This post draws on a presentation by CU philosophy professor Luc Bovens presented after a showing of The Crying Game
a few years ago.
Personal identity is a concept deeply ingrained in human ways of thought. Unfortunately, it presents several philosophical problems with no easy and intuitive solutions. Most philosophy can get by by assuming an intuitive solution exists, but on their own, the problems are both easy to understand and hard to solve.
Do you love a person (whatever that means), or do you love a set of habits, quirks, physical features, mannerisms, thought patterns, memories, and so forth, hereafter referred to as "Feature Set."
If you love a person, do you love them because of their Feature Set, or do you fall in love with some soul-like entity for reasons (or a lack thereof) which have nothing or little to do with the Feature Set?
Loving the Feature Set seems kind of shallow, and not something most people would admit. If somebody loves me because I'm smart, witty, handsome, and rich, will they lose interest in me when they meet someone smarter, wittier, more handsome, and richer? That certainly isn't the love the romantics have in mind.
But loving without regard to the Feature Set also seems a bit odd. If you loved someone and they changed every aspect of themselves, would you still love them? Would it even make sense to call it the same person?
it seems reasonable that love usually happens somewhere in the middle ground. You love many things about
a person and you also love the person
such that if your love wanted to change some feature, you would support that transition. For instance, suppose Alice is attracted to Bob in part because of his casual demeanor. They fall deeply in love and remain so for several years. After being fired from his job, Bob decides he wants to be more businesslike and reform his casual demeanor. It seems silly for Alice to leave him over that; if she truly loves him, we would say, she would help him achieve this goal.
But by the same token, we can understand the person who falls out of love with someone when they learn something new about their partner. If Carl falls in love with Denise, but later finds out that she cheats on him or murders babies or what have you, we can understand him losing that lovin' feeling. We can also understand Alice falling out of love with Bob if he transitions from a casual attentive guy to a workaholic who doesn't give enough time to his relationship.
So perhaps a good common case is this: people become attracted to other people because of the Feature Set. But there's a deeper connection than the Feature Set (perhaps it's some core set of features or perhaps it's something less tangible). With a strong enough bond, the Feature Set can change and the couple remains in love. But sometimes the Feature Set changes in ways that cause love to fade. Some times, of course, the Feature Set changes in ways which make the people incompatible, but they remain in love. This gets especially messy. Furthermore, the falling out might not be linked to a change in the Feature Set, but a discovered discrepancy between the Feature Set and the imagined Feature Set.
To put it succinctly, love can fade or break because the person you loved is now a new person or because the person you loved is not the person you thought.
The latter is the essence of the Crying Game. The transgendered in specific, but anyone in general, can be affraid that a person will fall in love with an idea and then lose interest when they find out that an idealized feature isn't present. This could take the form of an unexpected penis, a revelation of undesirable behavior, the discovery of annoying habits, or a change in fundamental goals, ideas, and personality.
We are often presented with the idea that Love (and especially Marriage) Is Forever, but it seems more naturally transient, though with the possibility of a very long tenure.The Cosby Show
gets the last (paraphrased) word:
MRS HUXLTABLE: If I died and you later met someone who looked and acted just like me, would you marry her?
MR HUXTABLE stammers a bit and answers a derivative of "I suppose so."
MRS HUXTABLE: Would you at least keep my picture?
MR HUXTABLE: No, I wouldn't keep your picture. She looks just like you, so I wouldn't need your picture!"</bblockquote>