If I was ever asked to give a TED Talk the only two things I’d be qualified to talk about would be my love of classic literature, or sitcom couples. I mean it’s a broad spectrum of interests I suppose, but we contain multitudes right? To tell you the truth, I recently watched the new Emma movie by Autumn de Wilde followed by an episode of The Office, and I realized that these two things might not be as far away from each other in taste as we think. After all, what are modern fictional couples if not archetypes of the couples from classic literature humans have loved and shipped for years?
Once I started seeing all the similarities I couldn’t stop. Truly. Every time I watch a sitcom couple I’m brainstorming who their classic literature counterparts may be. The parallels are endless. I find that what delights me in stories written hundreds of years ago still delights me on my favorite Netflix shows.
Let the ships in parallel worlds commence!
Emma and Knightly as Jim and Pam from The Office
“Wow. We should have started dating, like, a long time ago.”
I’ll begin with the couple that started this whole obsession: Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightly. They are the ultimate “friends to lovers” trope. In the most recent adaptation, I was struck by how easily their friendship seemed to come to them and how natural their chemistry seemed to build. I couldn’t stop rewatching the numerous moments where they shared knowing or amused looks across the room. Honestly if you added Mr. Knightly looking directly into the camera and shrugging all the time you would have a Regency Jim and Pam.
Jane Eyre and Rochester as Eleanor and Chidi from The Good Place
“Principles aren’t principles if you are going to pick and choose when you’re gonna follow them.”
Now I’ll admit, I had to think hard about this one. I knew I wanted to find a couple that matched Jane Eyre and Rochester, but none of my initial comparisons really fit. Jane and Rochester simply felt a bit too complex. Then I rewatched a few episodes of The Good Place and it all clicked into place. Rochester is our messy Eleanor. They both don’t care about ethics or morals, they both are lowkey trash, and they both are hiding a really big secret. Jane is our philosophy professor Chidi – the one who is endeavoring to inject some sort of moral compass into their counterpart’s life. The attraction is there for both. The chemistry is certainly there. To top it all off, the conflict of the highly moral versus the corrupt endeavoring to grow for love matches almost perfectly.
Elizabeth and Darcy as Leslie and Ben from Parks and Recreation
“I just talked to everyone in this bar and nobody wants you here.”
Ben comes to Pawnee to cut the local government budget, making Leslie not only defensive but immediately angry at his existence. Mr. Darcy snubs Elizabeth Bennet and her whole community at their very first interaction. Elizabeth has a deep rooted dislike for him from that moment on. Both of these couples are some of my favorite examples of the “enemies to lovers” trope. There is miscommunication, there is awkwardness, and at the end of it all there are two people who are perfectly suited for one another. I think my favorite thing about this comparison is how truly socially awkward both Darcy and Ben are, and how they work perfectly with their outspoken, sassy, and intelligent partner.
Jo and Laurie as Monica and Chandler
“You’re not easy going, but you’re passionate and that’s good.”
I struggled with this one for a while as well. I really did. I initially wanted to do a couple to match Jo and Professor Bhear (I will always ship them). The first sitcom people who came to mind here were Richard and Monica from Friends. The main reason for this comparison was the age difference and the maturity their relationship requires from Monica and Jo. Unfortunately there just isn’t much more to say on the matter. The parallels between Monica and Chandler and Jo and Laurie however? Those are endless. They go from teasing, sibling like interactions, to a complicated, more adult relationship. All tied up with the confusing feelings of romantic love. Of course there is a key difference to note: where Monica has always been attracted to Chandler, Jo has never had any such feeling toward our dear Laurie. I will always respect Jo for that choice. I do think, however, that Chandler and Monica are a good example of what Laurie and Jo could have been if she had been so inclined or interested. He is funny, relaxed, and completely head over heels for her. She is strong, independent, and maybe more than a little argumentative. Somehow, the two balance each other perfectly.
I could make many more comparisons (Ron and Tammy 2 as Wickham and Lydia. Schmidt and Cece as Gilbert and Anne) but I will leave you with the idea of simply doing this for yourself. I hope it brings you as much joy as it brought me.