The Rom-Com dilemma: How sentimental movies can set up harmful romantic expectations

The Rom-Com dilemma

How sentimental movies can set up harmful romantic expectations

Sofia Diaz Noriega // Contributor
Tia Kutschera Fox // Opinions Editor

Romantic comedies have been idealized for quite some time now, but most of the romantic scenes in rom-coms and other genres create false expectations of what love and relationships are really like. Over time people have learned to accept the idea that love should be a little messy and maybe even chaotic. There is nothing wrong with some fantasy, but people need to learn to distinguish unhealthy patterns from healthy behavior, and if movies and other influential media keep portraying toxic behavior as romantic, unhealthy expectations of romance will continue.

Grease is a perfect example of a love story with toxic expectations of romance. Why should Sandy have to completely transform her image and personality for Danny to like her? A person should never consider changing who they are just for a chance to catch that special someone’s attention and acceptance.

Professional dating coach Jo Barnett wrote her thoughts on the popular movie Notting Hill. “The chances of finding your soul mate in a bookshop [are] virtually nonexistent. That’s a myth. It just doesn’t happen like that. You shouldn’t sit back and wait for ‘The One.’ You actually have to be proactive to find a soul mate and a partner. Sometimes you need to tackle it like finding a job. You have to put time and effort into it.” Barnett’s point hits home. Romance rarely happens without any actual effort, yet movies frequently portray relationships this way.

Last but not least, another prime example of the failed, dysfunctional relationships Hollywood and several entertainment enterprises like to promote is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. This famous film has created harmful stereotypes. According to a BuzzFeed article, the charm of this story is that “it’s a reminder that nothing is quite as it seems, and there are secrets lying under every shiny surface.” That’s not exactly charming, especially in the context of a relationship. It’s not romantic to be in a relationship full of lies that create unrealistically high expectations. Having twisted yet idealistic notions of love in relationships can and will end in gut-wrenching disappointment.

Psychologists from Heriot Watt University found that fans of movies like You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping usually fail to communicate with their romantic partners effectively. Many of them think that if a relationship is meant to be, their partner should know what they want without needing to tell them. This is just one of the many expectations romantic comedies have created for women. There’s nothing wrong with watching these movies as long as people aren’t basing their expectations on the behaviours of made up characters in fantasy situations. It’s important to be conscious of the messages these movies convey, and how believable they are. When viewers see certain behaviour frequently, it’s only a matter of time before they start to believe it works that way.

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