I am willing to admit that I learned a shocking amount of life lessons from the movies I watched growing up. In retrospect, probably an unhealthy amount of what I know today came from Hollywood. Instead of learning about teamwork by actually playing team sports, I learned it all from watching The Sandlot and The Mighty Ducks. I would just sit in front of the TV and soak it all in like a chubby, prepubescent sponge.
While watching movies about cooperation, acceptance, and perseverance probably didn’t end up negatively affecting me as an adult (as far as I know), there were other movies that I devoured that might have somewhat resulted in unrealistic expectations and having to face some hard truths once I got older.
What genre could I possibly be talking about? You probably guessed it. Romance. Specifically, romantic comedies.
Let me just say that I actually love a lot of the movies that I will now proceed to talk shit about. Actually, some of my favorite romantic movies are on this very list! But that’s part of the problem. I saw these films and, as an idiotic youngster, thought that they even had a small grain of truth. I was dumb and impressionable. I might still be dumb and impressionable, but at least now I have a little bit more knowhow when it comes to the ways of the world. A.k.a., I don't think that a scripted movie at all defines reality.
Here are some unfortunate lessons that romantic movies seem to think are true:
If you change yourself enough, the object of your desire will eventually realize that they've loved you all along.
The perpetrators: Grease, The Little Mermaid, Hitch, Pretty Woman, Sabrina
I never really understood why this message was so frequently propagated in movies. Why could Sandy and Danny only work out once they started wearing the same style of clothing? Do people just get a makeover and suddenly they have an entirely new personality based on what they're wearing? If that were the case then I should have been a freakin' witch studying at Hogwarts long ago.
Sometimes people are mean to you because they desperately want to be loved.
The perpetrators: Love Actually, Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Intentions, The Proposal
Not once in my life has this been the case. Luckily, I never actually expected it to be. That would just be ridiculous. A general rule that I choose to live by instead is: If someone is really mean to you, then they're probably just a dick and aren't worth your time anyway. And if that was their defense mechanism, why would you ever be with someone who clearly has the potential to be mean? If someone like that were to show up at my house I would probably turn off the lights and pretend I wasn't home.
Love at first sight is the most romantic kind of love.
The perpetrators: Romeo + Juliet, Titanic, 500 Days of Summer, Twilight
I kind of get this, but only because I feel love at first sight whenever I open a freshly delivered pizza. Other than that, I think the whole lightning bolt thing is overrated. We've all probably had an instant connection with someone, but sometimes it's just a friendly or physical one. This also excludes the kind of feelings that take time to grow and mature. Let's be real. Some of us just don't make the best first impression. I, for one, get better with time, like a fine wine. Then I get much much worse before reaching a middle ground and plateauing.
Being friends with benefits can totally work out.
The perpetrators: Friends With Benefits, No Strings Attached, Crazy Stupid Love
This one is a little tricky. Today, lots of relationships do start by establishing a physical relationship before an emotional one. So yes, in the Tinder-fied world of today, then sometimes it can work out. The problem comes when the two parties decide that neither one wants a relationship and they're just going to have sex. That's pretty much the equivalent to saying, "Well at least it's not raining!" While that might be the case initially, one person inevitably ends up caring more and someone gets hurt.
Grand gestures will always yield the desired results.
The perpetrators: Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Wedding Singer
There isn't anything particularly wrong with grand gestures, it's just important to note that they don't always work out in your favor. Sometimes it's just better to save the arm strength and not hold that boombox over your head. This would have been helpful to have considered before I made a total ass out of myself at the age of 12. As it turns out, guys usually aren't super into love letters in middle school. I told you I was dumb.
Your true love will wait for you.
The perpetrators: The Princess Bride, The Runaway Bride, The Notebook
Sure, go ahead and disappear for years at a time or make the same mistakes again and again. It's fine! Love is patient, love is kind, but after a while love can get pretty tired of your shit. Sometimes all a relationship needs to work is some time apart, that's true. But that time apart shouldn't be spent solely pining over your long lost love. Even worse is waiting on a person to change. Julia Robert's character was literally nicknamed the 'Runaway Bride' by her town. Isn't that a red flag? Yet somehow, she kept getting engaged and the men were still surprised when she ran away. Those poor suckers shouldn't have ever expected her to change before she actually showed any evidence of changing.
Granted, there are tons of romantic movies that don't fit any of these stereotypes. There are also some that have abandoned all cinematic conventions and portray relationships much more accurately, but normally those aren't considered especially romantic.
Now, I don't want you all to think that I'm just some bitter cynic. A lot of these movies have themes and messages beyond their cliched romantic tendencies. And in the end, none of this really matters. Movies are for fun and to escape reality. Besides, the average relationship would make a really boring movie. So let's just sit back, relax, and enjoy watching the things that will probably never happen to us.