The rom-com has become a modern source of inspiration for the romantically bereft, but are these movies of any practical use? We say… no.
Pretty Woman, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Maid in Manhattan, Love Actually, Music and Lyrics, Sleepless in Seattle, Notting Hill… the list of rom-coms is practically endless, with each as recognizable and well-loved as the next.
There really is no doubt about it: the rom-com has become something of a modern-day phenomenon. Why this should be, whether due to the increasingly singular lifestyle of the modern career-chasing rat racer or some other sociological reason, is a question more suited to an academic journal. For our purposes here, it is enough to recognize the popularity of this particular genre, and how it might sway the actions of those who regularly partake of it.
The rom-com guide to relationships
We live, whether opinion considers it a good thing or not, in a highly media-obsessed world. The things we do, the thoughts we have, and the paths we take are all influenced to one extent or another by media. Newspapers, social media, blogs, TV, radio-the need to have someone else doing our thinking for us has never been more prevalent. Can this be a good thing, and can it work in the case of movies *specifically the rom-com* in guiding interpersonal relationships?
The short answer is, I believe, a simple “no.” Romantic comedies operate on tried and tested clichés that have little to no currency in the real world. You might take them into the dating arena, with the image of a Richard Gere or Drew Barrymore delivering the planned dialogue still fresh in mind, but honestly, things are not going to go as planned. The following ten examples of such clichés and their potential real-world pitfalls explain exactly why.
#1 Worlds apart. The ultimate classic rom-com cliché: a gutter rat or street girl comes to the attention of a classy sophisticate of the opposite sex. As they fall in love, the lower class individual attempts to raise their game to fit in, but fails miserably and is made fun of by the silver spoon circuit. In the final moments, the sophisticate spurns their peers to declare their undying love, and the two ride off into the sunset. All well and nice, but there’s no way this would happen in real life. Not usually, anyway.
Where there’s such disparity between the way two people have been brought up, no matter how initially charmed they are by the other’s alien manner, eventually the novelty will fade away. Opposites can attract, but taking someone to the opera who’s cursing and swearing at the top of their voices, or going to a rough downtown pub accompanied by a cravat-wearing dandy is not a recipe for relationship success! [Read: Things I learned about love from watching “The Holiday”]
#2 The bumble. The hallmark of a certain Mr. Hugh Grant, the bumble is that endearingly charming way he has of stammering his way around a subject and coming to the conclusion with surprisingly effective aplomb. For anyone thinking of trying the same stunt to impress a potential soul mate, I have one word of advice: don’t! Sounding like you’re suffering from a severe psychological illness is not considered attractive *not now, not ever*, and you’re less likely to receive a smoldering kiss than a cold shoulder.
#3 Love and hate. In so many rom-coms, you get that relationship between two feisty, outspoken types who appear to hate each other, but are secretly and slowly falling in love. In the end, they kiss during the apex of a particularly violent argument and never look back. Romantic bliss to the end of their days.
However, if there’s someone with whom you really don’t get on, and the rom-com has convinced you this might therefore be the partner of your dreams, think again. Lunging in with a kiss during a vitriolic verbal exchange will result in embarrassment, humiliation, and a possible trip to the police station.
#4 Always there. The perennially supportive friend who secretly holds out hope of a romantic conclusion is another stock cliché of the rom-com. However, waiting for a friend to notice your extra-platonic merits is unlikely to secure you anything other than feelings of desperation, disillusionment, and bitterness.
#5 The quirk and the jerk. This refers to that rom-com trope where there’s something a little unusual about the object of someone’s desires. A free-living hippie chick, a charming serial adulterer, or a charmless misanthrope. In the movie, the straight player, at some point, either manages to ensnare them or save them, depending on the type.
In real life, however, please give this cliché a pass. Do you really want to end up with a quirk or jerk just because you saw a movie where it happened to turn out well? They are annoying, irritating twerps, and you’ll be driven insane by them within three hours of the first date starting. Get real, people!
#6 Physical mismatch. This particular cliché revolves around a physically perfect Adonis or Aphrodite type who learns to overcome their shallowness to be with the person they love, despite their mismatching appearance. Bad news everyone: it just doesn’t happen. The extraordinarily good-looking stick to their own, even when they’re not as dumb as sticks. Any move to deny this truth is almost certainly a lost cause.
#7 The late bloomer. This really is a dreadful Hollywood offering. You know the sort of thing where the nerdy wannabe leading man or woman takes off their glasses at the end of the film, and by that very act becomes good looking enough to immediately win over the object of their desires?
Well, here’s a newsflash: in the movies, the actor in question is already stunning. Taking off your glasses in the real world doesn’t make much of a difference at all. Stick to people who like you for you, and stop trying to be a poor man or woman’s Clark Kent!
#8 Secret identity. Even sillier than the last, this describes one of those typical rom-com clichés where someone ends up pretending to be something they’re not, sometimes by accident and sometimes by design, to win over the object of their affections.
If this is a course that you’re willing to pursue, then far be it from me to bring into question your mother and father’s parenting skills, but has no one ever told you that maintaining a prolonged lie is actually the wrong thing to do? Dishonesty has never, at least to my knowledge, been considered a legitimate way to win someone’s heart. [Read: Vital lessons on love and life from “The Great Gatsby”]
#9 Ridiculous liaisons. What is it with rom-coms, where the guy and woman meet in the most ridiculous places? Broken-down elevators, house fires, prisons, muddy ponds… the list goes on. Do I really need to point out why romance is unlikely to blossom in such places? Not to mention the fact that getting it on in these locations with someone of the opposite sex is more likely to land you in court than a bed of roses. Please, have some very strong words with yourself! [Read: 9 love lessons “He’s Just Not That Into You” taught me]
#10 Rain stops play. Kissing in the rain? Really? If your other half is frantically trying to get under shelter before they ruin their fancy new threads, and you’re holding them for romantic ransom for some silly movie moment, you might just be getting that taxi home on your own!
It just goes to show you: when it comes to love, you’ve got to be your own man or woman. Whatever movie tropes you see in romantic comedies, take note that these are for entertainment purposes, and are not lessons to be applied in real life!
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David Cullen is frequently described as erudite, insightful and witty – but only by himself and only after several large glasses of Rioja....