Topper

I am wracking my brains, trying to determine whether this is an archetype with a name. TCM is playing Topper, with Cary Grant and Constance Benett, which I correctly guessed by her dress was a late-Depression flick designed—well, whether to give the people visions of debauchery they wish they had or debauched bankers getting their dues, remains to be seen. But it was a 1937 film, so I got that much right at least.

What I’m trying to name, though, is the archetype of the dangerously perfect couple—playful and enticing more as a pair than as lone souls, who draw people in by the perceived carefree nature of their relationship and end up showing the usually lone and main character observer the darker side of the perceived perfect exterior. There must be a term for this. How often do you see it? Oftentimes it is this couple that draws the main character into situations or social locales he would never otherwise have the constitution to frequent. Usually it is the woman, to whom the main male character is attracted in a way he knows better than to indulge too much, who starts to show the darker parts, perhaps through bruises obtained from her perfect mate, or scars from some kind of drug use. Then in a moment of male bonding with the male half of the couple the MC comes to hear whatever dark things the woman visits upon the relationship: bills or a string of disappointed lovers or daily late-night binge drinking.

Examples: John and Elizabeth Stone in Stone’s Fall. The twins in The Secret History. Almost Famous. A pair in Drop City, I think. Anna Karenina, kind of, though the MC observes things get darker from a much greater distance than usual. The doctors in Children of God. Those two in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which apparently I read at some point in the last five years but I haven’t the faintest idea when, which is very odd. 

So is there a name for these people? They almost come wreathed in their own predictable rings of text, they are so common. “So and so and so and so were like a living vortex. They sucked you in and…” “You knew you wanted to leave and kept heading for the door but before you knew it Dick was on one side and Jane on the other and you had another drink in your hand and a flower in your hair…” Etc. etc. It happens ALL THE TIME. But I don’t know of a name for the phenomenon.

So, thoughts? I have a twitter account, you know. You can respond to me there. I don’t know, though, that this extends so easily to realms outside of fiction. I don’t know that I’ve met many people who fall into this category—though I’ve watched people in bitter circumstances begin to worship a couple they envy to the point where it begins to look like one of these novice-enthralled-with-the-power-couple situations. 

Nor do I think, in what I’ve observed during the time it has taken me to write this, that Topper is going to go this route. At most it will turn into a mock-stern admonition to live like upstanding churchgoing citizens, versus boozing fur-clad debutants in fast cars. A scolding message, certainly, but hardly a dire one. I suppose people in 1937 had had enough of things being dire.

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