Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blame It on the Happily-Ever-After

Today I saw a headline that made me laugh even as I simultaneously said to myself, "That must be why I'm single." Statistics Show that Romantic Comedies Ruin Relationships. (The horror! News at eleven!)

I was all set to be fascinated by their study, intrigued by their research, and whine to everyone who would listen that if rom-com viewers/readers are brainwashed by the HEA, what chance do we poor schmucks who write the stuff have? Then I read the article. One line about a poll? That's it? There had to be more stats if this was newsworthy. So I dug around looking for more. And do you know what I found? Squishy science. (Oh my god, do I ever hate made up statistics. They make my brain boil.)

The "statistics" in this case were just 1,000 people being asked if they thought watching romantic comedies had ruined their view of an ideal relationship. Half of them said yes.

That isn't statistical analysis. That's Family Feud.

But tag on a quote from a relationship counsellor (who calls herself Dr. Gabrielle and is billed as Australia's "uber-sexpert") to mask the fact that this is essentially one thousand movie-goers being asked outside a theatre if they want to blame rom-coms for their failed relationships and suddenly it's science. The media hails it as a "study" and "statistics show". (Someone needs to beat the media with a rolled up newspaper. Bad, media! Bad! Provided, of course, you can find a newspaper to roll with all of them going digital.)

Public opinion is not the same thing as scientific fact, people! While it is possible and perhaps even plausible that happily-ever-afters have engendered a belief in fate and the idea that if a relationship is the One you won't have to work at it, that doesn't mean our relationships are failing because of that belief or because of our movie-going habits.

One in four Australians said they were now expected to know what their partner was thinking while one in five respondents said it made their partners expect gifts and flowers ‘just because.’

Look at the phrasing. (But ignore, if you can, the fact that it should say 1 in 4 Australians surveyed said.) "They were expected to know..." "Made their partners expect..." Dude. This is just guys bitching about the fact that rom-coms make their wives want them to be, you know, romantic and shit. 50% said rom-coms were bad for their love lives? Erm, what percentage of people surveyed were men?

Not to say men aren't romantic. Some of the most romantic people I know have a Y chromosome. In fact, I know more men in real life who like to give their wives/girlfriends gifts just because than I've seen in movies.

And does knowing what your partner is thinking mean they want you to have a psychic bond (X-Men lovin'!), or is it just a complaint about the fact that the little woman actually wants to communicate about stuff? (Cuz communication ruins relationships...)

Most of the romantic comedies I've seen do not feature happy couples showering one another with gifts and guessing one another's thoughts. It's one romantic disaster after another until they finally overcome every obstacle and wind up together. More a love endurance test than hearts and flowers.

I find it a little insulting that everyone is so willing to jump to the conclusion that rom-com viewers can't separate fact from fiction. I love Sleepless in Seattle, but I'm not trolling the airwaves looking for guys with insomnia. I've seen His Girl Friday about a bazillion times, but I don't require a hot scoop and a fugitive to shove into a rolltop desk in order to fall in love. (Though, who knows? It couldn't hurt. Where's a condemned death-row convict with a heart of gold when you need one?)

We have to have someone to blame. In the entitlement culture, we aren't responsible for the failure of our own relationships. It's all society setting unrealistic expectations for love. It can't possibly have anything to do with the fact that we weren't willing to communicate or make a couple romantic gestures to show the person we are with that they matter to us.

I say we blame Warner Home Video and the movie Valentine's Day for the failure of every relationship ever. After all, that's who commissioned the survey and released the data to promote the Australian DVD release. Not really sure what the marketing strategy was behind that one. Buy this DVD and your relationship will tank, but you won't care because you will have learned a lesson about REAL (only in Hollywood) love.

What say you? Do your viewing/reading habits taint your views of real life relationships? And if the message of rom-coms is that love is easy when it's meant to be, am I the only one who finds that hard to buy? Is it just me or do most rom-com stars have to work their butts off to get to their "fated" happily-ever-after?

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