For love stories to mean anything at all they must rely on unequal birth and unsurpassable circumstances.
All the best love stories end horribly. In our beloved favorites there is unequal social status (The Notebook, Romeo and Juliet), impossible-to-overcome barriers (Titanic, Casablanca) and sudden but terminal illnesses (Moulin Rouge, The English Patient). It has to be that way because people who are in love tell the worst love stories. Have you ever heard a person newly enamoured? They are beyond dull. It is only the scorned and jaded that can look back with an honest and meaningful vivisection.
I speak only of love stories here. Real love differs from its cinematic adaptation; for love stories almost always give love a bad name. They rely on cliché and oft-repeated thematic tropes. And yet, they are so addictive aren’t they?
As much as I hate to admit it, some of my very favorite movies are love stories.
After analyzing top-grossing romantic comedies from the first kiss to dramatic denouement, psychologists at Heriott-Watt University concluded that they can wreak havoc on real-life romances. The reason: their misleading relationship rules and ideals. Of course, we know that romances aren’t realistic…don’t we?
Think back to the kind of advice that was last given you during a break up. Undoubtedly someone said he or she was “just not the right one for you” or perhaps it was “never meant to be”, undoubtedly you should cheer-up-buttercup because “the right one is out there for you”.
Valentine’s day is creeping up on us and all sorts of gag-inducing flicks have descended upon us to anesthetize us for the season so that we may ignore the inherent buttressing of child slavery that makes our chocolate, the terrorism paid for by the shiny engagement rings, and the 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that are emitted in the production of flowers for this very special day.
OK OK, you are doubtlessly thinking, she hates capitalism. She probably has never had a good Valentine’s Day, she’s going to die old and alone and miserable and her cats will eat her. Even if all these things turn out to be true, I am still not wrong about the awfulness of love stories.
The following is a list of the top three ways that how rom-coms can ruin your love life, or at least irreparably damage your perspective:
This idea that there is a person out there for everyone is comforting, but it’s also pretty unrealistic. I hate to be the one to tell you but some people do die alone (see above it could even be me!). There’s an upswing to this though—there isn’t just one person that you could end up with. That would be horrible—what if they don’t even speak the same language as you and they live on the other side of the country, and you have a rare heart disease that makes travel impossible?
That’s not going to happen though because, in love and in luck, there are an infinite number of possibilities. The proof of this? While some people do succeed in finding relationships when they are young, many more do not. This is because as people, we change. You’re not the same person at 18 that you are at 21, or 30. There can be a “one” for every phase in your life.
“Closed-off assholes make the best lovers”
You can also call this the “fixer-upper” romantic trope. This is where a deeply flawed character—the type of person you should never, ever marry, is depicted as the interesting, secretive and sexy man all the ladies want. Don Draper is a perfect example. Draper is so sexy; he’s also a pretty big asshole. Think of the first few seasons—he was utterly unable to remain faithful to his wife and his frequent stepping out was at the expense of his family. He also totally lies to Betty about his identity. We love these characters in movies because they can be manipulative jerk wads while also being tenderhearted lovers. Every single year Hollywood keeps convincing us that every asshole is secretly an amazing poetic soul. It also reinforces in men that us girls love the irredeemable prick.
“Everyone is white. White love is the only love—unless the plotline is specifically about not being white.”
Unless we’re talking about Tyler Perry movies, the sketch for most romantic comedies is two acceptably quirky white people court each other over a several-week period, overcoming at least one absurd obstacle, and then finding out that they can’t live without one another.
Unless your movie is about overcoming racial differences, (O, anyone?) you can be guaranteed that the love story to follow will look like a snow pile in Times Square. Of course, the white people can’t just be any old white people because this is, lest we forget, is not your average love story. They are beautiful, though emotionally messed up, but not interracial because for heaven’s sake that would be weird!
And yet, the course of true love never did run smooth and our in real life romances are also bound to be confusing, messy and overrun with emotional baggage. If there’s one good thing about love stories, it’s that we can enjoy them from the relative safety of our single beds. Let everyone else suffer.