Men are from Mars, women are from cable

The pains and perils of romance with TV characters.

Judging from the box office receipts, I seem to be one of the few people in the country to have watched "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" this summer. This is, in my opinion, a terrible shame. Not so much because it's an excellent movie (it isn't). Nor because it boasts a few subtle performances that shine out from amidst the general mediocrity (it doesn't, though I'm reminded once more that Anna Faris is, in general, criminally underutilized). The real shame is that the movie provides a forum for an important discussion that I believe should be taking place in families throughout the nation: the pros and cons of dating fictional characters.

You may think that such a scenario is highly unlikely. But I'm not so sure. If movies like "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "The Last Action Hero," and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" have taught us anything, it's that these lines between reality and fiction are kind of blurry. Besides, television and movie characters are becoming such a central part of the American consciousness that it's only one small step, say, from the country's love affair with Jack Bauer to some lucky lady showing him off to her parents and co-workers. And when that day comes, we, as a people, need to be ready.

Never say that this column stands unwilling to perform its civic duty. Herewith a few tips for the lovelorn and media-obsessed.

1. Seize the moment. You can't hesitate to make the first move. Before you know it, your special someone might get cancelled – or worse, syndicated to basic cable. I know a friend of a friend who was getting ready to pop the question, but dithered – and then the girl never came back after the commercial break. So fortune favors the swift, people.

2. Forewarned is forearmed. That said, jumping into any relationship without due diligence isn't the brightest thing, either. Do your homework; watch old seasons on DVD. If, for example, old and new flames of your sweetie-pie manage to get killed off with dismaying regularity (yes, I'm looking at you, Jack Bauer), then maybe you want to think twice about the whole thing. And for goodness' sake, all you women out there: never date a franchise character until you've seen how he behaves in the sequel.

3. Communication is key. Sometimes, you may feel like you're talking and talking, and your significant other isn't really listening to you; in fact, it's almost as if you weren't there at all. It's like he or she is in another world. That's all too frequent in relationships, sadly; you'll be saying things like, "Are you going to pick up the dry cleaning?", and she'll be saying things like, "I've got thirty seconds to defuse this thermonuclear bomb before it levels half of Tokyo." Who hasn't been there? You just have to talk it out; feel free, if things get intense, to use the pause and mute buttons on your remote to ensure you're really heard.

4. Don't sweat the small stuff. You're in this for the long haul; to make that work, you've got to overlook some things. Jack Sparrow isn't holding it against you that you aren't a world-class swordswoman; you shouldn't blame "old" Christine for the fact she's got a laugh track. Rise above it.

5. Take the big things as they come. One of the most common problems faced by fiction/non-fiction couples, for example, is disagreement over how they're going to raise the children. If for some reason you haven't worked this out before, then perhaps a case-by-case basis is worth looking into. If the child shows strong athletic tendencies, for example, then a series of sports leagues might be in order; on the other hand, if the child is bright yellow, sixteen feet tall, and two-dimensional, then perhaps boarding school at the Cartoon Network is the way to go.

I think that's a good start for now; feel free to read more in my new book, I'm Okay, You're Not Real: Making Things Work When One of You Is Fictional. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go: I'm meeting Veronica Mars for coffee later, and I have to get directions to the new CW.

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