Five Times Rom-Coms Gave Us Unreasonable Expectations of Men
A romantic comedy, like any movie, is meant to be an escape. In the world of that couple, there’s no obstacle that true love can’t overcome. This notion is ingrained in us at an early age, from the time we watched cartoon princes conquer fire-breathing dragons to rescue a princess, or wake her from an endless sleep with “true love’s kiss.”
Now, as adults, rom-coms are setting unrealistic expectations of what love, its pursuit, and the resulting relationship look like.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t met your dream guy who acts out all of your favorite rom-com scenes in real life, it's because he doesn’t exist. Movies have us think that we’ll find the man of our dreams with a perfectly chiseled body and a heart of gold, marry him, and live happily ever after. The truth is that love, marriage, and successfully building a life together means doing so alongside your best friend.
Most reasonable people understand that real love in the real world isn’t anything like the love in movies, just as most rational human beings understand that sex isn’t anything like the fantasies they watch play out in their favorite porn flicks. However, rom-coms have still managed to create an idea of what romance should be, shaping peoples’ perspectives and expectations of what love is and leaving a lot of room for disappointment.
Running Through the Airport
This is a classic only-in-a-rom-com example. You’ve seen it in everything from The Wedding Singer to Love Actually. It’s when the male and female protagonists get into some huge, heartbreaking fight—typically rooted in the man’s inability to acknowledge or accept his feelings toward the woman—right before the woman is going to board a plane to some faraway place. Once she’s gone and he realizes what he’s missing, he dashes to the airport running through traffic or skateboarding down a highway just to spot her as she’s boarding the plane. He calls out to her, professes his love, she cries, and they fall into each other’s arms in the most romantic kiss possible while the bystanders cheer on in approval. Not only is this a highly unrealistic scenario with texting, FaceTime, and Skype; there’s also no way he would make it through airport security without A) purchasing a ticket or B) waiting in an endlessly long line.
Love at First Sight
The first movie that comes to mind when I think of love at first sight is Titanic. Thanks to dramatic musical scores and camera angles, we’ve all been led to believe that when Jack sees Rose for the first time, he fell in love. Boom. Just like that. However, all of us living in a place I like to call Reality know that he wasn’t exactly thinking with his head. It was lust at first sight, and for a low-class passenger like Jack who enjoyed going for the big prizes (like gambling his way into a free ticket on a ship to America), it’s no surprise he got off on the idea of getting a woman like Rose in his bed (or someone else’s steaming hot automobile). He took it a step further by dying for her after only knowing her a few days. If that’s not an unrealistic expectation, I don’t know what is.
I’m not saying that we’re anything like Ryan Gosling’s character Noah in The Notebook, but my husband and I actually do write each other love letters fairly often, especially on big holidays or anniversaries. I’m talking about page-length, black-inked letters; not just a sweet note here and there. When we first started dating, we felt a hand-written letter was much more valuable to us than anything we could buy on our very limited budget, and even now that we’re married and have two stable incomes, we prefer love letters over something shiny and new. But that’s just us. We are very much an anomaly. This may have been commonplace in the 1940s when love stories like Noah and Allie’s may have actually occurred, but in 2016 it’s a rarity for a man to write a woman a love letter unless he messed up in a major way or it’s her birthday. If you and your man have never written each other a love letter, I highly recommend giving it a shot. I find that it’s easier to express my feelings on paper than with a #MCM post every week.
The Playboy Magically Becomes the Boyfriend
We’ve seen this metamorphosis take place in countless rom-coms. A more recent example is Crazy, Stupid Love, wherein Ryan Gosling’s character, Jacob, takes sad, heartbroken, lonely Cal (Steve Carrell) under his gorgeous, perfectly sculpted wings to teach him how to be a single guy. Well, not just any single guy; more specifically, Jacob is teaching Cal how to be just like him. Somewhere between racking up this poor schmuck’s credit card with a brand-new wardrobe and helping him get laid by the seemingly endless influx of beautiful female patrons of this one bar in a shopping mall, Jacob falls for Hannah (Emma Stone), who is none other than Cal’s daughter. Not only is this an incredibly uncomfortable situation because Hannah’s now-boyfriend had spent weeks turning her father into the city’s newest hot commodity, but her father is fully aware of what Jacob was like before he met Hannah—a full-blown player. Outside of Hollywood, a man who enjoys a polyamorous lifestyle never gives it all up cold turkey for a woman he met at a bar. In the words of my girl T-Swift, “players gonna play, play, play, play, play.”
The Man Who Doesn’t Let You Push Him Away
In my experience, most men don’t waste their time or energy entertaining mind games their female companions may try to have them play, especially when it’s their heart on the line. That is a childish, manipulative way of attempting to get what you want; but in Hollywood, the women succeed at these games and the men just keep crawling back for more. Take, for example, Sweet Home Alabama. Reese Witherspoon’s character, Melanie, leaves her husband Jake, family, and friends behind in Alabama to start a new life in New York City. There, she changes her accent and lands herself the mayor’s son as a fiancé. The only problem is that she’s still married to her high school sweetheart. In an effort to have their divorce finalized, she ventures back home to her past where Jake is there waiting for her, loyal to their wedding vows. No matter how hard she pushes him away, he’s there, until he isn’t, which is when she realizes she’s loved him all along and can’t go through with her marriage to the mayor's son. She goes back to Jake, they kiss in the rain, and they both live happily ever after without skipping a beat. Outside of the movie screen, most men (or just people in general) would put up with that level of foolishness for as long as Jake did and then marry the manipulator in the end. In the real world, if you push someone away hard enough and long enough there’s likely no getting them back—no matter what grand, romantic gesture you borrow from your favorite rom-com.
Feature photo VIA Pexels.