Dating, Relationships, & Sex

the butterfly effect: how the “you give me butterflies” lie is blinding us

90 minutes or so into the godfather, michael corleone–who’s been exiled to sicily–sees his first wife (appolonia) for the first time, and is so overcome by her that one of his bodyguards remarks that he’s been “struck by the thunderbolt“. to drive this point even further, the next scene shows michael asking appolonia’s father for her hand in marriage, despite the fact that he hasn’t even met her yet.

the father accepts michael’s offer, and michael and appolonia meet. he courts her, they marry and, if it wasn’t for an unfortunate plot-device car-bombing, they would have lived happily ever after.

i first watched this movie when i was 8 years old. for the next 15 years, i convinced myself that the love at first sight “thunderbolt” (or “fireworks”, “butterflies”, or “spark”) wasn’t just the right way to be in a relationship, it was the only way. in my mind, any romantic relationship that didn’t involve a perpetual fireworks display when you were in each other’s presence was illegitimate. you were either soulmates or just wasting your f*cking time.

this is where you’re probably expecting to read about some relationship adversity i faced that ultimately led to a “the thunderbolt doesn’t exist” epiphany, and you’d be (partially) right.

my first interactions with my ex-fiancee mirrored those of michael and appolonia. we met on a saturday, and by that next saturday we’d already met each other’s parents and slept together twice.

i had it all, the thunderbolt, the fireworks, the butterflies, the spark…and it was all bullsh*t. i allowed that initial thunderbolt–which was really just a mix of lust, like, and years of built up relationship idealism–to delude me into ignoring multiple red flags. and, thinking the thunderbolt couldn’t have possibly been wrong, i stayed in the relationship a full year past its expiration date.

it wasn’t her fault, really. i was so blinded by the butterflies that once a bit of adversity removed my gaga goggles, i realized we weren’t who i thought we were. but, no one could have lived up to that ideal. we were doomed from the start.

i realize my anecdotal evidence doesn’t “prove” the thunderbolt is bullsh*t any more than watching the godfather or the notebook “proves” it exists. i’m sure there are couples out there who fell in love the first time they locked eyes with each other. some might even be reading this right now, and i salute them and their matching snuggies.

but, while those initial thunderbolts, fireworks, and butterflies are possible, they’re improbable…and you can be perfectly happy without them.

in fact, the vast majority of people in good relationships follow the exact same script:

he thinks she’s cute. she thinks he’s cute. they like each other. they get together. they stay together. they die.

that’s it. no fireworks, no alignment of the stars, and no thunderbolts unless you’re within 10 miles of a cumulonimbus.

wait, actually that’s a lie.

they do eventually come, but not until you’re convinced your life is better with that person than without, and that can happen anywhere from 5 months to 5 years after you initially meet. you don’t build on the butterflies, you build to the butterflies. thinking that you need them in place in order to pursue a relationship is like waiting to win the lottery before you open a checking account.

i always wondered what would have happened if appolonia didn’t die in that explosion. would michael have stayed in sicily? would he have left the family business for good? would their eventual daughter still end up sleeping with her first cousin? who knows?

these questions are futile, though. her death was necessary. the thunderbolt scene resonates so deeply because appolonia’s sudden death fossilized her perfection, allowing the viewer (and michael) to reflect wistfully about the idealized version of what might have been instead of the realistic and nuanced version of what actually would have been. she convinces us that we need those butterflies to be perfect, to be happy, and she had to die to preserve that lie.

—the champ

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • Cheekie

    I’m guessing folks are expecting me to be first…


    • Andi

      *Sigh* The day is yours Cheekie…

    • legitimate_soul

      Ahhh, but “Yes”!
      *cues music*
      Get your two step on! Victory is yours :)

      • Andi

        VIXEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Andi :)

      • Wu Young Agent of M.E.

        Dope Avi!

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Wu! :)

          • Wu Young Agent of M.E.

            I think her mini-series a few years ago was the last DC books I actually liked. Good character but too bad they should have kept her in the JLA.

            • legitimate_soul

              They should have. JLA had the most color when it was a cartoon on TV because a brotha was helping put it out. *sigh*

    • keisha brown

      the day after my wont let me be great??!?!! lol.
      i kid i kid. i dont aim for the number 1 spot. ludacris.
      ps: black ppl are really good at making money..kinda. why does ludacris have a cognac? why was it being given out for free at a club during ‘bana weekend? so many questions…

      • SmartFoxGirl

        Where are the lips??? My daughter is going to be mad. ;) How was your bday?

        • Keisha Brown

          @SFG: surrree..your “daughter”. lol.
          the bday in all its entirety was WICKED!
          thanks for askin! back to reality..
          but at least NFL is around the corner!

  • Andi


    • Andi

      Ooo good one Champ! I love the Godfather and I always thought Appolonia was so beautiful and tragic (as beautiful movie ingenues tend to be). I agree whole heartedly with this post though. In my last relationship, we started out as friends and he had to convince *ahem* pursue me. He got me though and they’re were eventual fireworks. I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one. I do believe in infatuation at first sight and we all know infatuation has a very short shelf life….

      • The Champ

        “I see love as an action, and a very involved one”

        good point

      • MsEsquire77

        @Andi—“I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one.” <—–This is absolute truth!! Love isn't a noun, it's a verb! Relationships are great but they require daily work. Love isn't enough if there isn't communication, trust, patience, kindness and sacrifice.

  • Brklyn2Chi

    All I need is 1.

    Hey maybe its just me…

  • coldsweat3

    damn. i kept refreshing. no luck!

  • Penelope

    I NoL’ed approximately 4 times while reading this post (nodded out loud).
    Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote (which is, after my spiritual relationship and Google, the single greatest thing to ever happen to me).
    Good day.

    • The Champ

      Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote

      you and your evernote need to get a room

      • Penelope

        here i am PRAISING your philosophical prowess, and this is the thanks i get? I’m being blackballed by VSB; I know it– I can’t even put a picture up! Crabs in a proverbial bucket, I say.

        • The Champ

          thanks, big p.

          was that better?

    • Courtney (VSB)

      You’re an EverNote lover?!?

      Pardon me while I admire the fireworks…

    • Miss Patterson

      I love Evernote too! :)

      • I Am Your People

        *Googles EverNote* Hmmm, I may need this in my life…

  • keisha brown

    “we weren’t who i thought we were” – did you let her off the hook? did you crown her a$$? (sorry..having an nfl moment).

    back to the post. i appreciate this to the fullest. mostly because i’ve said here and in real life, that the socialization of little girls and boys is the real cause of all adult relationship problems between the 2…

    that being said, you growing up feeling the same way that girls are conditioned to think its very eye-opening. maybe we’re not so different after all. hmmm.. deep thoughts. jack handy.

    i presume you usually write from the heart, but this is the first post from you that i felt. (keep in mind i’ve only been a vsb’er for a under a yr).

    so kudos, e-hugs and shyt.

    • The Champ

      i presume you usually write from the heart, but this is the first post from you that i felt.

      thanks. i dont know. this was a strange entry for me to write because usually when i write about my past experiences, its in more of a self-deprecating hyperbolic manner. i don’t remember the last time i actually said something about myself without any snark or asides.

      so, yeah. it was from the heart and sh*t

      • keisha brown

        i don’t remember the last time i actually said something about myself without any snark or asides

        me neither. lol.
        but for real, its nice to read.

        • Alovelydai

          Awww Champ getting all warm & fuzzy & sh*t. Seriously I appreciate your raw honesty of this piece. It’s a nice balance to your “self-deprecating hyperbolic manner”.

      • thepopculturist (aka BKSweetheart)

        Hey Champster! Yeah I thought this post was very candid of you.. It touched me and sh*t (not like that lol)

        • thepopculturist (aka BKSweetheart)

          By the way, I just saw the Godfather for the first time, like, a few weeks ago.. *Runs for cover from e-stoning*

          • Alovelydai

            I’ve never seen it. Read the book tho’.

            • The Champ

              the book is better

              • Beremore

                The book is definitely better, paints a picture the movies really couldn’t contain fully. But the first two are definitely classic.

            • miss t-lee

              Yeah…the book is awesome. I like the Silician and Omerta too. RIP Puzo.

  • P.

    “i realized we weren’t who i thought we were.”

    Crown ‘em.

    Side question: Has there ever been a worse performance than Sofia Coppola’s in The Godfather: Part III?

    • keisha brown

      great minds! ;)

    • miss t-lee

      CO-SIGN Sofia’s “performance”. Especially that “no Dad!” line. UGH, For real? If your pops wasn’t the director you wouldn’t have made it on the lot. She hasn’t gotten better over the years either.

    • legitimate_soul

      Yussssss! I couldn’t help thinking that either!

    • Penelope

      Fun Fact: Sofia Coppolla was actually like the third-place candidate for the role; Rebecca Schaefer was supposed to be cast, but was killed shortly before filming. Winona Ryder was also considered, but she took the role in Edward Scissorhands instead.

      (I’m a Godfather trivia junkie by default, because my mother’s obsession with Mario Puzo & Al Pacino. she secretly wishes she were Michael Corleone’s bastard black daughter)

      • Nicollllleee.

        I never knew that! I can’t even get through the Godfather III it was so off. & ” she secretly wishes she were Michael Corleone’s bastard black daughter” is hilarious! My sister STILL swears she’s part of the family! haha and that she woulda killed Fredo, too.

        • Dressage1

          SO had to de lurk for this one. We are so >< and I don't even know ya'll. Godfather junkie b/c of my mom (who would rape the hell outta Michael Corleone given the chance) and Godfather III was the most horrific thing I ever saw. I love I & II but damn if III isn't the Fredo of the trilogy.

          @ Nicolllleee IDK about killing family, but Fredo's dumb a$$ made me rethink that option. He lost me when he fumbled and dropped the gun in the first one and sealed it with his straight crying ("I'm smaaht") back in Lake Tahoe in num 2. No fool, Forrest Gump had more brains than you. **Rant is now over**

      • P.

        I’ve never been closer to being homeless in my entire life than the moment I told my mother I had never seen any of the Godfather movies.

        Fortunately, my brother-in-law had the trilogy, so instead of being disowned I was just banished to the basement until I watched them all.

        • Dressage1

          BTW am I the only one that said “Hell Naw” when Michael went back to Kay? I mean he was in the states for a year before he even said something. I was thinking, “shiddd, he would have some serious splanin to do.”

          • bougiefruit

            I hated Kay but I thought Diane Keaton did a good job. There was never a connection with her and Michael, just expectations that he would never become his father. I remember feeling bad for her slash p!ssed at her at the last scene. Really you gon just accept it! She finally grew a pair on II.

            • Dressage1

              She def grew a pair, but even then I was like “What?” She was acting all brand new, but she knew from the get go what his family was about. On top of that, she showed up at the house to give Mike a letter and Hagen told her (in a nice way) that the ishit hit the fan and Mike had to dip. I heart Diane Keaton though, great role but you are 100% right about the chemistry between Kay and Mike was blah. Better than Fredo’s wife though and that Chris Brown hubby of Connie’s.

            • Dressage1

              IDK where my reply is so im gonna post it again.

              She grew a pair, but I got pissed b/c she acted all brand new like she didn’t know.
              1. B4 they got married, she showed up at the compound to give Make a message. Hagen said hell to the naw b/c it could seem like he knew where Mike was.
              2. She knew what the family’s job was.
              3. Oh she could read the newspapers, I know she saw that piano-playing montage like the rest of us.

              Diane played the hell outta that role and even though you are 100% right about the chemistry between her and Mike not there. A thousand Kays beats Connie’s husband Chris Brown and Fredo’s wife. (Fredo can’t win for losing, as my granny used to say.

    • The Champ

      “Has there ever been a worse performance than Sofia Coppola’s in The Godfather: Part III?”

      hmmm. i think her cousin (nic cage) is actively trying to get that crowd in every movie he’s in. seriously, its gotten to the point that every time i see him, i expect him to turn to the camera and say “you know, they paid me for this already. you don’t have to stay and watch the rest of this. go home and make a nice dinner”

      • P.
      • Sula

        I swear Nic Cage is THEE worst!!! I don’t know (well I do) how he keeps getting those roles.

        On a redeeming note, Sofia is a good director.

    • bougiefruit

      Oooh child, she was awful. Too glad when that movie when off. That whole movie was a disappointment.

    • Dee

      she was garbage in that role. i saw that movie when I was 10, and knew it then.

      • I Am Your People

        That Nic Cage keeps getting roles because he’s a Coppala….too bad Montana Fishburne wasn’t paying attention

  • coldsweat3

    Great post champ. Love at first sight/butterflies/fireworks all of it is a crock of ish. You dont know anything until you really get to know the person(not just a good screw but personality).

    • The Champ

      Love at first sight/butterflies/fireworks all of it is a crock of ish.

      lol, see, i didn’t mean to say that it was a complete crock of ish, just that you’d be a fool to base your happiness potential on it’s existence. some people do win the lottery, though

      • Mrs Smiley Face

        “some people do win the lottery, though”

        I did :)

  • miss t-lee

    Since I love GF1/2 this post is fantastical. That’s the beauty of Michael and Appolonia, her sudden death left so many unanswered questions. Sadly, I can relate to that situation. *sigh* Ol’ non actin’ Sofia Coppola prolly still woulda hooked up with Andy Garcia though, I believe…lol. Can’t say that I blame her, cuz he was looking RIGHT in that movie. :-D The butterflies are real, but in my experience it’s best to acknowledge them, but still tread lightly. When you get swept up too fast, you end up at the drive thru wedding chapel at 3am.

    • The Champ

      “When you get swept up too fast, you end up at the drive thru wedding chapel at 3am.”

      or proposing to a person you havent slept with in 5 months #thingsthatactuallyhappenedinreallife

      • miss t-lee

        *singing* You had it, you had it bad!!!

      • thepopculturist (aka BKSweetheart)

        Damn Champie she must’ve had a n*gga sprung..

      • The Champ

        i wasn’t sprung. i was just stubborn. i refused to accept the fact that it wasn’t working how i thought it would, so i pushed ahead even further.

        • thepopculturist (aka BKSweetheart)

          Sigh… i know the feeling all too well. Relationships suck. No they don’t, I love my SO. I just sometimes question whether I’m cut out for all this relationship stuff. Guys claim to be so simple yet they are just as, if not more, complicated than women.

  • 90sgagirl

    “Butterflyz”-Alicia Keys +”Butterflies” Michael Jackson+Lust”–Fatty Koo + “7 Days”–Craig David somehow come to mind when reading this, I think some people have an “it” factor, like you just know it when you see it type of thing..idk but Love patient, kind, doesn’t boast..and is being able to put up with someones BS, not trying to change them, accepting them for who they are..I believe in Lust @ first sight.

    • Naturally Alise

      o_0 @ Fatty Koo…

      • 90sgagirl

        FATTY KOO was the most underrated reality tv group! was on BET!it was too many people sooo much talent it was like Black Eyed Peas meets City High Lucy Pearl Fugees, thats the best way I can describe ‘em that was pre American Idol when Making Da Band/Otown and Popstars was on..where are they know??!! I wonder what they could have been.. I remember one girl even played cello they were soo unique

        • Reecie

          I bought Fatty Koo’s CD. I liked it. I should pull it out; its been years.

          Brutha are pretty underrated too. and those boys can sing!