It started with a girls’ night, the best kind of girls’ night. We ordered pizza, were sitting on the floor eating straight out of boxes and there was a Hallmark Christmas movie on in the background.
We were laughing, telling stories and somehow I got started telling a story about an old crush I had in high school. I was head over heels for this guy that I met my senior year and when I went off to college I didn’t exactly forget about him, but he definitely was no longer a main thought of mine. During one of my breaks home from school he and I decided to get together and catch up on all things life. I was convinced that when I saw him, I would just know if I was still interested in him or had gotten over him. When I told my friend this, she cocked her head to the side and asked genuinely, “Well did you?” I busted out laughing while trying to take a bite of pizza. I honestly couldn’t remember if I did know or not. But we got to thinking, do you ever really know?
We were pondering this while a classic Hallmark movie played in the background, showing the two main characters confessing their love for one another, even though they couldn’t stand the sight of the other ten minutes ago.
We all know that media affects us. We’ve grown up looking up to those in the spotlight on how to dress, wear our hair, and put on make up. While growing up in the 90s there wasn’t near as much of an all-encompassing media for us to be surrounded by as there is today, it has still affected us more than we think it has.
Take the movie Titanic, a beloved movie by millions. When Jake teaches Rose how to fly, or even when he gives her the door to float on and stays in the water, some saw what sacrifice in a relationship can look like. We have The Notebook, an infamous kiss in the rain to end all kisses and all kisses aspire to be, one that is so full of passion and longing that makes you realize deep down that you both want them same thing: each other. Then there’s Sleepless in Seattle, when Sam and Annie see each other at the top of the Empire State Building and they just know.
Cracked debuted a controversial article back in 2015 that unfolds the awful lessons that Disney has taught us about relationships. They explore how “Any single woman older than 30 turns into a twisted monster” (Cracked). Most of the villains in the Disney princess movies are an evil step mother, or witch who schemes and is generally unhappy and works to find ways to take away the young girl’s happiness or beauty. Most of the single over 30 women I know are rock stars. They are happy with their lives, enjoying what they do and are also working towards some epic goals. They aren’t planning the demise of me or my friends (at least not that I know of).
Cracked also explores how many of the young princesses have suffered some kind of traumatic moment in their lives growing up; the loss of a parent is most common. But the idea of true love fixing everything over shadows the potential instability of what is happening inside of a person. All that we, as viewers, see is that the two characters are living ‘happily ever after’ and no one says a word about what it must have been like for them to lose their parent(s) when they were so young. The Chicago Tribune reiterates this idea by saying, “Unfortunately we must accept that sometimes love is powerless to external forces. Love cannot cure illness, or prevent people from dying.” (Tribune). Chauntelle Tibbals, a public sociologist, states, “When we think about how people deal with grief and loss, there’s a lot of resentment and stress…These are typically unromantic circumstances that can tear even the most devoted couples apart.” (Tribune).
Now, both of my parents are still alive and kicking and I hope they are for many, many, many more years to come. But I have suffered through my fair share of loss in my life. Has their been someone beside me through it all? Usually yes. Do I think that when I get married I’ll never speak of these loses to my husband? Hell no. These are defining moments in my life that have shaped me to be who I am. To not share them with someone would be keeping them in the dark on what happened in my life before they came into it.
Let’s get to the big kahuna of the idea of Disney romance: You fall in love with the one at once. Whoa. Hold the phone. Snow White legit marries some guy she has never met. Cinderella falls in love with the prince after dancing with him and he doesn’t even know her name. Ariel falls for a human when she can’t even talk and tell him that she’s a mermaid. There’s a bit on a unknown to me here but it brings me back to my original thought all these years ago: Do you really just know?
Apparently these princesses do, but in actuality, we, as humans, I don’t think do. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says, “There’s passivity in (destiny) thought, but love is participatory. You have to collaborate. You have to engage it. It doesn’t just happen to us” (Telegraph). He goes on to state that the idea of ‘the one’ is dangerous because it makes people think that their love lives are out of their control.
The idea of ‘love at first sight’ is played out in countless movies and shows. It’s one of my favorite parts (yes, I am a hopeless romantic). I’ve even experienced it with a few people but even more with places I have visited. Attraction at first sight is definitely do-able. Of 1,500 individuals interviewed and surveyed for Dr. Earl Naumann, author of Love at First Sight, nearly two-thirds of the population believes in love at first sight, while over half of those who believe it have experienced it (Love at First Sight). But, what they are really feeling is attraction or lust initially (Telegraph). Although lust can turn into something else, that initial feeling of attraction or lust can help others discover if they are compatible and then want to form a relationship (Telegraph).
Stepping away from Disney for a moment, Telegraph even states that scientists have discovered that “Watching romantic comedies could ruin love lives because they create unrealistic expectations of relationships.” (Telegraph). Shocker? I don’t think so. The psychologists go on to explain how romantic comedies depict relationships of showing how each partner knows what their other half wants without even discussing it. However, communication is rated one of the top needs in a relationship by The Week.
I truly think that the result of pop culture’s portrayal of romantic relationships, and more specifically the idea of knowing, has hindered the way of romantic ambitions in real life. We have hundreds of dating apps and online dating sites at our disposable. In many you get shown a photo of someone and if you are instantly attracted to them, you swipe yes. Here again lies the instantaneous thought of love, when really it’s simply attraction. I do believe that we often times can feel if we are attracted to someone right away, simply by their looks or charm or wit and the feelings that we have can overwhelm our thoughts on if we are truly attracted to someone.
Though I don’t think I will ever stop watching romantic comedies simply because they are the perfect ingredient for a girls’ night or an evening of relaxation, I do think it is wise to remember that it is simply television and not real life. For when we get into that moment of a real relationship, we need to be able to separate what first kiss will be like, probably a bit awkward; what a first date will be like, probably a bit awkward; how to actually talk with your significant other and tell them what is going on, rather than simply assume that they know. While media is wonderful, fun and whimsical, we must remember that we are still being sold a fictionalized version of romance.