When the Guardians of the Universe abandoned emotions, a group of female Guardians dissented, left Oa, and dedicated themselves to embracing emotions, beginning with Love. They found a star sapphire on the planet Zamaron that contained the power of Love and proceeded to hone that Love and learn how to harness its power through rings and lanterns. The violet light is located on one of the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum (think ROY G BIV on a rainbow). The farther you get from the center, the more the emotion controls the wielder, rather than vice-versa. Thus, the red light of Rage and the violet light of Love have an equally large amount of control over their respective corps members. However, though the red rings force themselves on those deemed worthy, the violet rings require permission from their chosen recruits (consent is sexy!).
The Violet Lanterns’ entity (the embodiment of Love) is called the Predator and appears in the form of a large, skeletal dinosaur. This fearful sight matches the view of Love that many in the universe, even the Violet Lanterns themselves, come to hold: that it is dangerous and must be controlled. They felt that Love cannot be trusted, that it does more damage than good, and that it must be contained. I imagine you can think of examples from your own life or the lives of those you know when love took control, when love hurt more than it healed, when love was not all you need.
Why might this be? There are likely many reasons that Love cannot be trusted carte blanche in our lives, including the fact that we are finite and fallible creatures, which leads our love to be finite and fallible. Also, the things in life with the potential for the greatest good simultaneously contain the potential for the greatest bad. I will focus on another possibility: our cultural narratives of love. This includes what society says about Love through actual narratives (books, movies, plays, etc.), as well as the cultural values that are perpetuated through language, expectations, and cultural mores. We are taught (both explicitly and implicitly) what Love looks like. Singleness is looked down upon in favor of coupling. Prince Charmings ride on white steeds to rescue helpless waifs. Love must lead to offspring. Love can overcome any barrier or obstacle. Each person has one true love in the world (the Violet Lanterns can even reveal who that person is!). Our true love will fulfill all of our needs. These narratives create unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for our relationships, and even when we recognize this, they are so engrained within us that it is difficult to undo this conditioning and its impact on our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
The entities of the emotional spectrum can possess beings and impart their power to them. The Predator once possessed a man named Abraham, who had watched a woman named Lisa from afar and taken pictures of her for years without ever attempting to meet her. Once possessed by the Predator, Abraham approached Lisa and expected her to automatically reciprocate his “love” for her. Violet Lantern Carol Ferris showed him that he was infatuated with Lisa, not in love with her, and that he could not force anyone to love him, even with the power of the Predator. She also revealed that Abraham had been controlling the Predator, not vice-versa, a kind of reverse possession. His views of love had corrupted the Predator, so when the Zamarons (the leaders of the Violet Lanterns) wanted to imprison the Predator, Carol fought to keep it free and teach it what Love actually is. Our views of love and how that plays out in real life are often controlled by our own wants and desires that are shaped by our cultural narratives of love, for good or for ill (and often both). Where true love exists, it requires working at it, development, and maintenance, but we humans have a difficult time accessing it free of our own biases and expectations.
The Violet Lanterns’ oath claims, “Love conquers all.” However, it would appear that though love is certainly powerful, it is not everything. We need to work on more realistic and accurate views of love. This can occur in actual narratives (Frozen is a good example of deconstructing unhelpful cultural narratives of love) and in how we approach our own relationships. Abraham believed that his infatuation was enough for a relationship and that the object (a deliberately-chosen word) of his desire would obviously fall into his arms, given the opportunity. However, infatuation is not enough for a relationship, which leads to another way to alter our view of love. So far, we have been talking about romantic love, which matches the Violet Lanterns’ typical view love. However, during the attack of the Black Lanterns during the Blackest Night, the various lantern corps deputized one new member each. Wonder Woman was chosen as a Violet Lantern, because she has great love for all of life. We would do well, then, to extend our view of love beyond what the ancient Greeks referred to as eros (erotic love) to include agape (self-giving love), phileo (friendship love), and storge (familial love). A lasting, committed relationship will likely partake of all four of these loves, and there is a need to promote each of these loves (individually and in combination) outside of romantic love, as well. (See also Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory of love that includes passion, intimacy, and commitment for another example of a multifaceted view of love.) If we expand our view of love and create a more holistic and realistic view of love, it just might stand a chance of conquering all.
How have you seen love do damage in others’ lives? How have you seen it create healing in others’ lives? What cultural narratives have you seen played out in others’ relationships, and how have they been helpful or hurtful? Is there a place for a less realistic view of love? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!