And now I have a problem with chick flicks.
Three things are necessary for a movie to be a romantic comedy (funny how they’ve made sure most mainstream comedies in general these days are also rom-coms):
- The main characters know they are meant to be together (i.e. fall in love at first sight. Or, if you’re prudent, within a week.)
- There is something that threatens to keep them apart (usually some character flaws in one or both of them, or one or both is already attached).
- The conflict is overcome via some absolutely ridiculous chain of events. Usually ending in some public pronouncement of love.
How is any of this realistic? Both in terms of the conflict (someone usually does some changing/growing up/personality alteration that they wouldn’t actually do in real life – no matter how awesome/patient the other person is) and in terms of how it is resolved.
Oh sure – you hear about people standing up to confess their love in public all the time.
And all those relationships you know about where people “fell in love” quickly – how’re those working out?
OK so they aren’t realistic – but they sell tickets. Why does this still bother me?
Well. These movies relay the following messages:
- Real love is dramatic and intense – and often happens fast.
- If you are awesome/patient enough – someone who isn’t great, suddenly will change for you because you are just that awesome and because they love you just that much.
- Dramatic conflict in relationships is normal.
- Not only is conflict and drama normal, it’s actually a good thing. How else are you supposed to know for sure the other person really really loves you?
So this is what we end up chasing. Relationships that happen fast, feel intense, that create drama in our lives (because we keep hoping for the equally intense romantic resolution), and we expect people who are often crazy and/or just generally shit to change. We put up with drama and bullshit because we’re trained to believe that’s how love is. That’s how relationships are. But, I think more importantly, we’re trained to want that crazy, public, romantic gesture – because look how special we would feel!
I’ve said it before – If it feels too good to be true? It probably is. If it happened quickly? It can end just as fast. If you think you love someone and they say they love you, oh I don’t know, a week after you meet? That’s Vagina Brain (i.e. pure lust) and Girl Brain (i.e. want romantic payoff) conspiring while Rational Brain is out to lunch. Or tied up in the corner.
I’m not saying that chick flicks are solely to blame. Obviously we have some propensity for this shit already. I have felt it, and I know my friends have as well – that intense relationship that just won’t let you go. The person you know is not good for you, that you can’t seem to turn away from.
Oh! It’s meant to be!
No, honey, it’s not.
Lasting relationships typically are not built on intensity. That’s lust, dear – and it’s not sustainable like that, it will change, do not even think of setting your long-term expectations that high.
And since when was conflict and drama something we wanted in relationships??
Sure – lust can turn into love over time. But it happens slowly, as you get to know each other. Not because you had some huge blow-out fight and then he showed up with flowers at the airport after running through the streets of NYC because there was a huge traffic jam to profess his love to you in front of everyone and to stop you from getting on that plane!
Finally – the crazy people. In chick flicks, there’s always one. And they always change. In reality? Stay away from the fucking crazies, ok? He or she really is emotionally unavailable/a commitment phobe/insecure/not into you. Period. In the movies? If you are patient/awesome enough, and they “love” you enough – they miraculously become a different person. In real life? If the pattern is established, start banking on it. Sure – they might change, people grow the fuck up all the time, but they probably aren’t going to for you. Sorry – harsh but true.
P.S. Do not even get me started (too late) on how these movies also depict women. We’re often so stereotyped, it should be offensive – not something we ignore. In the beginning, the female lead is often bitchy, whiny, a control-freak, and lamenting not having a man/pretending she doesn’t care she doesn’t have a man when really she does… In general, the storyline often establishes a plethora of reasons why she doesn’t have a man, and naturally equates this to her not being happy.
When she swears she is happy, because she is wealthy/has a great job/has great friends – we the audience don’t even believe her. We know she’s actually working too hard (because she’s a woman – period), and her friends are flippant, shallow, or just comic relief. And are also either a) already married (with or without babies) or b) the ones who can admit “omigodddd I neeeeeed a man!” when she can’t.
Furthermore, the female lead that works hard/has a job they “love” (but we know they don’t, girls don’t reeeally like to work), is really often “too driven” in her work (i.e. she looks focused, but is really using work to cover up how she’s not happy and also another reason she doesn’t have a man) and gives it up for love (because now she has a man, and is therefore happy – and can step cheerfully into her proper place: behind him).
What the fuck, man. Whatever you do – for the love – don’t give up your work for a commitment-phobic man who keeps coming back simply for the chase.
What I really want to see is the movie about this same relationship, not even a year later.