25 July 2010

Romantic Comedies versus Real Life

My personal view of the ideal romantic relationship was ruined
when I discovered that I’m not Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

According to an item in the New York Daily News this week, “A poll of 1,000 Australians found almost half said [romantic comedies], with their inevitable happy endings, have ruined their view of an ideal relationship. One in four Australians said they were now expected to know what their partner was thinking, while one in five respondents said it made their partners expect gifts and flowers ‘just because.’”

Clearly, romantic comedies present unreasonable expectations of love. Happiness! Gift-giving! Mind-reading! Who is Hollywood trying to kid? And those are only a few of the assumptions made by these movies. Herewith, a list of others, and an invitation to submit more.

Love, a condition occurring between one man and one woman,
is most often seen in white people.
Love does not exist for women who are funny.
Love does not exist for men who are not funny.
Love does not exist for women who are physically unattractive.
Love does not exist for men who do not drink beer.
Love does not exist among the middle and lower classes.
(In fact, the middle and lower classes do not exist.)
A romantic relationship will look like this,
including her color-coordinated sleepwear and wallpaper.
(Otherwise, you’re doing something wrong. Obviously.)
If a man and woman spend all their time bickering, they will eventually have great sex, whereupon it will become clear to them both that they were meant to spend the rest of their lives together.
She wants to be treated with complete indifference,
excepting when she wants to be stalked obsessively.
Attempting to balance these extremes is risky and inadvisable.
She really, really wants to listen to his mix tape.
(Or playlist, depending on how old he is.)
What she wants above all else in life, however, is …

…oh, who am I kidding? Nobody cares!
(We had a good laugh about it, though.)
A woman is defined by what kind of man she is attracted to.
A man is defined by his hobbies.
(Except in movies starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Reynolds, or Seth Rogen,
in which case a man is defined by his abdominals: does he have any?)

She is frequently attracted to men two to three times older than she.
She is frequently attracted to men who wear dirty T-shirts and bermuda shorts all day long.
She is attracted to men who make penis and fart jokes in day-to-day conversation, because at least it means he’s talking to her.
(The women in action movies aren’t so lucky.)
She is frequently attracted to slackers in dead-end jobs, or no job at all, especially if this means he’s free to drink beer, make fart jokes, and wear a dirty T-shirt and bermuda shorts all day long.
(Also, it’s convenient for him to have no other commitments on those occasions when she wants to be stalked.)
Her ideal man, however, is an emotional child.

Because a really good romantic relationship is sort of like training for motherhood.
(Here, we see a typical play date.)
True love is impossible without spontaneous, elaborate musical numbers choreographed to vintage pop songs.
Nothing brings couples together better than getting shot at.
It’s the perfect way to start off a relationship,
or to put the zing back into a stale marriage.
“You’re beautiful when you’re dodging bullets!”
”I know! Let’s have great sex!”
(This is assumed to be true in all Hollywood movies, actually.)

Not pictured: The sniper on the opposite rooftop.
More often than they speak to each other,
every man or woman must rely on an outside adviser.
Pick one for each partner:
*a man-hungry girlfriend,
*an inarticulate drinking buddy,
*a sassy gay man,
*a sassy black man or woman,
or a sassy Jack Black,
*a 12-year-old child,
*Betty White.
Needless to say, no adviser is required to know anything at all about long-term heterosexual relationships in the modern world.
The single most important assumption
in romantic comedy:

Men can be changed.

(This is why women find these movies romantic … and why men find them funny.)

Uh-oh! She doesn’t look romantic anymore.
What’s wrong? Don’t ask her
Seek the advice of a 12-year-old child to find out!

(Photos from (500) Days of Summer, a rom-com I actually enjoyed.)


Anonymous said...

And nothing says unconventional and quirky then preferring vinyl over digital recordings. Ringo Starr your favorite Beatle?! It's enough to make you fall in love and make babies right then and there. 500 Days of Summer was corporate rubbish dressed up to look alternative. A romantic Comedy that is truly alternative -- Harold and Maude-- not many of these ROM COM assumptions in that flick I am guessing! :)

William V. Madison said...

Great suggestions! And you're right about Harold and Maude -- the assumptions are very different. Going back to that film as an adult, though I find it nearly as manipulative as the crap being produced today; Harold and Maude is exploiting young audiences from 1971 and playing to their counter-cultural assumptions without really believing in them, the way contemporary movies hammer away at us. It ain't subtle. For me, Ruth Gordon really rescues the picture (with an assist from Vivian Pickles, as Harold's mother).

William V. Madison said...

A footnote -- it's worth remembering that Ruth Gordon wrote some great rom-coms, in collaboration with her husband, Garson Kanin: Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike, both starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.