Love does not equal romance. Or at least, it doesn’t always equal romance. It certainly is part of the traditional story-telling formula, but love can be present between characters that isn’t the romantic kind.
Generally, love gets shown in two ways in stories. It’s either the aforementioned Romantic Love (the one that usually involves sex, kissing, etc.) or Familial Love (between mothers/fathers and their children or between siblings). The Greeks had words for seven different types of love, but love can come in so many shades of meaning and permutations of expression that I doubt there are names for them all. But the point I’m trying to make is that when we use the word “love” it can apply to far more than the Traditional Two of Romance and Family.
I think this point really shines in the newly released television mini-series adaptation of the book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. (Yes, I’m still going on about this show. No, I am not sorry about it!) Earlier today, I wrote a review about Good Omens and discussed how the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley were my favorite characters. Their relationship is the emotional core of Good Omens, and I love how we see it build up over the course of centuries as the show gives us little moments of interaction during their time on Earth. Seeing this complex, multi-faceted, slow-burn type of relationship is a rarity. Because Crowley and Aziraphale are a demon and an angel, two fundamentally different beings, they have very different perspectives, but come to appreciate, value, and care about one another. They definitely love each other, but it doesn’t feel like the carnal, erotic love that one might expect. Rather, it is a well-done, utterly believable platonic kind of love.
I’m sure there are plenty of slash shippers who may take issue with that interpretation, but I enjoyed seeing a love presented as being no less real, or less important, or less powerful for lacking a sexual component. I’m happy to see representation of homosexual romances in fiction as well as heterosexual ones, but it’s just as important to see other forms of love, ones that don’t necessarily involve sex or romance, on equal footing.
P.S. If you haven’t seen Good Omens yet, you should. David Tennant and Michael Sheen are a sight to behold and a treat to watch as Crowley and Aziraphale.