Rom-coms often depict relationships in black and white. This warps the perception of love in viewers minds- changing their expectations of love.
Rom-coms often depict relationships in black and white. This warps the perception of love in viewers’ minds- changing their expectations of love.
Itziar Carrasco Gomez

Rom-coms set the bar far beyond reality

From one’s grandmother to the dog lying half asleep in the TV room, everyone has watched a rom-com. The popular genre sends the hearts of its viewers soaring, but what does it teach them about love?

Everyone has seen at least one romantic comedy in their lifetime and whether they know it or not, these movies change the way that they view and expect romance. Littered throughout this genre are massive romantic gestures that are sometimes cheesy and almost always unrealistic.

Many movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You, Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, and She’s the Man contain displays of love that have created unattainable standards. Constant exposure to the behavior in these movies have long lasting effects on the younger population. Further than that, the films may impact individuals as they begin to explore dating.

As children are growing up, the things they watch on television have a large impact on the way they view the world. That’s why younger populations usually watch informative shows and movies as they are more impressionable to what they see. When watching rom-coms, they soak in the information within those movies too.

Rom-coms follow a pretty typical pattern that almost anyone can dissect: two people meet and the love interest immediately likes the main character. After the main character begins to like them back and things start going well, one of them messes up in some way. This is fairly normal and could easily happen in the real world. 

However, what happens after the individual messes up is where rom-coms differentiate. This is the part in the movie where the love interest makes a grand gesture to impress and win back the main character. It doesn’t matter how bad the mistake was or how dramatic the gesture is, they always end up together.

This is damaging in multiple ways. First, the expectation that someone messing up will lead to them attempting to fix it in a largely romantic way sets a high bar that will likely be unreachable. This builds standards that can’t be upheld and as younger viewers consume this content, they believe this is commonplace although it’s not.

Watching these movies at a young age can alter the way children perceive love and ultimately harm their future relationships. A study done by Nemours KidsHealth found that children who watch specific behaviors on television are more likely to believe what happens on TV is normal. This means that younger audiences will absorb the information that rom-coms provide about relationships and consider the dramatics displayed as common. 

The effects from watching the movies lasts long past childhood and as teenagers begin their first real relationships, they may expect that everything will go perfectly. They may also hold the expectation that if something goes wrong and they fight with their partner, it will be fixed with flowers and a boombox just like it was in the popular film Pretty Woman

Oftentimes, the relationships portrayed in rom-com place value on grand gestures over communication. Anyone involved in a relationship knows this is not the case, as a healthy relationship must give worth to the attributes that truly make the couple function happily.

Rom-coms were originally extremely popular in the early 2000s and are making a comeback with new movies such as Anyone But You. As the genre begins to rise in popularity once more, viewers of all ages are becoming affected by the bar that these movies have set. 

While entertaining, rom-coms shouldn’t be a baseline for love since they are dramatized for views and set an unrealistic standard that is near impossible for real world relationships to uphold.

The general population enjoys movies like these because they provide amusement and a rollercoaster of emotions. Many adults are capable of differentiating between the fictional parts of romance within the films but that is a skill that children’s underdeveloped thought processes make it difficult for them to see real versus fantasy. 

Rom-coms are a great source of entertainment for older groups of people and should be continued as long as everyone viewing them has an understanding that they are an inaccurate representation of real-world relationships. 

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