Have movies and rom-coms taken away our ability to be realistic about love?

While love reel life gives us certain unattainable goals, Ayaat Attar cuts to the chase and tells us what the reality of love is all about

Modern Love

Hang in there. Although there are absolutely no signs of it right now, the person of your dreams is right around the corner. For all you know, you could bump into them while walking to the metro on a thoroughly regular workday. Or he might heroically help you catch a running train by holding out his hand; safety be damned. Or she might play your fake girlfriend at your ex’s wedding. Every farfetched scenario ends the same – you’re made for each other, and you can’t believe it took you so long to realize it! Easy-peasy lemon squeezy, right? 

If this narrative seems ludicrous considering your never-ending work-from-home stint, maybe shift your focus on your bothersome neighbor, with whom you’ve had pretty stellar bickering matches on all topics, from loud and clashing music choices to noisy guests. All your annoyance, of course, will vanish when you realize they’re the one you were looking for! Why wouldn’t you want to share a life and home with someone you hated living next door to? Shh, don’t ask that, or the Gods of implausible romantic comedies will be offended. 

Well, don’t have a cute neighbor to be annoyed with? Then maybe pray to be stuck in the middle of a storm with a stranger, which 20 years down the line might just be the story you narrate to your kids of how you met their mother.

We just walked you through the textual hall of fame of romcom meet-cutes, yet here you are, in the prime of your life, with not a single one of those romantic tropes having happened to you.

If you identify as a hopeless romantic, chances are you have completely bought into the myth of romantic love being the most sought-after equation two people can share

Love(sick), actually

As referenced in millennial lingo, a hopeless romantic is someone who holds idealistic and often delusional views on love, despite all evidence to the contrary. Interestingly, unlike any other personality trait like extroversion or anger management issues, ‘hopeless romanticism’ spread as a phase and a personality type only in the 1920s with the advent of literary magazines. “They repeatedly fall in love or chase after love for love’s sake, even when it’s impractical, unwise, or unseemly,” explain psychologists. With the rise of Hollywood, ardent audience members were inundated with more options in the ‘romance-comedy’ genre, bringing impossible love in vogue and sending the number of hopeless romantics skyrocketing.

Undoubtedly, romcoms are sweet movie-binge material and make for stress-free entertainment, but its rapid insurgence and lack of self-awareness has stuffed the audience with unrealistic expectations of love, often wrapped up in cliches.

Over time, it has left us in pursuit of a seemingly grand ‘movie love’, sometimes at the expense of the real-life story that life is weaving at the moment. It capitalizes on our need to be understood by showing couples who complete each other’s sentences or read the other’s mind, even though communication is the bedrock of good relationships in real life. It idolizes men and women as mysterious, aspirational and seductive, making the good ones seem boring and uneventful. Finally, with their mediocre writing compensated for with big-budget destination weddings, song and dance sequences, and good-looking heartbreakers, it confuses love with showmanship and extravagance, a mistake the hopeless romantics often don’t realize until it is too late.

Biological anthropologist and self-help author Helen Fisher calls romantic love the “mother of all modern addictions with positive influences if returned.” But when it’s projected on a 70mm screen packaged with dopamine-inducing highs and served up with popcorn, it’s hard to refuse its siren call in favor of realism and level-headed love.

If you identify as a hopeless romantic, chances are you have completely bought into the myth of romantic love being the most sought-after equation two people can share. That all other accomplishments in life somehow lose meaning if you don’t have a special someone to share them with. And most of all, that love is a resounding, operatic emotion, with highs and lows so addictive that you never want to get off the roller coaster. Sorry to burst the bubble, but that sort of love neither lasts nor is it good for you.

Both cinema and its ardent audience need an understanding that life is more to life than love, and it does not represent your greatest victory or your inherent worth as a person. Furthermore, your relationship with yourself and your motivations in life take precedence over someone who promises to bring you the moon. So, as far as finding ‘the one’ is concerned, hang in there. Oh, we don’t mean hang in for finding them, rather on being ‘The One’ that you can be proud of.

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