Love actually or theatrically?

A Valentine’s month reflection

Kinzie Shepherd, Co-Editor In Chief

In the magical world of the romance genre, the guy always gets the alluring, lovely girl of his dreams, arguments are perfectly crafted to lead seamlessly into exquisite reunions, and couples make it through the most traumatic hardships without a scratch. This is the kind of sweet, candy-coated courtship Hollywood has mastered. And society can not get enough.

From a very young age, people are introduced to the idea that as an adult, one falls in love, gets married, and is with one person for eternity, happily ever after. This notion is enhanced by engaging in media platforms, such as books or movies, that also appeal to this deep-rooted ideal. On the surface, it does not look like there is anything wrong with this ritual. However, after thoughtful analyzation and research-based observations carefully considered, studies show romance media is detrimental to real life relationships.

Hollywood’s over-estimations of love and intimacy hinder real love.

Kimberly R. Johnson, who holds a degree in Behavioral Science, contests “individuals may actively observe media portrayals of behaviors in romantic relationships for insight into how they themselves should behave in their own relationships.” Johnson added, “the problem with this is, media overestimates the intimacy and immediacy in which love develops, leading people to form skewed perceptions on what love really is and the appropriate ways to show it.”

Johnson’s theory is supported by many including, scholars of Communications at the University of Oregon. Here, students, alongside their professors, conducted an experiment designed to explore the social phenomenon of love versus infatuation.

For the study, the students analyzed 40 of Hollywood’s most popular Rom-Com’s released between 1995 and 2005. Through this project, they discovered the problems typically reported by couples reflect misconceptions about love and romance as depicted in Hollywood films.

The group also interviewed various marriage counselors who contested the main issue in most marriages is the misidentity of infatuation and love. As recorded in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, love is “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties that are based on admiration and common interests” while infatuation is, “to inspire with a foolish or extravagant love or admiration.” In simpler terms, infatuation is being carried away by unreasoning passion and love is intense affection and appreciation for another individual.

Dr. Bjarne Holmes, University of Oregon Professor, theorizes, “most people confuse infatuation for love which in turn, causes an array of problems to surface for the couple as the artificial love, or, infatuation wears off.”

Essentially, these studies show that intimate relationships are one of the most important parts of our development. They have significant, long-lasting impacts on our lives that, in some cases, can be permanent. Attractive celebrities, forbidden love, dangerous public displays of affection and quickie marriages to your “one true love” are both unrealistic and unhealthy.

While it may be satisfying to watch these relationships develop on-screen, it is imperative to acknowledge them as fantasy and not an accurate illustration of how healthy relationships really are.

Researchers at Heriot Wyatt University’s Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory, concluded people who actively seek to recreate Rom-Coms in real-life consistently report feeling unsatisfied, unhappy and like they are in inescapable, mundane marriages.  The researchers also reported, “long passionate walks on the beach and romantic candlelit dinners are fine, but when couples don’t see every aspect of romance media paralleled in their everyday lives, they get increasingly unhappy.”

People want fictional love, they want to find it fast, and they want it to last. In short, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Media has a huge impression on attitudes, so with something as delicate and important as intimate relationships, it is wise to take a moment of introspection. Real life is not The Notebook. We aren’t going to date Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams, get married and live happily ever after. But everyone has real love and real problems. It won’t be as magical as a favorite rom-com movie or romance novel, but that’s okay because it will be uniquely personal and it will be genuine- and that is better than any movie.