Life is not a RomCom


            Romance movies have been around since the start of cinema. From "Casablanca," to "A Walk to Remember," these timeless stories have achieved a level of immortality as they are quoted and referenced time and time again. These movies have gone on to have modest to extreme success, most recently with the romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” receiving a nod for Best Picture and it’s female lead Jennifer Lawrence snagging the award for Best Actress at this year’s Academy Awards.  To the average viewer, it is easy to see why these movies have the draw that they do. The feel good, nice guy/girl finishes first; optimistic ending draws in a wide variety of people from all walks of life.

            But there are two sides to every story, and these flicks are no different. For example in “500 Days of Summer,” Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Tom Hansen, an architect/greeting card writer who falls in love with Summer Finn, his boss’s assistant. Over the course of 500 days Tom and Summer embark on a relationship; but after Summer breaks up with Tom and becomes engaged he falls into a deep alcohol fueled depression .  When speaking on his character in an interview for Playboy, Levitt had this to say:


I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch [it] again and examine how selfish he is… He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life… A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them, th at’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person."


This mentality may not be healthy, but it is very present.  The epic love stories that have been viewed on the big and small screens, while not totally to blame, have certainly idealized a certain type of romance. The idealization has escalated to the point where numerous Internet postings gush about love that is inconvenient and perfect in every way–to paraphrase the general tone. This overzealous fantasizing can lead to unrealistically high hopes and ultimately, disappointment.


As these two pictures, posted on two different Tumblr blogs exemplify, many people have started to view love as something that is meant to be life changing and all consuming, but how much of it is movies and media and how much of it is the viewers themselves?




“The whole point of media… in the fiction sense is to provide a sense of escapism. But when we hang our expectations on ‘this is an actual representation of reality, …we can kind of create these effects,” says Northwestern freshman Jim Alrutz, 19. He added, “You have to go into viewing any of these things with…an understood amount of skepticism as far as how realistic it is.”

While Alrutz does acknowledge the media’s part in the excessive romanticizing of relationships, he holds audiences responsible as well. He admits to being a hopeless romantic, but has observed that more movies are going in the direction of “500 Days of Summer,” where they aren’t straight forward romances. Instead, the plot deviates from the typical boy meets, falls in love with, and gets girl format. However, Alrutz does not believe that audiences have come to appreciate this change and sees that they still tend to ship romances in an almost fanatical way.

“I think that the audience just tended to miss the message [of “500 Days of Summer”]… more movies are going in this direction but maybe audiences aren’t quite catching up to the vision of directors,” he said.  “We like to point and laugh at people who care about Team Edward and Team Jacob…but at the same time, people who really feel strongly about Tom and Summer are not necessarily much better.”


Another Northwestern freshman Lucy Wang, says that romance is a broad genre as it pertains to movies and that there are some that are well done and some that are more poorly done. While Wang enjoys some of the more heartwarming elements of movies like “The Notebook,” she says that the more “larger than life” parts can be off-putting.


“A lot of lines that are supposed to be really moving are just cringe-worthy and that just ruins the moment,” she says.


Wang admits to being a cynic and tends to “roll [her] eyes” when the subject of romantic movies or “chick flicks” is brought up.  She does cite “500 Days of Summer” and the “Before Sunrise,” series as two of her favorite examples of romance driven movies because of their less formulaic plot development and not totally happy endings.  Both Wang and Alrutz caution those who tend to get starry eyed when watching RomComs to take a step back and not expect the perfect ending depicted in films. Neither believes that such love is totally impossible, but both state that the important thing is to not come to recognize the development of romance in movies as the norm.

            In short, yes, the idea of jumping into your intended’s arms as the rain pours around you in  “The Notebook,” fashion is beautiful and tempting. But life for everyone can take varying directions, and while drama and perfection can be nice, simplicity and quirks are beautiful too. The lesson appears to be, enjoy the romance of the movies, but don’t limit yourself by only appreciating the grand gestures and epic romances. Love is varied, and that, is the true end of the story.