"She's an old soul that believes in chivalry, romance, and love.” -Adrian Michael
I’m currently taking a college course on Christian Marriage, and yesterday we got on the topic of whether or not romantic comedies are damaging our ability to have fulfilling real-life relationships. You guys know me well enough by now to know that this sort of class discussion is right up my alley; it’s totally worth getting up at seven a.m. All we do is talk about and overanalyze love (which is all I do anyway, but now I have a justifiable reason for overanalyzing social situations–yay!).
So we’re talking about the effects of rom coms on personal relationships, and everyone in the class is all “down with rom coms!” and I’m sitting there like ”but…I love them.” But even I can recognize the truth in what they’re saying: romantic comedies falsely represent love, resulting in the manifestation of unrealistic expectations in consumers.
According to Denis de Rougemont, author of Love in the Western World, “All young people breathe in from books and periodicals, from stage and screen, and from a thousand daily allusions, a romantic atmosphere in the haze of which passion seems to be the supreme test that one day or other awaits every true man or woman, and it is accepted that nobody has really lived till he or she ‘has been through it.’”
(Can you see why I can’t get enough of this class?)
I mean, I am literally the post child for the effect rom coms can have on a person’s dating life. Am I not? (And I’m willing to bet that a lot of you are, too!) Let’s look at the facts: I’m obsessed with the meet-cute, whether it’s Jennifer Lopez being saved from a dumpster (while rescuing a pair of new Jimmy Choos) by Matthew McConaughey (The Wedding Planner), or finally getting the high school dreamboat who you thought didn’t even know you existed (Sixteen Candles). If it’s a cute interlude to a relationship, and I’m game. Throw in a musical trill of “It Had to Be You” and I’m sold. The thing is, I’ve always known that these ideas that Hollywood plants in my head, but in actuality, it’s dangerous to toe the line between fantasy and reality.
As my professor loves to point out to me–because apparently I’m the only hopeless romantic in the class–rom coms aren’t like real life. (I mean,obviously. I wouldn’t pay $9 to watch my own life unfold on the big screen. Watching me Netflix and drink wine isn’t exactly what I would call a blockbuster.) But we like to live through them because we like the ideas of wars, diseases, and distances overcome. Because history has told us that’s what romance is. As de Rougemont once wrote, “Happy love has no history.”
Nothing about love in a movie is easy, and for some reason, that’s appealing. Rom coms are also a point of escape from the monotony of real life. I don’t know about you, but I love listening to my friends’ crazy drinking/date stories. It allows me to live vicariously through them without having to go out and have that experience myself. It actually works out great.
But I don’t think that it’s so black and white: I don’t think rom coms absolutely have to ruin you for real relationships. I think that they certainly can if you start to expect Nicholas Sparks level of romance in your real life. (I’m not sure you would want a Nicholas Sparks level because it seems like at least one character per book dies?) I think you have to check yourself if you start to feel your reality blending with something a little more fantastic.
For example, if I start fantasizing about how great it would be to overcome long distance (and the friendzone). It would be a great story, and something I could tease him about forever. But the fact of the matter is, it’s unrealistic for me to hold onto this idea. Because that’s what it is–an idea, a fantasy, an unreality. And if I can wrap my head around the fact that my idea is unrealistic, then I realize that maybe that isn’t what’s best for me. Isn’t it better to want the guy who calls when he says he will–isn’t it true what they say? Actions really do speak louder than words.
So, after a long tangent, I’m going to wrap back around to my initial question: Have rom coms ruined me for real relationships?
But I’m surprisingly okay with it.
I know I’ll find someone someday, my Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen certainly has distorted my perception of reality, and occasionally, I resent her for it. But she’s given me–us–so much. We know we don’t have to settle. That’s usually one thing about rom coms that are overlooked: the woman is strong in her own right. It’s not that she was pining for this love at the beginning of the movie–love simply fell into her lap. And I think that in itself is a good lesson. You can’t force love, or time it, or plan for it. Love is as unpredictable as a taxi driver dropping his ice cream and running into a dumpster. Like in The Wedding Planner, you never know what is going to come of that doctor who saved you (and your shoe).