Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.

Saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind over the weekend. It was enjoyable in the same way that it’s fun to “stare at a train wreck“, as Tim would say.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s difficult to argue with a movie that features a scene with Kirsten Dunst in her undies, dancing recklessly on Jim Carrey’s bed[1]. The movie is definitely unconventional, and I think it tries to be smart, but it ends up being more eye candy than brain food.

Charlie Kaufman’s projects tend to deal with things that most people have wished for at some point in time, but are pretty much the realm of fantasy/science fiction. In Being John Malkovich, it’s the ability to be someone else, to be inside their head and know what it feels like to be rich, famous, important, etc. We all know how that turns out.

Eternal Sunshine is in a similar vein, though I found its subject matter less universal. The premise is: meek, quiet, boring boy Joel (Jim Carrey) meets quirky, spontaneous, outgoing girl Clementine (Kate Winslet). They fall for each other the way they tell us that opposites attract. As the relationship progresses, it becomes apparent that their differences are too large to overcome, and they split after a heated argument. Clementine being the impulsive one, undergoes a procedure to erase all memory of Joel, in order to help her move on with life. Joel finds out shortly thereafter, and demands the same procedure out of spite. We relive his memories in reverse chronological order (Memento style) as they are being erased. As we progress toward his earlier memories from the puppy-love, infatuation phase of their relationship, Joel realizes he doesn’t want to forget Clementine and wackiness ensues as he attempts to have the procedure aborted in his drug-induced stupor.

He of course fails, and both Joel and Clementine have each other completely erased from their respective memories. Both seem to be strangely left with the feeling that they’ve lost something, but they don’t know what it is, and wouldn’t mind having it back. Thanks to the magic of Kirsten Dunst, they soon find out what happened, and are both in the uncomfortable position of listening to pre-erasure tape recordings of the other person listing their faults. Despite this, the initial spark that brought them together the first time around is back, and they entertain the thought of getting (back) together.

And there’s the rub – these tapes are like a gift from the gods, but the characters completely ignore them. Imagine that you were about to embark on something that would end up being a collossal waste of time and energy. Irrefutable evidence lands in your lap telling you that you’ve already tried once, and the outcome of your efforts was a failure. Would you try again anyway?

So what is the moral of the story then? In the case of Being John Malkovich, the point was that it doesn’t make a difference if you get to be somebody else. You’ll still be you on the inside, not that “perfect” person you’re dying to be instead. At first things will be different, but they’ll eventually regress back to the way they were. You can take the girl out of the honky-tonk, but you can’t take the honky-tonk out of the girl, as a sales guy at work says.

The point of Eternal Sunshine? There’s no point in trying to erase the memories of your past mistakes, because even if you did, you’d just go back and repeat them again? Which would almost be believable if it weren’t for those bloody tape recordings that Joel and Clementine choose to ignore. The ending would have been much more poignant if it just showed them screwing up all over again, without any knowledge that they’d done so already.

Instead, I walked out of the theatre just thinking that Joel and Clementine are such dumbasses.

[1] That, and the portrayal of Frodo Bagginses as a (clean) panty stealer is almost worth the price of admission alone. Boy, I bet that answers a lot of questions for Liv Tyler.

13 Comments

  1. Synonymous says:

    I think the ending may have been misunderstood.
    They didn’t ‘ignore’ their first attempt as much as they chose to simply ‘accept it’. You’re right in the sense that there’s a point in the movie that there’s *no* point in erasing memories, and that’s what the ending of the movie emphasized. People learn from their mistakes. If Joel and Clementine hadn’t listened to those tapes, then yes, they would be fated to repeat their unfortunate history.
    However, armed with those tapes, they learned *that* much more about the future (by learning their past), and they chose to accept who they were.

    Ignorance *isn’t* bliss, and that’s what the ending of the movie tried to show.

  2. Synonymous says:

    Sorry, just a clarification.

    The point was: Ignorance isn’t bliss… not because the crap will eventually come back to bite you in the ass, but rather, because an opportunity to learn and gain experience from the past will be lost.

  3. Tim says:

    I’d have to agree with the previous poster about how the tapes merely offered a cautionary tale of the pitfalls they must avoid, rather than simply punctuate how ignorant they were. If you were to take Mary’s tape and Clementine/Joel’s tapes together, you can only assume that the tapes would be filled with stories of both good and bad moments while they revealed their most intimate memories of their erasee. In that respect, you can also assume that they (Joel, specifically) were made full aware of all the experiences we saw in his dreams. By going in reverse-chronological order and effectively making the relationship seem to go from bad to better, we saw Joel slowly fall in love all over again as he willingly let go of his ‘later’ memories and became reluctant to release his ‘earlier’ ones (until he eventually accepted his fate). No doubt, Kaufman wanted to convince the viewer that perhaps the fire and passion in the original relationship was worth salvaging as well. Whether that worked for you, of course, is not mine to say.

    From what appears to be an undated first draft of the movie though, it does seem as though the original point of the story was to point out that Lacuna clients are doomed to repeat their mistakes. Perhaps they rewrote the ending because it was too façile a statement, and such pessimism would simply disappoint the viewing public, as your post pretty much suggested. :)

  4. Dave says:

    That’s not the bitter, jaded Tim that I know! 😛

    Question for both of you. After listening to the tapes, accepting who they “were”, and taking their erased past as a cautionary tale, do you see Joel and Clementine living happily ever after?

    There isn’t much value in highlighting the fire and passion in the early part of their relationship as proof of their potential future bliss. This was certainly implied by showing the relationship in reverse chronological order, but I don’t buy it. In every potentially serious relationship, the “honeymoon” is always sunshine and roses. This is the period when lovers coo that they were meant for each other, one in seven billion, a perfect match. Everything is new and spontaneous, flaws are overlooked, every moment is claimed as special, to be locked away and treasured forever. To be perfectly blunt, if there’s even the slightest bit of mutual attraction between two people in this stage of a relationship, it’s darn hard to screw up.

    The problems we see between Joel and Clementine at the beginning of the movie (i.e. the end of their relationship) are structural, inherent personality conflicts. It wasn’t something like, “Crap, last time me and my butterfingers dropped her toothbrush into the toilet and we broke up. I’ll make sure not to do that this time.“. Or, “I really wish she wouldn’t wear socks and sandals. If she doesn’t do that this time around, we’ll be together forever.

    It was more along the lines of: “He’s boring” … “She talks too much” … “He talks too little” … “She flirts with other guys all the time” … “He’s insecure” … etc.

    These are things that cannot be changed. Can you convert an extrovert into an introvert, or vice versa? Unlikely. Sure, after hearing the tapes, they might make a conscious effort to appease the other person. But the keywords there are “conscious effort”. The first thing to go when someone’s tired and cranky is the (in)voluntary facade they put on to please others. It’s much easier to find someone that likes you as you are.

    This much was apparent from the wee bit of the tapes that we heard. That it wasn’t obvious to Joel and Clementine as well, and they decided to ignore accept it and try again anyway is what weakens the ending and dilutes the point of the story.

  5. Tim says:

    There are some things, you’ll find, in which I am blindly hopeful and optimistic about. Almost to the extent of the usual cynicism.

    Will they live happily ever after? No, most certainly not. You might surmise that they knew that themselves, as Clem’s final response of “okay” did sound rather reluctant through her tearful smile. She illogically agrees to try again, despite all logic and reason,

    If you believe the point of the story is the usual lesson about ‘those who don’t remember the past is condemned to repeat it’, then yes, the ending is rather contradictory. Then again, the moral of the film might not be as noble or heroic as learning and improving from our previous mistakes. Rather, the folly of succumbing to their hearts/temptations is demonstrated twice – once with Clem/Joel, the other with Mary/Howard (even if only one of them was fully aware). And in the case of Mary, although we find her angry and confused at having her memories taken from her, I nevertheless got the impression that she was content in knowing that she was/is in love and ‘happy with a secret’.

    You speak often with cost and return on your investment. For many (and certainly the characters in the movie), the passion of the honeymoon period that you so glowingly described is worth whatever emotional currency will be collected at a later date. The hope and happiness that accompanies the period, despite all indications of a future meltdown, can be intoxicating and if their memories had been erased as thoroughly as suggested, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joel and Clem were grateful for having a second chance to relive the feelings with someone they’ve known and loved before. Indeed, Mary hardly seems like she regrets having pined for Howard for “so long”, even though she’s upset at being cheated out of her memories.

    I suppose for me, the movie wasn’t so much about ‘happily ever after’ or learning from your mistakes as it was about falling in love, the ecstasy and fallacy of all of it.

    Sue me, I’m a sucker for stories like that. :p

  6. Synonymous says:

    Question for you.

    What do you mean by ‘happily ever after’?
    I’m starting to suspect that you may think that relationships worth being in _must_ be devoid of problems (by the context of the phrase in the sentence you used). ‘Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’ is a phrase that basically says “Eternal happiness of a…”, well you know what it means. The whole point of that phrase is that there is no happiness in erasing/supressing/ignoring/refusing bad experiences. Happiness (if any) acheived through those means will be temporary at best.

    All that stuff you wrote about the ‘honeymoon stage’ and stuff, I agree… the first few months are indeed like that. BUT, those feelings and confessions are nothing more than immature feelings of infatuation cloaked in the robes subconscious desires to love and be loved in return.

    The references to flaws being ‘overlooked’ at that stage… well… therein the problem lies. That’s the bliss of ignorance in undeveloped immature relationships. Flaws (or rather, issues and problems) should be dealt with when they occur. Opportunities to resolve problems should not be sacrificed to avoid confrontation. I mean, if a relationship has the possibility of failing with such an attempt at resolution, how strong could it be in the first place? Ignorance isn’t bliss. There is no sunshine in the spotless mind. See, the early stages of those relationships are supposed to be spent for two people to get to know each other better. It’s at this early stage where we get to see all the little inticacies and quirks, and eventually decide if we want to accept them or not. If there are too many things we won’t accept, we break up with them. If there aren’t, we stay together. A problem arises when there are things that are unacceptable, but we tell them (implicitly) the are by not saying otherwise. These things repeat themselves, and quickly grow into major irritations, hearts are broken, people eventually feel lied to, people eventually feel that the other person ‘changed’, when all that was done (and repeatedly done at that) was that a minor ‘flaw’ was ignored.

    That’s what happened with Joel and Clem.

    Joel and Clem had problems. They had disagreements. They didn’t like certain things about each other.

    The difference between the likelihood of success of their previous relationship, and the one they started to pursue at the end of the movie, were what they were willing to accept about the other person.

    At the end of the movie, they were willing to accept all(?) the things that broke them apart. Either that, or at least implicitly agree to deal with them instead of ignoring them and spend the time cursng at each other.

    That’s the eternal sunshine.
    That’s the happily ever after.

    And it can’t be had by those who sacrifice dealing with emotionally difficult situations and problems through avoidance because they don’t want to risk losing the euphoria of an immature infatuation.

  7. Dave says:

    Odd, I don’t see anything in what I wrote that equates “happily ever after” with “a relationship devoid of problems”.

    I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said above because it’s absolutely true, but the problem is that it’s mostly tangential to the point I was trying to make in this post.

    You said: “Joel and Clem had problems. They had disagreements. They didn’t like certain things about each other.” This is quite the understatement.

    Recall all the good things shared between Joel and Clementine. They can all be characterized as elements of a good “honeymoon” stage of any standard relationship.

    Now recall all the bad things they had to say about each other. Don’t you find that all of them are the kinds of things that a long term relationship cannot be built upon? Personality-wise, these two are polar opposites, and they definitely do not attract. All they really have going is a strong physical attraction.

    That’s what I mean when I say it should have been obvious to them that there was no point in trying again after listening to the tapes.

  8. Synonymous says:

    Ahh.

    That is where your “acceptance threshold” differs from theirs (and from mine).

    Now recall all the bad things they had to say about each other. Don’t you find that all of them are the kinds of things that a long term relationship cannot be built upon

    Those things are things that relationships are not based on. To think that relationships are built on things like how much a person talks, or hair colour, or any other one of those things they metioned, would be pretty ridiculous.

    You, I, or anybody would be insane to base a long-term relationship on things such as those.

    BUT, You, I, or anybody else would be equally insane (or maybe just extremely naive) to think there is a long-term relationship out there where these sorts of arguments don’t exist.

    Now personality-wise, who would you or I be to say which personality types would work or not work in the long term. If we were such great judges of personality matches, then damn, you or I, or anybody else out there would never have to go through (or never have gone through) a breakup ever again. So as far as the personality-compatibility discussions and opinions go… the point is moot.

    Meaningful relationships are founded upon *good* things they say about each other without ignorance to the “bad things”. And, just because there are “bad things” in a relationship, it doesn’t logically follow that the relationship is “based upon” those certain things.

    Bottom line is, their first relationship failed not because they always cursed at each other, and one was spontaneous and the other wasn’t… etc etc. Their relationship failed because there was a mutual lack of respect for the other. The cursing, the insecurities, heck, even wiping each other out from each other’s minds, are all acts that *resulted* from their lack of mutual respect (an eventually, trust) for each other. It is *this* that caused their relationship to fail.

    And I don’t care how long their, or any honeymoon stage lasts… if there is no respect or trust, that’s it. Game over.
    Young relationships fail because most of the time, they have no idea how to move from the honeymoon stage to the more mature “I accept you for who you are” stage. This is evidenced by couples who repeatedly perform cliche’d romantic things for each other (roses, chocolates, yada yada yada, to stay in the honeymoon stage and to delay advancement to the more mature stage), or commit right-off-the-bat-when-they-hardly-know-each-other, or panic whenever any bit of reality threatens their “picture-perfect relationship” (“oh my goodness you talked to another girl! You pig!”), or constant signs of insecurity (“Why do you love me?”, “Why do you love me?”, “Do you think I’m pretty?”, “Will you ever leave me?”, “Do you think I’m boring?”, “Do you think I talk too much?”, etc).

    Joel and Clem may have had an immature, untrusting, name-calling, you-talk-too-much relationship before, but it is their advancement into the mature “I accept you for who you are, blabbering mouth and all” relationship at the end of the movie that is the “Eternal Sunshine”.

  9. Dave says:

    Last time I checked, the cornerstones of a successful relationship are trust and communication. Two things which you so verbosely agreed that Joel and Clementine did not have in their first attempt.

    Am I correct in saying that you saw ample evidence during the denouement of the movie that suggests they had learned this mistake and would not repeat it the second time around? Assuming you did, am I also correct in saying that you can see them easily being able to do this, given their obvious personality conflict[1]?

    If so, I would like to suggest that you are seeing what you want to see, or rather what you would do if you were in their position, as opposed to what was shown in the movie. If it was the director’s and/or writers’ intention to show all that you have suggested, they did a piss-poor job of it.

    [1] Note that I have never said anything about compatibilities of personalities in general. Merely that Joel and Clementine happen to have “opposite” personalities, and in their case they happen to not be compatible.

  10. Synonymous says:

    What I don’t understand is why you say you’ve said nothing about the compatability of personalities (in general) and repeatedly turn around to say that the personality types of Joel and Clementine are opposite, conflicting, and therefore incompatible.

    To make such a firm statement you must think you know enough about their personality types to make such generalized conclusions about them. I don’t know more about the compatibility of personalities any more than you do, so how valid would my claims be if I told you you were wrong, and they in fact *are* compatible as far as their personalities go? The debate would go something like this:

    Me: I think their personalities are compatible.
    You: I don’t think so, I think the opposite.
    Me: You’re wrong
    You: No, I’m right
    Me: No
    You: Yes
    Me: No
    You: Yes

    etc.

    So you see why I’m not even commenting on whether or not they’re compatible on the level of personality. You’re right. There wasn’t enough from the movie for me to make a blanket conclusion on their entire personality profile. That’s why I’m not. That’s why I never did!

    However, there was enough from the movie for me to conclude that lack of respect and trust was the cause of their relationship’s breakdown.

    And, I didn’t make any comment specifying the foundations of a long-term meaningful relationship were trust and respect. What I said was that a relationship without those would fail. That does not reciprocate to imply that only those two are enough to make a relationship meaningful and long-term. (Logic right? a->b doesn’t imply b->a) Because as you said, communication is very important too.

    As for their second time around the Joel-go-round, I don’t know if they’re going to live happily ever after. Heck, we only saw like what, 5 minutes at most of their new relationship after the tapes. Anybody to think they’d be able to predict their future from 1.5 hours of snapshots of their past would be totally naive. But whether they do or don’t is not the point. The *point* is that they changed their attitude toward each other. The point is that they advanced from the immature “I don’t like her cause she talks to much”, to “I like her, even when she talks too much”.

    It is *this* change in attitude that makes me conclude that their relationship will be more “mature”, and therefore last longer than their original relationship. There’s new respect, and *finally* there’s acceptance. Will they live happily ever after? Don’t make the assumption that they will just because the story’s a fictional one and on the big screen courtesy of Hollywood. But whether they do, or don’t, isn’t the point. Their new relationship will be infinitely times more meaningful than their last, and it wouldn’t be possible to reach such a level if they just chose to ignore unpleasant experiences.

    Will they have the same arguments? Of course they will.
    But that doesn’t imply their relationship will fail again because of them. Again, as I’ve said before, the difference on the outcome will be based upon what they choose to accept about each other. As we see at the end of the movie, they choose to accept each other *as they are*. Only the naive would think arguments are enough to make a relationship fail, because it goes 180 degrees opposite of what they perceive should be a Hollywood-perfect relationship.

    Arguments are the *results* of more fundamental problems in relationships, they are never the cause.

    So to sum up the above:
    – There’s not enough in the movie to make *any* kind of judgement or conclusion on their personality. As such, none of my reasons they’d do better are (or ever were) based on personality.
    – I don’t know if they’ll be together for ever. But being together forever isn’t the point of this movie. It’s about advancement into the mature “accept you for who you really are” relationship, that can’t be done if couples ignore or surpress their problems and bad experiences.
    – Whether “mistakes” are repeated again are irrelevant when it comes to the topic of a mature, successful and meaningful relationship, and don’t let the outrageous demands from a naive highschool exgirlfriend tell you different.

    Sidenote: As I have come to learn, girls makes these demands to make their relationship conform to their idealistic and superficial image of a ‘good relationship’. ie. Movie romance, no conflicts, guy knows everything about girl, guys knows what’s “supposed” to be done, no repeated “mistakes”, guy always knows what the girl is thinking, commited to her no matter what she says or does, etc. And us guys knows, this is total bullshit. This is not a real relationship. Well, not a meaningful one by any stretch of the imagination. These are simply naive girls who don’t know what a real relationship involves, so they go to what they know… soap operas, and hollywood chick flicks for their relationship foundations.

    Don’t let any naive girl brainwash you into thinking that.
    I can already tell one has gotten to you, by what you said about mistakes being repeated, “happily ever after”, which personalities clash, which personalities don’t “attract”, and from your summation that a relationship with repeating mistakes isn’t one worth pursuing.

    Okay, back on topic:
    And, opposite or not, personalities don’t attract each other.
    It’s a person’s curiousity of another that draws them together. So who’s to say (with *any* validity) what invokes someone else’s curiousity to the point of attraction? It’s all a matter of personal preference.

    And there had better be something underneath when the carpet of curiousity is yanked away from underneath their feet. If there isn’t, we all too frequently hear “Oh too bad, they were just too different from each other”. If there is, “See? Opposites attract!”. Both sentences are absolutely *meaningless*, and are fantastically misleading because they’re nothing more than grossly over-simplified generalized “wives’ sayings” about personalities created to give them the illusion of control so they feel “know” how to protect themselves and others from the pain of an unsuccessful relationship.

    This all stems from fear.
    Fear of wasting time. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of being hurt emotionally. Fear of not being special to somebody else. And ultimately, fear of rejection.

    I hope I’ve clarified myself a bit.

  11. Dave says:

    Your lack of understanding is because you’re not reading carefully enough. I’ve been progressively writing less and trying to be more succinct in the hopes of helping your reading-comprehension, but it seems to be having the opposite effect.

    Instead you’re just giving me longer and longer tangents, and now relationship advice that was neither requested, nor based on accurate information.

    So I’ll spell everything out in point form. Please read slowly and carefully.

    First, the conflicting personality thing:

    – Joel and Clementine have opposite personalities. One is an introvert, one is an extrovert. This is a fact.

    – Joel and Clementine did not get along after their “honeymoon” stage, and all the reasons they cited in the movie were due to conflicts of their personalities. This is also a fact.

    – I have never stated that the above two facts apply to the general case of personality compatibility. That implication appears to be one of your own fabrication.

    – Their personalities conflicted the first time around, why would they just choose to accept each other and move forward the second time? Do you suddenly just choose to accept that annoying guy you’ve always hated and start being bosom buddies?

    – So it stands to reason that if they are going to be able to get along the second time around, one of them has to change.

    – Personality is practically impossible to change. Attempting to do so requires a long time and a lot of conscious effort. We were not given any indication that either Joel or Clementine are willing or capable of changing their personalities.

    Now, the trust and communication thing:

    – I said: “Last time I checked, the cornerstones of a successful relationship are trust and communication.“.

    – You said: “And, I didn’t make any comment specifying the foundations of a long-term meaningful relationship were trust and respect. What I said was that a relationship without those would fail. That does not reciprocate to imply that only those two are enough make a relationship meaningful and long-term.

    – Nothing in what I said implies the bolded part either. Again, you appear to be arguing with yourself on this point.

    Now, the point of the movie:

    – You said, “Heck, we only saw like what, 5 minutes at most of their new relationship after the tapes. … The *point* is that they changed their attitude toward each other.“. Again I ask you. In that final 5 minutes, what evidence did you see that they changed their attitude to each other. Are you sure you’re not just seeing what you want to see?

    – What I saw in the final 5 minutes was Joel and Clementine on the cusp of their “2nd” honeymoon stage. In the honeymoon stage, flaws are overlooked, people can do no wrong, yadda, yadda. That includes any nasty things the other person might have said about you on some random tape that cannot be proved as authentic. Doubly so when you have no memory of anything bad happening yourself. All you see is this attractive person in front of you, and there’s some spark/chemistry you want to pursue further.

    – The writer and director construct the movie such that you see what they want you to see. What they want you to see is supposed to imply the point of the movie. All the stuff that you say about them advancing the stage of their relationship is never even hinted at, thus my comment about you projecting your own desires onto the characters instead of what is actually shown to us.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I had noticed that my post was starting to look like relationship advice. Heh.

    Okay, I see what you’re saying about what I was talking about and how I was starting to ‘argue with myself’, so I’ll agree with that much. I think we were just blurting out truths we both agreed on.

    But here is what I don’t agree with:

    Your emphasis on the usefulness of personality-gauging in determining the success or failure of a relationship.

    I think I have a pretty good grasp on why you think Joel and Clem’s 2nd pursuit will be fruitless.

    (Correct me if this isn’t accurate in describing how you perceive the process of their (or all?) failing relationship)

    1. Relationship conflicts caused by conflicting personalities.
    2. Faults are ignored during honeymoon stage.
    3. Honeymoon stage ends, nothing but faults left.
    4. There are arguments. Most likely about those faults ignored during honeymoon stage.
    5. Relationship fails because of too many arguments (and faults).

    ?

    To follow your advice, I’ll try to keep this short.

    How you think of avoiding step 5, is by dealing with step 1… to eventually prevent 2 (there would be no faults to ignore), 3 (there would be no faults left), 4 (no faults to argue about anymore) and eventually 5 from happening.

    I must say, this is very efficient.
    The existence of 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all conditional on 1.

    It’s perfect in theory, but in reality, this is just impractical.

    Why? Because the existence of arguments is *not* dependant on the presence of faults. There *will* be arguments.

    What I was trying to say, was that:
    – #1 is irrelavent; it doesn’t matter how relationship conflicts are caused.
    – #2 is dealt with by dealing with “the faults”. It’s here where I find the bud should be nipped at, not at #1.
    – #3 is made irrelavent by dealing with #2. If the faults are dealt with, they won’t reappear. If the faults do reappear, you know how to deal with them.
    – #4 is dealt with by dealing with the issue of those arguments. This is the nipping the neck of bud #5.
    – #5 is nipped by dealing with #4.

    Heh, to put it into a computer science-related analogy…
    The output (success) of your “relationship perception function” pseudocode depends entirely on its input. Garbage in, garbage out.
    The alternative approach I outlined is a bit more resilient with error-tolerance and exception handling.

    Also note, there are only a handful of personality types and about two handfuls of personality disorders. Knowing this, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that you have the *absolute perfect* ability to know which ones won’t conflict with each other.
    Mix and match all you can, and I’ll even be pessimistic/optimistic and say you’ll get 7,000 different combinations of these personality types.

    Now what?

    Will you or I have conflict/problem-free relationships (the only ones worth pursuing) with each and every one of the X million other people in the world (personality-wise) who don’t conflict with our personalities?
    Obviously not. On the flipside, let’s say you or I are compatible with only *one* other person in the world (personality-wise). Are conflicting/matching personalities so easy/obvious that you (or anyone for that matter) is able to distinguish 1 in 7 billion from *every other*? If not, the chances that the next relationship you or I pursue of being ‘the one’ are around 0.0000000001
    So 99.99999999 percent of the time, you, I, and everyone else out there are going to be in relationships with personality conflicts, faults, and arguments stemming from faults. So I wonder… do you realise now, that your “relationship perception function” will fail 99.99999999 percent of the time? Okay, let’s say your ability really *is* pretty good, and you’re able to reduce it by 6 orders of magnitude down to 99.99%.
    The chances of being in a successful relationship (or one worth pursuing) with the first “relationship perception function” is 0.0001 or something. From an engineer’s perspective… the word “negligible” comes to mind. And this does not account for *any* error in personality-conflict-gauging abilities.

    Now what?

    So you see, the practicality of gauging personality (for the intent and purpose of eyeballing the likelihood of a successful relationship, or one worth pursuing)… to *any* degree or ability is entirely moot.
    I hope you see now that it’s just a blanket generalization people use to make them feel safe and “in control” to protect themselves from exposure to a more fundamental fear.

    Okay, you’re right, I’m branching off into relationship advice.

    – You’re right, personality *is* practically impossible to change, and something about them *had* to change for it them to work. But, it wasn’t their personality that needed changing, it was their attitude and maturity level toward each other that needed to change, and it eventually did.

    – And you’re also right about something else:
    We can only see what we see through the lens of our own psyche’s.
    You saw “relationship perception #1”, and I saw “relationship perception #2”.
    We both saw what we wanted to see in a relationship.

  13. Dave says:

    The point I’ve been trying to make since comment #4 up above is that there is a difference between a fault that can be worked through and accepted, and a fault that is so large and inherent to the other person that it isn’t possible to “adjust your attitude and maturity level” to accept them.

    To continue your CS/CE analogy, there are some errors/exceptions that you can catch and handle (e.g. the user enters malformed input data, so you tell them and prompt again). Then there are some exceptions that you can’t handle except by bailing (e.g. the operating system runs out of memory, and you really need some).

    Similarly with personality and relationships. For example, I hate people that talk a lot while saying absolutely nothing. I also hate people that are not self-aware enough to realize what they do and do not know. Say I enter a relationship with some physically attractive girl that has these traits, but I just don’t know it yet. I’m sure our “honeymoon” phase would be phenomenal, and I’m sure we’d eventually break up once I find out. There’s not a chance in hell that I’ll ever be able to adjust my “attitude and maturity level” to the point where I can accept said girl. It would be orders of magnitude easier for me to drop her and keep looking for someone who is a better match.

    What I’m saying is the incompatibilities between Joel and Clementine are of this magnitude. It’s not just one problem either, every single thing they listed as a fault of the other person are large problems that cannot be worked around unless one of them changes their personality significantly. We’ve already established that doing so is in the realm of difficult-to-impossible.

    So please, stop saying stuff like “But, it wasn’t their personality that needed changing, it was their attitude and maturity level toward each other that needed to change, and it eventually did.“, without giving some supporting evidence from the movie. Without it, you’re simply describing what you envision the the two characters doing, rather than what the writers/director wanted us to deduce.