Four Lies Movies Taught Us About Dating

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In the Name of Love (Everything’s Forgiven)

She’s hot, but you know next to nothing about her. So hey, you may as well break into the school’s office and look up her home address so you can find out more about her. And ok sure, you may be sitting in the tree right outside her room, but that’s only so you can watch her sleep. And maybe you bragged to her about your awesome car… you know, the one you don’t have? OK, so I guess you better get your hands on one somehow. Hey, doesn’t your Uncle Walt have one? You better go grab it… whether Uncle Walt gives you his permission or not.

And hey, if you happened to imply you were someone you weren’t… well, that’s ok too! Because you did it for love! Love transcends all laws!

Famous Movie Examples: Twilight, You’ve Got Mail, Wedding Crashers, Untamed Heart, Say Anything, Love Actually, Revenge of the Nerds

The Problem Is:

I don’t really have to point out the obvious problems with this attitude, right?

Stalking is one of the most common examples of this attitude. In any other context, Edward following Bella everywhere and breaking into her home so he can sit in the room and watch her while she sleeps would be absolutely terrifying. Similarly, in Untamed Heart, Christian Slater breaks into his obsession’s crush’s apartment three times. As an audience, we’re supposed to see this as acceptable because hey, he’s just leaving her flowers or setting up a Christmas tree. But hey, stalkers love their targets, so it’s all ok, right?

"It's ok, because you're going to fall in love with me eventually..."

Similarly, there’s the classic “pretending to be someone else”, whether it’s literally assuming somebody else’s identity, pretending to have a relationship that you don’t actually have or even pretending to be someone’s boyfriend/husband… so you can bone her. Revenge of the Nerds has a classic scene of one nerd pretending to be a sorority girl’s jock boyfriend – by virtue of a Halloween mask and proving to be so amazing in bed that she’s willing to throw over her long-term boyfriend for him.

In the real world, this is called “Rape By Fraud” or “Rape by Deception”… and no judge is going to buy your “But I’m so deeply in love with her” excuse.

Even when you’re not violating laws, this attitude shows up in how guys treat the women they love. In Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail. Over the course of the movie, Tom Hanks plays constant mind-games with Meg Ryan, preys on her insecurities using his double identity as her bookstore competitor and the anonymous guy she’s been chatting with on AOL and destroys her entire career… and the two of them end up happily ever after. Because hey, love means you can forgive him for shattering your dreams.

Love Conquers All

It doesn’t matter what you face in life… it just matters that you’re in love. Just ruined her wedding to a jerk and now the two of you are running off? It’s ok, love will find a way. Are the two of you from radically different ethnic or religious backgrounds? It’s ok… if you love each other enough, it’ll all go away and everybody wil accept each other. Do you have personal problems that finally drove off your partner? Don’t worry, romantic movies teach us that all you need is love and all of your problems will magically solve themselves for you.

Famous Movie Examples:

More movies than I can count.

The Problem Is: 

It’s the nature of movies to be crowd-pleasers; you don’t make loads of money by telling your audience “The couple you’ve been rooting for all this time are actually horribly suited for each other and it’s all going to end in tears”. It makes sense that romantic movies – at least, the ones that don’t think suffering is romantic – like to end on a happy note: all the problems are resolved because of the power of Love and everyone is off to enjoy their Happily Ever After.

Of course, this doesn’t work in real life. Love is an incredible and powerful thing, but love in and of itself isn’t enough to make a relationship survive. Similarly, a relationship failing doesn’t mean that the two people involved just didn’t love each other enough.

Contrary to what movies tell us, relationships are hard work. The initial rush of love – where everything she does is perfect and you can’t believe how incredibly lucky you are to have found this goddess  – only lasts around six months to a year. After the infatuation fades, you still have the intimacy and affection… but you also have all of the problems and issues you had that you could ignore in that honeymoon period that Hollywood keeps telling us is supposed to last forever.

If we’re to accept that the relationships continue past the credits, we have to accept that the issues that affected the characters will still be around as well. Richard Gere’s “rescuing” Julia Roberts at the end of Pretty Woman is all well and good… except it doesn’t address the fact that he’s still an ultra-rich magnate and she was a prostitute. It may not mean that their relationship is doomed from the start, but the fact that they’ve fallen in love isn’t going to change the fact that her past is going to be a permanent part of their relationship. My Big Fat Greek Wedding drives home that the Greek Orthodox Portokalos and the WASP-y Millers are going to have a lot of adjustments to make and the drastic differences between the two protagonists’ backgrounds is always going to be a source of conflict, just on a family level. And while Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are driving off into the sunset with Isla Fisher and Rachel McAdams, they’ve just alienated and humiliated the girls’ entire family… and that’s going to haunt them later on.

If you want a relationship to work, you can’t assume that love is enough to solve your issues. Love isn’t the cure for all of your ills. Love is the reason to resolve those problems and to make sure that you do finally get your Hollywood ending and your very own Happily Ever After.

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