The Series Philosopher

Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn

S02E08: Is marriage a private matter gone public?

2x08 Explosive Diorama - Lynda P. Frazier (Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder) tells Tara how her marriage ended

UNITED STATES OF TARA: 2×08 Explosive Diorama – Lynda P. Frazier (Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder) tells Tara (Toni Collette, Hostages) how her marriage ended


When two people in love decide to get married, they are likely to say that their goal is to formalize their bond, to show the whole world how much they love each other. You may also hear sentences with “before God and men” in them. But to which extent does the intimate bond between those two people concern a third party? At what stage of the relationship do feelings of love have to be proclaimed to a wider audience?

What would happen to those feelings if the couple were alone on earth, or the audience, blind and deaf?

In the eighth episode of United States of Tara Season 2 (Showtime), Tara helps Lynda P. Frazier prepare a neighborhood art show. They will both expose their works on that occasion. During the last day of preparations, they start chatting about their kids and their exhaustment:

TARA: I guess it’s kind of fun to think about… Life without your kids… Life just for yourself.

LYNDA (Viola Davis, Murder): Then you realize that was the only thing holding the marriage together. You know when my kids were grown, my husband and I took one look at each other and went: “OKAY, NO MORE AUDIENCE! TIME TO CLOSE THE SHOW!”

Hannah Arendt magnificently tackles the subjet of private versus public in her essay Human Condition (1958). She writes that appearance, meaning what the others see and hear, is for us reality. “The greatest forces of intimate life – passions, thoughts, sensory pleasures – lead a vague existence as shadows as long as they are not transformed (…) into objects that are worthy of appearing in public. (…) It is the presence of the others who can see what we see and hear what we hear that will assure us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.”

However, “there are very important things that can only subsist in the private domain. For instance, love, unlike friendship, dies, or rather passes away, as soon as we display it. (“Do not talk about your love. About love that can never be talked about…”) Basically foreign to the world, love can only lie and become perverted when we use it for political ends.”

At the very beginning, love is like a secret disease that we keep in our hearts without telling anyone. There are no words to put it, we do not want anyone to see it, it makes us happy and sad at the same time. Then we start sharing it with the loved one, who now knows how we feel for them. But do they? Did we manage to put into words that unspeakable tsunami that invades us, body and soul? Are the words we express, the rings we exchange, a reliable testimony of the feelings inside? Do we need a public to assure us that those feelings are real? Do we need it too to let us know that love is gone? Or are we the first to know?


4 comments on “S02E08: Is marriage a private matter gone public?

  1. babashubhendu
    23 January 2014

    1. Talking about love or simple attraction?
    2. As far as I can say, an audience is required to make the couple responsible. Because they are marrying not simply sharing love. If they were then an audience wouldn’t have been required. Marriage demands one to be responsible, love doesn’t. Plus, now a days the very word “Love” has become corrupted.
    And by love I mean the love between a couple, which is obvious I guess.

    • Jessie Wamal
      24 January 2014

      Dear Baba,
      that is a great question! How can we tell the difference between love and “simple attraction” (the latter is not always that simple to handle!) 🙂 How does that attraction (that has only come with time, for some couples) transform into something we may define as “love”?
      I see in your reasoning that marriage is a commitment to comply with the rules, and a request to a trusted audience to help us respect that commitment. I remember something I read as a teenager about telling people when we make resolutions: when you decide to stop smoking or to eat fruits everyday, you’d better tell other people because their mere look will remind you of the decision you made.
      The witnesses at the wedding, then the children (if the couple has any), the close friends, the fans and journalists (if ever the couple is famous and its intimacy public), the enemies or just the envious, might play the role of the Freudian superego (Über-Ich).

      • babashubhendu
        24 January 2014

        Indeed that’s a deep question. I hope someday we will find the answer.

  2. Pingback: S03E13: What is the point of getting married if no one can see? | The Series Philosopher

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The Series Philosopher is a woman in her late 20s. Not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

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