I think I was about ten when I realized that the third wheel of a love triangle was usually the most interesting character. It came to me in a musical (surprising no one). It was Eponine from Les Mis who did it. Like most little girls who listen to and love musicals, I was initially enchanted by “Castle On A Cloud” the lullaby that Cosette sings to herself as a child.
But after listening to my mom’s Original London Cast Recording over and over and over, I quickly realized how little I cared about Cosette. Yes, her songs were pretty, but beyond that, there just wasn’t a lot to her.
Eponine, on the other hand, who is hopelessly in love with the young student Marius, who is in turn in love with Cosette, she got me, and I got her.
I’m pretty sure if I never sing “On My Own,” ever again my parents, siblings and friends would probably be OK with it. I listened to and sang that song so many times between the ages of ten and sixteen. I never performed it seriously, because by the time I got around to serious performance I knew the song wasn’t right for me vocally. But I’ve always loved it, it’s always meant a great deal to me. (As, to be fair, does most of the music from Les Mis.)
I started thinking about this today because I was going to visit Chrissy in her new apartment and the song from Wicked, “I’m Not That Girl” came on. Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of The West, can hardly be considered an “other guy,” (the entire show is about her), but “I’m Not That Girl,” is a very “other-guy ish” song, where she pushes out the idea of loving Fiyero, the dashing prince who dates her friend, Galinda.
“Don’t wish, don’t start,
Wishing only wounds the heart.
I wasn’t born for the rose and pearl,
There’s a girl I know, he loves her so,
I’m not that girl.”
This is such an amazing verse, and I’ve always loved it. To me it sums up the deires of “the other guy.” (Of course in the end Elphaba gets the guy, and then Galinda sings the verse in reprise.) This verse could have been sung by any “other guy” from a love triangle. And I’ve always loved that other guy.
I’m a sucker for it. Jacob Black in Twilight, I wanted that to happen. On One Tree Hill, where the creator of the show even said, “this entire universe exists so that Lucas and Peyton can be together,” I still wanted Lucas to be with Brooke.
My favorite love triangle resolution in the history of the world was on Lost, where they solved the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle and the Kate/Jack/Juliet triangle by having Sawyer and Juliet end up being soul mates. Yup, because it took literally, the two of them looking at each other on the beach at the end of season 4, for me to say “Oh my God! Sawyer and Juliet belong together! Because Kate and Jack are so boring and mopey and awful, and Sawyer and Juliet are so badass and awesome, and yes make this happen, happy yay squee forever!”
It took me a while to trace this back to Eponine, but once I did, I was so entirely happy, it gave these other characters I loved an added dimension, a history in my cultural psyche. Any of the characters I talked about could have used her words:
I love him, I love him, I love him
But only on my own…
It breaks the heart, but it’s so much more beautiful and interesting (in fiction. I’ve also played this role in real life and it sucks.) It’s why James Marsden left X-Men for Superman Returns, at least in my head. He was the Cosette in the Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine triangle, and that’s boring…of course everything about Superman Returns was boring, but that’s why he went on to do this again in Enchanted, and it was epicly awesome.
Jay Gatsby is “the other guy” and the book is named after him, it’s not called, The Boorish Loud Obnoxious Buchanan but The Great Gatsby.
He’s more interesting, more captivating. And, when it comes to musicals, he or she almost always gets the better songs.