, and the escalator gets a lot of its power by offering a predictable, unchanging, ‘safe’ situation. If people truly understood that this promise is an illusion, I think the escalator would lose much of its sway over people’s visions.

The Notes Which Do Not Fit

Ever since I have been reading fiction, I had always be struck by how many stories were largely a description of the relationship escalator.

The book Backwards and Forwards describes how stories start with a stasis, which is quickly broken, and the story ends when a new stasis is formed.

As it so happens, the relationship escalator and old stasis/broken stasis/new stasis pattern work together really well:

Stasis: Two people don’t know each other.
Breaking the Stasis: Two people meet.
[the two people go up the escalator]
New Stasis: Two people are happily married (or otherwise at the top of the escalator)

It’s actually a pretty good story. I myself like good, escalator-style romance tales. But why aren’t there more variations? I’m not talking about off-the-escalator relationships – though more fiction about those would be very welcome. I’m talking about stories *about* escalator relationships where the beginning…

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6 thoughts on “The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator

  1. Keizick says:

    Maybe this is why people may not like my books. I throw wrenches in everything and the main point is that growth goes on forever.

  2. code16 says:

    Hmm! My bf and I were just discussing a book he read in which the main protagonists are a married couple, and how he doesn’t see why more books don’t have this, because it’s a pretty great dynamic to have interacting with things. (It’s also one I wish I could see more of. Like, off the top of my head, Zoe and Wash from Firefly are basically the only even close to well known example that occurs to me).
    I think this might be a reason!

  3. Sara K. says:

    It’s an honor to be reblogged here 😀

  4. passerby says:

    James Cameron’s 1994 “True Lies” film comes to mind.
    Secret agent’s wife is tired of her husband’s absence due to his job (which she believes is that of a normal salesman), and dates a guy who lies to her pretending he is a secret agent (which appeals to her need for adventure that her marriage is not providing). Husband discovers this, then enter the pirates – sorry, terrorists, Wife and Fake are kidnapped, Husband rescues them, and in the end, new stasis is reached: marriage is rekindled and Wife now works as a secret agent together with her husband.

    It’s true that it really is a rarity.

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