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October 2, 2013

Are Romantic Comedies Healthy?

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Written by: Lauren Volpe
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Romantic comedies are my guilty pleasure.  There’s nothing like a bowl of popcorn and ice cream while snuggling in a blanket and tuning in to watch two people fall in love, make mistakes and laugh along the way. But there’s a nagging question that sits in the back of my mind while I’m watching: Do these films set up false expectations about romance and relationships?

Well, the best answer would be yes and no. First we’ll focus on the yes. Movies are meant for entertainment. Every scene has a purpose, whether to make the viewer feel a certain emotion or further the plot. Life doesn’t really work that way. In life, there are normal moments, like doing the dishes or reading a book. Relationships are like that too, moments where you’re both surfing the internet or hanging out in different rooms of the house. These aren’t inferior moments because they aren’t full of emotion, drama or romance. These are the everyday moments that make up life, which is only punctuated by significant events, not entirely composed of them.

There also seem to be two character archetypes in romantic comedies: the hero/heroine and the one that needs saving. It used to be that the male was almost always the rescuer, but in contemporary films have become more gender neutral. The bottom line is that when the couple meets, one typically has a significant amount of baggage that the other helps resolve. The fixer has minimal problems wading through the fixee’s neuroses, and the fixee is always grateful and better because of it (see As Good as It Gets or Elizabethtown).  This set-up is unrealistic and somewhat dangerous on many levels. One, because ideally a relationship is based on two individuals that have already worked through their baggage. Characters in a movie aren’t complete people, and therefore don’t have to fully carry the weight of another person’s problems. What can happen in reality is that one partner or the other can become the constant hero or continuous victim. As a result, resentment grows, fights occur, and the relationship can turn into a power struggle or possibly dissolve altogether.

Still to address, of course, are the ends of these films. The couple usually hugs and kisses while Frank Sinatra croons and the screen fades out. But in reality the relationship extends past the credits. The issues resolved in the two hours of film could maybe crop up again, or new issues could arise. The relationship might not work out, or it might stay strong, but life doesn’t fit into a neat package of film. Life grows and matures; relationships mature and continue.

For the most part, adults understand that romantic comedies are only shadows of reality. In a study published by Communication Monographs in April 2013, it was reported that these false expectations were only brought out when people watched romantic comedies to learn about relationships and romance. People that had been in healthy relationships previously and understood the ups and downs of romance were able to filter out the fiction from the reality. As long as you understand that life is not a film, that relationships aren’t scripted, enjoying a romantic comedy is a fine and entertaining way to pull on the old heartstrings!

What do you think? Are romantic comedies helpful or hurtful? If you have any questions or comments, leave it in the comments or on Nouveau Dating’s Facebook page.

About the Author

Lauren Volpe
Lauren Volpe is a recent graduate of Texas State University with a BA in English Literature with a Minor in Anthropology. She is now a freelance writer. She is passionate about writing and studying human interactions. She enjoys giving relationship advice built on her personal history, and the experiences of her friends and family. She currently resides in San Marcos, Texas.

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