J. Courtney Sullivan hands out the Oscars for Most Dangerous Romantic Movie Myths.
My friend Michelle and her on-again-off-again were off. Again. She complained that he just wasn’t going to the right lengths to win her back. "I need a big gesture,” she said. “I need roses. I need tears. I need Lloyd Dobler on the front lawn with a boom box raised over his head."
Another friend, Laura, had not met anyone even halfway decent in months, and was starting to wonder if her best friend, Tiny Tony—a sweetheart who is unfortunately short, bald, and bulbous—might be the guy for her after all. "I’ve never been attracted to him or anything," she said. "But maybe it’s a When Harry Met Sally situation. Maybe we’re meant to be and I just haven’t noticed."
After almost 15 years as a faithful fan of romantic comedies, I’ve come to a painful conclusion: The movies we watch to supplement our love lives are actually sabotaging them. They make us wonder why our ex hasn’t appeared in our yard playing "In Your Eyes" at midnight even though, if he did so, we’d file for a restraining order, not a marriage license. They lead us to believe that an older, more sophisticated man who criticizes the way we look/talk/dress will fall madly in love with our made-over selves—if it was good enough for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, it’s good enough for us.
A lot of lip service has been paid to the idea that violence in films causes men to be violent in real life. Why isn’t anyone calling for warning labels for movies that cause otherwise reasonable women to act like emotional psychopaths? Hollywood’s take on love leaves us dissatisfied with the relationships we have, and hungry for the sort of romance that simply never occurs in nature.