Monday, October 24, 2011

Ben vs Noel, otherwise known as idolizing your father or dating your brother.

What is a coming of age drama without a love triangle? For those of you unfamiliar, young Felicity Porter moves to New York to be with follow Ben Covington, a dreamy swimmer that she was in love with in high school. In a dramatic moment at the end of her high school graduation, Felicity reads some charming sentiments in her yearbook from the resident hot guy and breathlessly asks him where he will be going to college. He is attending the fictional University of New York and in her desperate and stalker-esque state (more on that in a future post) she promptly abandons her plans to attend Stanford and packs her corduroys and Dep gel and heads to the big city.

Here's the thing. She doesn't even know Ben, nor does he really know her. He's kind of distant and brooding and Felicity interprets that in the classic 18 year old girl way: A) This guy needs me to save him; B) A beautiful mystery must lie behind those sorrowful eyes; and C) How can I use my talents of overachieving to somehow garner the love of this man? This is where Ben falls under the category of "Daddy Issues." Throughout the series Felicity's relationship with her parents is strained, both from her mother's desire to be an independent woman and her overbearing father's wishes that she gain some sense of direction that is not "bad student painter that has inappropriate sex in the school art studio." Papa Porter is a doctor himself, and Felicity was on that career path until she chased Ben into a life of youthful indecision. Ben is as equally confused about what he wants to do with his life but inevitably chooses to become a doctor, creating a massive emotional collision of family, futures, and love for Felicity. In one fell swoop, Felicity goes from trying desperately to be her father to being in love with the man that is becoming her dad. Devastating, right?

Then there is Noel. Big friendly graphic designer with moppy hair Noel Crane. He is the resident advisor in Felicity's dormitory, whose nice guy face is constantly providing advice while secretly pining for her. A relationship eventually begins between the two, and Noel proves to be sensitive and steadfast, a trustworthy and caring partner destined for marriage and crossword puzzles. He is also, sorry to say, painfully boring. But boring is stable and dependable, and this absence of sparks does not prevent he and Felicity from having a few steamy moments together. Even though there is a peculiar and awkward drunken hookup between the two later in the series, the Noel/Felicity dynamic is predominantly about Noel being Felicity's sounding board, providing sensible advice when the giant curls on her head cause her to do neurotic and outlandish things. This reliable relationship is one comparable to siblings, with Noel playing the role of a big brother who is responsible for looking out for his little sister, offering guidance but not forcing directions upon her. If anything, the distinct lack of sexual tension between the two solidifies this analysis.

So who does she choose? In the end (here is a spoiler, nine years later), she picks Ben, the borderline alcoholic pre-med student who has fathered an illegitimate child. And what happens of Noel? Well, he dies. But don't worry, this gets reversed in a totally random series of time travel episodes. We'll get into that later.