With both the weather and my misshapen ankle conspiring to keep me house-bound for the time being, I rented a couple of movies last night.  Renting on a Saturday does not leave you the best selection; in addition, I’ve been battling with occasional bouts of mournfulness.  So I wanted something that would not make me think too much or make me (more) depressed.  Ultimately, I rented a couple of mediocre romantic comedies – it isn’t important which ones – and you might think that they would befoul  my mood even more.  Maybe they did, but I haven’t noticed the difference.  What I have noticed is that relationships in romantic comedies bear no relation to those in real life.  Yes, that is a “duh” statement; I doubt that anyone over the age of 13 would be surprised by that.  What struck me was how insidious these models are.  A few poisonous paradigms:

  1. Women are only deserving of love if they are beautiful, but looks aren’t important for men.  I don’t think I’m particularly “lookist,” so to speak, but it seems cruel to feed us this line.  As critical-thinking adults, we believe that we know that it is all a sham designed to sell crap, but we get so much reinforcement that it is hard to battle this perception.  Thus, women who have so much to offer find themselves saying things like, “oh, once I lose x pounds, my life will improve.”  And then we find ourselves slamming men for being focused on looks.  Not to let individual men off the hook for such behavior, but is it really realistic to hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to?  If we’re so harsh to ourselves, is it so hard to believe that it might affect how others see us?
  2. As long as you’re really in love, any problems can be fixed with little to no effort; it’s corollary is if you have to put effort into it, you’re not really in love.  This is so messed up, it is alarming how many people believe it.  Watching movies, you see all sorts of very real issues glossed over with a peppy montage to slightly dated pop hits; unless they’re glossed over with a thoughtful montage to slightly dated ballads.  Married to someone else?  City mouse/country mouse issues?  Borderline personality disorder?  No need to fear – true love conquers all – and you don’t have to actually talk about real hopes, fears or even compromise; just wait for the Deus ex machina, after all – love is never having to say you’re sorry, or some such bullshit like that. 
  3. If someone doesn’t love you back, they are complete assholes.  They kick puppies, steal candy from babies and shove little old ladies in wheelchairs down flights of stairs.  Whew, aren’t you glad they don’t love you?
  4. People who treat you poorly are so obvious about it, everyone in your life sees it but you – but don’t worry, you’ll fall in love with someone else who treats you perfectly, and you’ll be automatically healed of your co-dependant relationship.  I’m sure people in abusive relationships can take great comfort in this one.
  5. Everyone finds love (assuming you fufill axiom #1), and once they do, everyone lives happily ever after.

I’m sure there are more, but these were the ones that pissed me off the most. 

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate all romantic comedies – and certainly I understand there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief with most movies.  I find these lazily-made movies are doing us a disservice.  Its a vicious circle – the people who make these movies have internalized these useless precepts (which have been around longer than movies, that’s for sure), so they make movies with these useless precepts, because that’s what they know.  More people see movies with these useless precepts, and in turn, perpetuate them.  Its like the old theory, “Eskimos have over 100 words for snow,” (which, by the way, is crap on more levels than I can mention).  Even though it has been proven wrong by many people, and the truth has been published many times; the catchy lie sticks around, believed by people who should know better.  The cliché is “the truth will set you free.”  It may be true, but if it is, lies seem to be Alcatraz – damn near impossible to escape.