August 2, 2021

A comic to believe in love again, or at least try it | Culture

The pages dedicated to Leonardo DiCaprio in Liv Strömquist’s ‘I don’t feel anything’ comic.

Leonardo DiCaprio has had 11 girlfriends – that is known – since 1994. The data serves as a premise for Liv Strömquist (Lund, Sweden, 43 years old) to try to understand if in these times “being in love has become something more and more extraordinary ”. I do not feel anything (Reservoir Books) is the new comic from the author who dared to call the vulva by its name in her previous book (The forbidden fruit) and that now turns to philosophers, sociologists and pop stars to respond to a topic that, he says, “is trending topic [que está de moda] in conversations with your friends.

“Now we think much more about love than past generations who got married and kept the marriage to the end. As if there were no other option, “says the author through a video call. “We spend more time looking for someone, breaking up, then looking for a new partner … it’s part of our life.”

Swedish writer Liv Strömquist.
Swedish writer Liv Strömquist.Galago

In this loving loop persists in the spirit of these times that Strömquist calls late modernity: “The need to have control over everything, including the future.” The problem the writer has encountered when reading authors such as Eva Illouz, Kierkegaard, Hilda Doolittle, Socrates, and Lord Byron for answers is that “falling in love or falling out of love” is beyond our control. “It just happens and it’s difficult to manage,” he says, “at least for me.”

It’s not easy for Beyoncé, either. In this comic, which is also an essay on love, feminism, capitalism, and therefore patriarchy, Strömquist recalls the song Irreplaceable of the artist. A subject in which a girl discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her with another. She asks him to leave, to pack. “The song is a kind of female empowerment whose goal is to educate and influence women to think and act differently and thus be free and have satisfying relationships,” writes the author.

One of the pages of the comic dedicated to Beyoncé.
One of the pages of the comic dedicated to Beyoncé.

The result is that Beyoncé tries to spread the belief that “each of us can turn love on or off” whenever we want. The reality is that the singer returned to her husband, Jay-Z, after discovering his infidelities; He made a whole album about it and went on tour with the rapper around the world showing that love can do everything. Or so they think. That is, as if love had more to do with “performance and self-control”, in capitalist terms, than with a moment of emotional effervescence difficult to hold in your hands: “For example, when you are in love with someone that he does not love you, but you insist that he loves you or you want to stop having that feeling. Or when you try to stay with someone when you are aware that you have stopped loving them ”.

On I do not feel anything also appear the Smurfs and actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz. “I like to use topics and examples that interest me and above all make me laugh. Also, I’ve always been interested in gossip magazines. What does not mean that you read philosophical theory. Then I mix it all up, ”explains Strömquist. It recognizes that this mixture of characters serves as a hook to introduce the reader into a thoughtful essay loaded with constant intellectual references, but at the same time it does not fix its attention on a specific generation nor does it intend to become the voice of the millennials.

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“This book is about falling in love, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender,” she responds when asked if this new generation Z, the one who questions monogamy and the construction of gender, can feel appealed in this discussion about love. “We live in a time focused on individualism, on trying to define who you are … It’s good, people can live with some freedom, but this way of focusing on oneself also affects relationships with other people,” he says.

The best example to explain social relationships and love is found in social networks, that space in which, apparently, romantic love survives. “That successful display of love is actually used as a commodity in exchange, as something that can be bought and sold, which conforms to the logic of money,” he says. “The happier you are in a relationship, the more publicity you can get, that is, the more economic benefit.” The problem, the writer raises, is having to “divide between reality and that false life” because it can make it “painful to tell the truth.”

So do you believe in true love? “Yes,” he says flatly. “There is a social and cultural component to love. Still I think it is a mysterious and universal force. Of course, there are problems in the way that culture idealizes love and imposes a way of loving. In the book I explain that love is not only that wonderful pink part, it can also be very destructive. But yes, I believe in love ”.