The Time Traveler’s Wife: Not A Grooming Story?

I don’t get why this series was labeled as Sci-Fi. It’s been accused of being a story that glorifies grooming, but having watched it, I think it’s just a fantasy about a girl meeting her wish fulfillment dream-guy whom she sees as her “soul mate” upon her first meeting him. The grooming seems like a result of unfortunate implications from the fantasy of meeting their perfect partner / soul mate at a young age. For that reason, I’d label this story as a romantic fantasy and not Sci-Fi at all.

What really made me interested in watching this story, as bizarre as this may sound, was the incurious nature and lack of any meaningful depth in exploring a rather interesting time travel mechanic while conversely having very realistic portrayals of characters with strong emotional depth. Henry has been experiencing uncontrollable time travel throughout his entire life and he is completely incurious on why that is. The reasoning for his disinterest is the vaguest of conspiracy theories and despite working as a librarian, he’s never interested in the many books on time travel. He seems content in just reacting to his time travel ability instead of ever being curious enough to really study and question it. One aspect that I think the author of the source material may have completely dropped the ball in is this: How could Henry possibly know that his time travel ability is genetic? If he’s the only time traveler and only ever met himself, how could he possibly know that it was genetic and not some vague magical curse or scientific anomaly that could be contagious? Henry is always conveniently at odds with his older self – and even this lacks any sense of curiosity on how he views himself as a human being – and seems to quite honestly lack any real core to his character. He argues time travel means his choices don’t matter since everything is deterministic, which is why he can’t save his mother’s life. Yet, in one scene, his older self tells him the exact opposite and that it’s all about the choices they make. Henry’s focus on only the “now” is what makes him a constant victim of circumstance, and surprisingly for this story, is clearly what brings him to his eventual death. I would guess the author never thought deeply about it and only wanted to make a story about a young girl meeting her prince charming at his most “perfect” form, but the complete lack of curiosity for why he’s suffering time travel is striking because it doesn’t even make sense from a common-sense perspective to do that. If your life is repeatedly hampered by involuntary time travel, often making you suffer the experience of watching your mother’s death every Christmas, then why wouldn’t you try to change it?

Of course, the reason the story takes this route is because it only wants to focus on the romantic fantasy of meeting one’s soul mate at a young age and doesn’t want you to question the time travel mechanic. That is precisely why it shouldn’t have been labeled as part of the science fiction genre. It isn’t Sci-Fi because it doesn’t delve deeply to experiment with the mechanics or give any sense of wonder about it. Perhaps most strikingly, the incuriosity itself is what killed Henry and Henry himself can only really blame himself for his own death. While the narrative foreshadowing is done well for this romantic fantasy, the in-universe implications is that Henry was too stupid to live since he had ample warning to avoid his fate. The story handwaves all of this by arguing it is deterministic without really proving it. Even if, for the sake of the argument, Henry is completely unable to change his mother’s fate, why should this imply that he can’t change anything else? It is obvious that the purpose behind all of these harebrained decisions is that the author just wanted to make a romantic fantasy novel and make you feel bad for Henry. Unfortunately for me, it just comes off as completely stupid and you would have to believe Henry is a moron to find any of this believable. Another aspect I don’t understand is the relationship with Clare. Henry and Clare seem fine as a couple at first glance, but it seems like their relationship is built on Clare keeping secrets about herself from Henry so Henry can experience them while being surprised. In that context, can the relationship really make any sense?

Clare seems okay at first, but her character revolves around being hung up on Henry. Not that she doesn’t have the capacity to disagree with him, but rather all her feelings and emotions revolve solely around Henry. The only time this is not the case, the author wrote in a traumatic rape experience as some type of growth and redemption arc so that Clare would become more studious and go to an Arts Institute. Since this story was initially made in the early 2000s, my own lack of knowledge on anything related to trauma from rape, and the author herself went to an Arts Institute; I’m trying not to be too harsh with this aspect of the story. I do want to point out that I personally am exhausted to death with rape being used as a character motivation for development. I really don’t like that at all and it is done way too much. I recall the DC Wiki once having a list of Heroines who suffered rape. It’s quite disturbingly the most overused “story arc” when it comes to female characters in general and I’m sick to death of it in fictional stories, even as a metaphor.

Overall, I don’t know what to think of this story. I’m not sure if the positives outweigh the negatives. I don’t think I really like the themes of the story once it gets to the wedding. The author seemed to want to write a mundane love story with a time travel gimmick which is why Henry has these convoluted beliefs on not researching something that fundamentally hampers his ability to live a normal life and the story is completely incurious to have Henry time travel beyond anything not involving Clare’s life or his own life. Additionally, I suppose I just don’t understand why anyone would go along with marriage if they admit that it’s just a lifelong commitment without any happiness. What’s the point then? The story feels so brittle and needing convoluted beliefs from the characters to really make it work. I suppose it is okay for people who want a romance story with fantasy elements involving time travel, but I feel as if it never reached its true potential as a story. I suppose the self-defeating Christian perspective just makes every interesting concept into something limited, provincial, and a total waste of a story’s core concepts. For example, why didn’t Clare and Henry just decide on polyamory or polygamy if Clare’s friends and Henry himself all loved each other? Otherwise, what is the point of having a friendship with someone who wants to be romantically involved with your wife? In what way is that a life worth living? I just don’t get it. I don’t understand how any life that willfully chooses to be a mere victim of circumstance is somehow a life worth living.

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