Newsletter, Issue 12
I was very happy to read an article in Metro called ‘Real love is not all about romcom laughs’ by Bel Jacobs. Why? Because it’s great to see articles in everyday press challenging the romantic vision of ‘love’ and relationships, and encouraging people to look beyond it, particularly when they are amusing and perceptive.
She asks “Where are the simmering resentments, the decade-long misunderstandings, the belching and breaking of wind?” Romcoms are by their very nature a neat, easy and endearing portrayal of relationship, rather than the more challenging reality where recovering from disappointment is tough and ultimately deeply rewarding. They reinforce an old fairytale that suggests every woman is destined to being rescued by a strong and dependable man. Shrek 3 comes to mind (you can tell I’ve got a 3yr old!) where Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are in jail and ‘assume positions’ waiting for someone else to act and save them.
Romcoms Give Viewers Unrealistic Expectations
Bel based the article on psychologists’ research that showed romcoms give viewers unrealistic expectations about relationships. “Many believed that the ‘perfect union’ – in which all desires are recognised, that sex is always perfect, that love is effortless – was not only achievable but predestined.” No wonder watching lots of them might ‘ruin love lives’. Romcoms hook into a woman’s need to feel special, and I believe it is this deep yearning that draws us to watch them, despite the widening gap between them and the reality of relationship we know and experience as we grow up and grow older. Whilst logically most of us know they are not real, emotionally we may hold onto the fantasy to avoid facing the fact that someone else can’t be the answer to our happiness; that we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
What’s Beyond the ‘In Love’ Phase?
Romcoms solely focus on the attraction and ‘in love’ phase, leaving you at the end of chapter one and two thinking that that’s it and “happily ever after”. I struggle to think of films that capture the later stages of a healthy relationship, where the intimacy has deepened, and a couple is able to enjoy and laugh at their differences, though I know there are some. ‘On Golden Pond’ springs to mind.. maybe I should research this and make a list. Do suggest more..
Do Soaps Support Acting Out?
It made me stop to think about what else impacts our vision of love and relationship, and to realise soaps play a large part in many people’s lives. Whilst they are based on ordinary lives, and there are couples who represent solid, long-term relationships, they include much drama and individuals, couples and families acting out. This ‘childish’ acting out/behaviour where individuals take no responsibility for their actions or impact appears to create the excitement and variety and imply the rest is mundane.
How does this affect expectations? Does it create an expectation or desire for higher levels of drama? And even encourage people to act out and create it, however unconsciously?
The Potential of Intimacy Beyond
I am obviously not against entertainment and can be seen with my box of tissues, popcorn and romcom letting go of all reality with the best of them, though admit more realistic films are more enjoyable especially now I’m in a long-term relationship experiencing the greater fulfilment of intimacy over the desire for the fantasy. However, I care passionately about the message we hear as we grow up and learn to live in relationship, and want people to have an alternative vision other than the unrealistic fantasy. Part of my motivation in writing this newsletter is to tell a different, very real and ultimately more rewarding relationship story. To help change the expectations we put on our partners and relationships, and explore how we can be happier within them.
Wishing you all depth and intimacy.