"A Study in Relationships" in particular 'Starsky & Hutch'

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Title: "A Study in Relationships" in particular 'Starsky & Hutch'
Creator: Terri Beckett
Date(s): 1984
Medium: print
Fandom: Starsky & Hutch
Topic:
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"A Study in Relationships" in particular 'Starsky & Hutch' is a 1984 essay by Terri Beckett.

It was published in the gen Australian zine Mixed Doubles #2.

Some Topics Discussed

  • The Magic Circle and Starsky & Hutch use of it with the phrase: "me and thee"
  • the strong bond between the two men and their failures with women
  • the archetype of the strong bond between two men
  • uses the phrase "male/male pairings" but not as slash

Some Excerpts

STARSKY & HUTCH, when they first appeared in 1975, were by no means the first in the long series of male/male pairings or groupings to gain popular acclaim. The media had long ago recognised and exploited this ambivalent pairing-format in such shows as 'Alias Smith & Jones', 'The Persuaders', and 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' ~ two protagonists sharing the action on an equal basis, rather than a hero and his subordinates as in 'Kojak' ard 'Star Trek'. The attraction goes even further back, however — right back, in fact, to the first known written literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The hero-King and his companion, Enkidu, experience fantastic adventures together, and when in the end one dies, the grief of his bereaved partner is unrestrained. We see the pattern again in the Homeric story of Achilles and Patroclus, of Nisus and Euralysus, and in historical (rather than mythical) context, in the comradeship of Alexander and Hephaistion -- the passionate friendship of Warrior-brotherhood, heightened by existence on the burning edge of danger.

It is an attractive theme. The intensity of such relationships, induced by the violence-oriented societies of their times, has been dissected and theorised many times, but for the purposes of this study, we will adhere to the Platonic ideal of love that transcends sexuality, and examine the partnership of Starsky and Hutch in that light.

There are strong and unavoidable similarities to be found between S&H and the cinematic work of the film director Howard Hawks. Those familiar with the genre may remember such movie classics as 'Rio Bravo', 'Dawn Patrol', 'The Big Sky'. For Hawks, the highest human emotion would appear to be the camaraderie of the exclusive , all-male group, to whom death is a routine occurence, and women incidental or non-entities. S&H, though classed as a 'cop-show', fits better into this niche. The plot of each episode may have dealt with some aspect of police-work, but a great amount of interest was focused on the characterisation of the protagonists, which may have been why the viewer was given an unprecedented amoimt of detail relating to the detectives' home lives and out-of-work activities. We saw where they lived as well as their working environment — we met their casual friends and love-interests, and not only when these were involved in the plot. It soon became established that both men were sexually promiscuous (in the first season they showed a marked predeliction for airline stewardesses. Hutch's later taste in women, however, tended to be on the weird side,) and that Hutch had been married at least once, and divorced. The ex-wife who returned in 'Hutchinson for Murder One' (third season) was subsequently murdered, an unfortunate happening that enabled the scriptwriters to develop that well-worn theme, the death of a loved one. Our heroes suffered that trauma more than once (Hutch for Murder One; Gillian; Lady Blue; Starsky's Lady) and also had their chosen female walk out on them (Body Worth the Guarding; I Love You, Rose Malone) at some point. This apparent 'bad luck' with members of the opposite sex points up the exclusivity of the relationship between the two men -- a tacit understanding and knowledge that whatever the failings of the lady of the moment, the partner remains loyal, friendship unswerving.

Unusually, this was to be tested in one of the more controversial episodes — 'Starsky vs. Hutch'. Both men are here in direct sexual competition for the favours of the undercover officer with whom they are working.

Rather oddly, her own honestly-stated promiscuity appears to offend and upset the men - a reflection of a somewhat outdated morality in which it is acceptable for a man to 'play around', but not a woman. Somewhat surprisingly in the circumstances, she turns down the chance of a three-way liaison. More importantly, the partnership proves stronger than the infatuation of the moment, the inference being that the heroes' relationship with each other is more deeply-rooted than any love affair ~ or arything else in their lives.

The trust between the two is paramount. They are confident in each other and themselves, trust proven over their years together, and can therefore face whatever dangers their lifestyle may throw at them.

If there is any question as to the validity of the popularity of the show being based on the relationship between Starsky and Hutch, one only has to look at the fan-fiction. Media fan-fiction tends to reflect and emphasize the points that the fans most enjoy, or which prove most fascinating to unravel (eg. Spock in Star Trek) — in short, the most popular aspects of the show in question. S&H fan-fiction concentrates not on the police-work or the shoot-em-up action sequences, but on the relationship between the characters, whatever the writer conceives that to be. And however manifested, the centre of that relationship is love.

Obviously, this is something that we, the viewing public, like to see. In a world of often facile emotions, sham, ugliness and hatred, we long for the proof that love exists and can flourish -- that it is socially acceptable to care for another human being, to reach out and touch or be touched -- simply to love someone not necessarily linked by blood or a legal bond, irrespective of sexual relationship. Their caring touches us, and maybe enables us to care more openly. Through S&H, we can experience vicariously a kind of friendship we would all hope to have.

Basically, that's it. S&H is not merely just another cop-show. S&H is about friendship.

References