Infidelity in books & movies – Why aren’t there any impartial views?

I struggled a lot with the title of this post, and you’ll know why, once you read this. But before I start, I want to write down the definitions of two words I found on the internet, and it is these words, that this post and my thoughts are related to, today.

Cheating (Verb): Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage

Adultery (Noun): Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. Synonyms: Infidelity, Unfaithful

What brought on this particular thought process in my mind though? Well, this week, I watched two Bollywood movies, where the story centers around a woman’s adultery or adulterous desires.

The first one was a fast paced mystery (inspired from a Spanish movie apparently), where the woman is an independent and confident person, and she has sex outside her marriage, just because she wanted to. No other reason. She loves her husband and has no intention of leaving him. But she has an affair nevertheless. There is a murder or two in the story, and the whole story unfolds. But what does it all boil down to eventually? The protagonist thinking: None of this would have happened, had I not slept with him.

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The second movie, also has the leading lady, fall in love with a man, who is not the one she is married to. This woman is given a reason though. She was forced into a loveless marriage like a contractual marriage, and well, there comes along a man who falls for her, ignites the passion in her and brings love into her heart. Yet, how does the movie end? You guessed it, never ends well. It doesn’t end well, and the protagonist mentions at one point in the movie: Had I not taken that decision out of anger that day, I would have saved ruining the lives of four people.

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Both the movies led me to think, how our societal values and norms influence our literature and art as well. I have yet to come across a book or a story or a movie, where the cheater or the adulterer gets a happy ending, or doesn’t get punished in a way. I wondered, how did these terms come into existence? Who decided that these were sinful, similar to the other ‘sins’ we know and talk about? Remember the movie ‘Unfaithful’? Remember how it ends? No one is happy.

Paulo Coehlo, who usually writes books and philosophy about free love, free spirit and freedom of sex and keeping sex separate from love, wrote a book called Adultery, which to my surprise was completely different from his usual school of thought about relationships. In this book, the married woman is bored of her marriage and has a brief and unsatisfying sexual encounter with another old school crush. But then she is riddled with guilt and questions about her marriage and love. The book ends with her feeling guilty, then forgiving herself, and then going back to her marriage and realizing how wrong her thoughts were about the excitement of adultery.

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Then, we have the epic tale of the Indian Mythology, The Mahabharata, which is a story of revenge and Dharma. But there is a retelling of the story by Chitra Divakaruni, called ‘The Palace of Illusions’, where a woman is ‘mistakenly’ married to five brothers, and yet, her heart is with another man and she secretly desires the other man. To me, it seemed like the story started with the fact that she could not be with the one she desired. She did not commit any adultery, but the story of Mahabharata is not a happy one, as everyone knows.

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In his non fictional account of our history, Yuval Noah Harari writes in Sapiens, that we didn’t always have a monogamous society. In the times of the hunter-gatherers, there was no concept or marriage or ‘ownership’ between men and women. Sex was carried out for the sole purpose of procreation, and women were allowed to have multiple partners from both genders and could choose her partners on the basis on who she thought would give her the best/strongest offspring. But this changed once we started farming and living in settlements. The concept of ‘ownership’ started taking form, and along with land, money, food and other things, people started having fights or wanted to have control over each other as well. This was probably where the origins of monogamy started. And look where we are now, even thousands of years later, most of us find it hard to stick to one person for our entire lives.

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Talking about variety of partners, there is another thought process, where people argue, that we tend to cheat because we are forcibly bound to a relationship due to societal norms, and not because we ‘want’ to be bound to the relationship. That humans will be happier in their relationships, if they kept passion and feelings separate. If they kept sex and love separate. If we had the option of being able to have multiple partners, even when we were married, and if we remained married because we ‘loved’ the one we were married to, but could still have sex outside the marriage, we would be happier. But Aldous Huxley showed us this world too, in his dystopian book called Brave New World. Where there are no marriages and no one belongs to anyone. Although his book was a little extreme, because he had taken out emotions completely, and sex was only used as an act of recreation, such as taking drugs. Any unwanted emotions such as anger, sadness, longing or jealousy that might stem from having or not having the person you desire, could be taken care of by having a mood enhancing tablet called Soma. And yet, if you’ve read Brave New World, you’ll know, that even this world doesn’t have a happy ending, and can be broken easily.

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I’ve also noticed the difference between how gender comes into play with the subject of adultery. Men are given far more leeway and receive either easy or no punishment, if they go astray. Whereas women are either condemned and lose everything, or the one act brings about destruction of her whole family or the life as she knew it. Why is that, I wonder? Are there any books or movies out there, that show this differently, for a change?

So, what is the answer really? If it is wrong, why is it so hard? Couldn’t it be carried out with control, like with other things such as eating fatty food, or drinking alcohol? Why is adultery treated as bad as murder, that once it is committed, it cannot be reversed or forgiven?

Why do we need a reason to go over to the other side, and most of the times, why is the reason so easy and seems so right at the moment? What happens if we sin anyway? What about those people who don’t believe in God in the traditional sense? I believe, that as long as I am not hurting another human being physically, or taking away the human rights of another individual, I am not being a bad or evil person. I believe, that Heaven and Hell are both here on Earth, that we create it from our actions. But I also believe, that you can’t keep everyone happy. We are also in the age where self love is being publicized, so how does one achieve that, if what makes me happy, might not go down society’s throat that easily? if I want to eat that extra cup cake out of gluttony, why should you judge me? And even if you did judge me, why should I care? I didn’t force the cup cake down your throat now, did I? ๐Ÿ™‚

All this had been on my mind since I watched the two movies, and I just wanted to put it out there so I could purge my brain of these thoughts, because thoughts and arguments with yourself don’t always lead to an answer. I don’t mean to preach or offend anyone with this article. Read it with a pinch of salt ๐Ÿ™‚

Questions to you guys:

Did you want to punch me in the face after reading this, or did it make you think too, or were you nodding your head in agreement with me?

What are some other books or movies that touch around this subject, and have a happy ending, that you would recommend to me? ๐Ÿ™‚

13 thoughts on “Infidelity in books & movies – Why aren’t there any impartial views?

  1. Gyaani Vyakti says:

    So, as someone who has gone through that route at least once or who has been a part of someone else’s route too, the first reason that comes to my mind is the thrill of doing something which shouldn’t be done.

    Why shouldn’t be it done? Well, like you have quoted Yuval, now that we are all settled and civilised for over many centuries now, our general mindset believes in Monogamy. It gives us that sense of being responsible people, that despite our lack of choice, now this is the life we must live and therefore provide the necessary care and support which in pre-agriculture days the community would have done.

    In such a scenario, that ‘choosing’ someone over someone else is something very demeaning, very hurtful. For a one off, even more hurtful. Hurt, again, is a vast subject. We can cause hurt in innumerable ways apart from what you have written up as your definition (?).
    Despite us trying to differentiate between sex and love, they are entwined together. The number of posts on social media by everyday people suggesting that now that love is lost, their sex is meaningless. It does not fulfill them. In most cases, it does not even happen. So, another reason for that hurt is a formal seal that ‘love has left the building’.

    Now the strangest part, the guilt. While I was the single one, I didn’t feel guilty. It was more like a sinful thrill which was there. A feeling of conquest. A very base emotion. When I was the perpetrator, I enjoyed it very much that day and from the very next morning, the guilt has been gnawing at my soul. Why? Perhaps because I love my partner and despite the boredom that has crept in sneakily, I love her face light up when we do anything together. Despite the thrill of that one day, the affection of that lit up face is enough to put me on the spot and make me regret it. The ‘if I had just said no that day’ feeling everyday.

    Finally, if we, like Mr. Huxley’s Brave New World started doing this, we’ll need those medicines to kill our emotions or else, the emotional flood will wash away the society as we know it. Therefore, I do not think that cinema or books would try to justify this (unless there is a paradigm shift) and would provide a happy ending anytime soon. Cannot recall any book/story which had a happy ending. Mostly, people forgive each other and move on or they just move away. If they miss each other later or give reminders to each other after forgiving during flare ups is debatable.

    NB: You’re too dear to be punched. I nodded my head instead. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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