I don’t like Hollywood romances – they’re unrealistic, stupid, and fucking dangerous. I’ll begin explaining why after exhibit A: “LOL”:
Just look at this piece of unadulterated shit.
I grew up in Cyprus. If you don’t know much about it, that’s ok. Most people don’t, including the ones who live there. Concerning romantic media, it’s not really the go-to place for films, music, and literature. It’s a tiny Mediterranean island where everyone knows everyone. People copy each other’s clothing, behaviour and attitudes. This happens everywhere, but when it’s an island with a population of 800,000, it becomes more obvious. My point: it’s not prime location for Hollywood romance. I’m not going to lie, I was, and still am, an overly and overtly sensitive guy, and the only guidelines I had concerning sex and romantic relationships were films. I was spoon-fed idealised men and women, dashes through airports, kisses in rain, cheesy one-liners and unbearably stupid misunderstandings. I was given unnatural standards to live up to, unnecessary boxes to tick, and unrealistic expectations to aspire to. And I want to go through the reasons why these films are detrimental to people – especially teenagers. If you, of course, have no qualms with living in a fantasy world concerning romantic entanglements, by all means, go back to wanking to Nicholas Sparks (author of “The Notebook”, a book so lacking in substance incurable disease is used to retain the reader’s interest).
Teenage romantic films (and TV shows – I hope you get genital warts, cast and crew of “The O.C.”) grate me particularly, because they prey on young idiots, one of which used to be me. Take the abortion of “LOL”, and when I talk about that one, assume I’m talking about 98% of similar films. First of all, where are all the ugly, fat, badly dressed and pimple-cheeked teenagers? What utopia is this, where every tit is perky and every ab is rock-hard, every face seems constantly photoshopped and every wardrobe is Gokwanned? But it’s for projecting, the apologists might say. Idiot teenagers like going to the cinema and taking an hour and a half off their hormone-drowned lives to pretend they’re super stars. Who the fuck does that? And if there are people who do that, why? Is this the set of values we’re trying to reach young people with nowadays? “If you’re not happy with the way you are, don’t accept that you’re not perfect and strive to better yourself if you find something particularly bothersome. Instead, do sweet fuck-all and pretend you’re a Miley Cyrus in the army of superficial, vacuous cunts, that’ll solve your adolescent angst.”
Romance is not any better when directed at adult viewers. One would assume that people who have experienced any reciprocated infatuation in their lives would have a more grounded view of it. Take a look at films starring what I like to call “The Unholy Trinity of Irritating Cows”: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson, and Jennifer Aniston. I remember a particularly traumatic experience watching Hudson’s “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days”. The premise of it was that she, for whatever pointless reason, decides to be everything that, according to her, guys hate in women, to see if he would break up with her in – you guessed it! – less than ten days. Simultaneously, Pecs McAbs (né Matthew McConnaughey) bets he can make any woman fall in love with him in – gasp – ten days!
See where they’re going with this? Following this is an hour of horrible clichés about what men find attractive and unattractive in women, and vice versa. During this painful process, they manage to see past each other’s one-dimensional flaws and see that they’ve actually fallen in love in that time span. Let me get something clear: being with a person for ten days gives you adequate time to know what their favourite colour is and what they like doing in their free time. To “fall in love” is a long, painful process, which doesn’t happen overnight, and it definitely doesn’t happen if they were actively trying to be the worst stereotypes of their respective genders. Cue the “Misunderstanding”, the “Temporary Break-Up”, and the eventual “Chase Through A Busy Place And Kiss”. What tremendous bollocks.
The problem with these films is that they exist by the thousands, as do single movie-goers who get all their conceptions about romance through this formulaic and unrepresentative pattern of human relationships. These people grow up and continue into adulthood believing there’s “The One” out there for them, a soul mate waiting to match the half-heart locket they’ve got dangling around their necks with their own, and if they don’t manage to pull through any adversity with that person they’re fucked. They will be single for the rest of their lives, because that one person with whom they’ve “fallen in love” in the span of a few days doesn’t love them back.
Don’t get me wrong. I am fully aware that “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” is equally stupid, especially if you’ve just been romantically let down, and that yes, you have to try hard to find someone who is genuine and will care for you. But that doesn’t mean that the notion that there’s only one person in seven billion who is emotionally, sexually and intellectually compatible with you is correct. Being cynical about romance is obviously a bad idea because love in itself requires leaps of faith all the time. However, most people have an ingrained defence mechanism which allows them to not be completely devastated if worse comes to worst with the person they wish to exchange bodily fluids with. Stereotypical romance films ask you to disregard that mechanism, and look at any infatuation as a be-all, end-all. That’s severely unhealthy, and will lead to even more eventual cynicism, harming future relationships.
The greatest romantic film ever is, in my opinion, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. If you wish to avoid potential spoilers, please move on to the last paragraph. The two desperate, at times irritating, but always realistically human protagonists reach the realisation towards the end of the film that they have already gone through the process of building a relationship together and failed, resenting each other by the end of it. Shortly following that, however, they have a beautifully heart-wrenching conversation, encompassing the film’s message:
That’s what “love” is. Not two homunculi regurgitating narratives looking pretty with their shirts off and providing no emotional satisfaction to the viewer. Love is painfully and absolutely wanting to be with another person, fully aware they’re fucked-up. Love is being able to be with someone and it’s fine – you don’t have to proclaim your love for them over coffee. It’s as good as it’s going to get, without thinking of soulmates, true loves and romances at first sight. It’s about baring yourself like an infant in front of them, readying for the blow, kicking and screaming at your own fucked-up mind trying to convince you it’s a bad idea, and yet, despite all that, an optimistic smile drawn on your lips as you take the plunge.
Andreas Kirkinis is Not So Reviews’ Film and TV columnist
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