When I turned 20 last May, I had a moment of realization. After two decades of being jaded by Hollywood’s representation of love and romance, I had just about had it.
Maybe it was because glaring singularity was staring right into my eyes, or the fact that I was entering my second decade of life — the decade many people choose to get married and pop out them pups. It made me feel unsettled with a strange sense of romantic urgency. I became enraged that our entertainment industry has left a large hole in the rom-com genre, very similar to the gaping hole I’ve felt in my heart and soul for a few too many years. There are no realistic movies about romance, and for a fairly average millennial gal, this bothers me.
There are a lot of reasons as to why young people have disillusioned expectations of growing up, learning about themselves and finding “love,” whatever that even means. Our parents’ influence is a big factor, as is who we spend our time with, what we find on the Internet, etc. But for the sake of my emotive argument, I am going to focus on the unrealistic presumptions that Hollywood and the entertainment industry set for society through constant production of romantic love stories. For the majority of young people I know, this is and has been the primary zone of influence.
Like many little tots, I was enthralled by the Disney classics: Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine and even Meg from “Hercules” were the cream of the crop, in my eyes. The idea of being a charming princess like them, with soft-looking hair and big eyes, was ideal, and thinking that one day a prince would come for me and realize my utter beauty and perfection would be even better. I was among the many young ones disillusioned by the romanticized ideals that Disney, among other outlets, entertained us with.
I don’t want to completely blame Hollywood, because it has always been my own decision to consume what they’ve produced, no matter how hard my parents tried to push PBS Kids on me. But aside from the stupid standards of love that have been drilled into our heads, the general ideal that experiencing young love and getting involved with someone is part of the “coming-of-age” process is baloney.
There is a large demographic of girls, and boys, too, who have felt alienated from society based on what Hollywood has dubbed as the typical coming-of-age story. Personally, I feel like I am “coming of age” as a young adult swimmingly, yet I have never been shoved up against a pickup truck to make out with a beefy boy, and I’ve never goofed around with some greasy kid underneath the bleachers at Everely-Montgomery field in Longmont.
I want to write a movie about a group of girls based on my group of unconventional friends. There will be no redeeming qualities in us. Maybe you’ll even hate us. But the story will prove to be realistic. The girls will be jaded by what society is telling them. They will be pursuing relationships because they crave that security and intimacy — and because that is the message they have been receiving from Hollywood. Lizzie McGuire and every Cinderella adaptation really screwed them up.
The catch of the story is that they don’t find this security in a pimply, equally-insecure boy. They find contentment in their group of friends. They find love in each other, with the world around them, the people they come in contact with and with God and the universe. A love story doesn’t have to be between two people who are sexually attracted to each other. I feel like my life has been a love story, yet I haven’t felt deep love for anyone except my family, my friends, a few dogs here and there and the idea of John F. Kennedy.
It is incredibly demeaning to anyone, no matter their gender, to assume that we don’t become a full human until we experience intimacy with another individual. And unfortunately, this is the idea that has been pounded into our heads from a young age.
Traditional romantic comedies follow the same plot line: girl and boy meet, realize their attraction for one another, they realize each other’s flaws, get scared of commitment but then finally realize they cannot fathom the idea of living life without the other. They make out in the rain or a dimly lit room. There’s also a steamy sex scene plopped in there somewhere.
There are less and less fresh ideas coming from the romantic comedy genre. The stories are repetitive, and we’re starting to get bored. I want something cinematically different when it comes to love stories — something more realistic that resonates with me a little more. And I’m not alone.
Marcia Sirota wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on the unrealistic nature of romantic comedies back in 2011, after seeing Ashton Kutcher’s “No Strings Attached.” She also argues that these types of movies bolster unfeasible expectations of romance.
“We as a society are so confused about how to create and maintain good relationships,” she writes. “The Hollywood machine makes everything worse by perpetrating the myths of the big ‘aha,’ and moments of redemption, transformation and resolution that rarely happen in real life.”
We all enjoy a good love story, and romance sells. But what if the dynamics of the love story shifted? What would happened if movies shifted the plot from two characters falling in love to just one character falling in love with the world around him or her, a world where there was no individual necessary to make her feel complete? These movies would reach a much broader audience.
I’m sick of the cliché rom-coms that end deceptively happy. They perpetuate false expectations of relationships and set an incredibly unrealistic standard of falling in love. It’s time that this ideal changes. We’re living in a progressive era, and our entertainment should match that.
Collegian Columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zar_degroot.