Two is the magic number: why are we fascinated with power couples?

Two is the magic number: why are we fascinated with power couples?September 27, 2020

From Ant and Dec, through the Rodham-Clintons, to the Knowles-Carters, some people work better when they’re part of a duo

There is something about the “power of two” in our culture, a unique, contained bond that can form between two people and generate a particular catalysing spark. We are fascinated by “odd couples” but not odd trios; we love watching double acts and obsess over Hollywood couples; so many great achievements seem to have been the work of dual partnerships: Lennon and McCartney; Marie and Pierre Curie; French and Saunders. But what is that something?

Perhaps one of the reasons I’m so drawn to duos like this is that I am not a natural collaborator. As a child, I ploughed my own furrow and was, I suspect, rather similar to Briony, the hero of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement: “One of those children possessed by a desire to have the world just so.” Briony not only writes the play she puts on at the start, but designs the posters, programmes and tickets – and constructs the sales booth. Way to go, Briony! Well, up to a point. In my professional life I’ve had to learn to be collegiate. Television – and to a lesser extent the newspaper industry – relies on teamwork to get the programme to air or the paper to press.

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