Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Romantic Comedies Attack

From the blog Shapely Prose, I found out about a new study about romantic comedy films and relationships. (Read the article here.) The study, done at a university in Edinburgh (I love all things Scottish, which encouraged me to read on), found that fans of romantic comedies are more likely to have unrealistic expectations about relationships: That sex should always be perfect and that partners should be able to know what the other one is thinking. I guess this isn't very surprising, but I found it interesting because I do enjoy some romantic comedies. I find that we tend to enjoy parts of media that resonate with us, and ignore parts that conflict with our values. That's why we can listen to Ghostface rap about killing people (depending on our musical tastes, of course) and not be scarred for life. One of the films included in the study was While You Were Sleeping, which I remember as a favorite movie of mine as a child. I'm not sure why, as I was a very scientific and feminist child. But that just goes to show that romantic comedies have infiltrated most of our lives, regardless of our personalities and interests.

(On a side-note, the best comment on a movie I've ever read was "Black Lizard made me gay". This was an extremely bizarre old film about a murderous drag queen. I'd like to say, following this study, that While You Were Sleeping somehow made me asexual by hopelessly warping my ideals of sex and relationships, but this makes absolutely no sense. I think I do have a relatively healthy view of sex and relationships, despite all the movies I've seen.)

[This is where I'd usually include the poster from While You Were Sleeping, but it's just way too corny to bear repeating.]

I can't deny the fact that there are some really great romantic comedies: Kissing Jessica Stein (totally asexual), When Harry Met Sally (which I think is good mostly for the strength of its writing), and Moonstruck are a few that I can think of offhand. A movie like Muriel's Wedding, which might be billed as a rom-com, is actually about the importance of friendship. The writer of the aforementioned Shapely Prose entry makes a really interesting point about our relationship to media:

Because those of us for whom these unhealthy messages are going to resonate? We seek them out, because they represent existing beliefs and desires. Regardless of your opinions on nature and nurture, by the time we’re consciously consuming non-Teletubby media, young women are not empty vessels in danger of being filled with bad ideas. We already got the bad ideas, from the input we get every day, from years of media we might not even have paid attention to, from offhand comments that seemed innocent at the time.

I know you're not supposed to end a piece with a quote, so I'll remind any local folks (and interested others) that we have a meetup coming up on January 4th! 1PM at Crossroads Cafe.


Bri said...

Funny enough, I'd consider myself to be a hopeless romantic and one of those people who has ridiculously high expectations of relationships, and yet I'm not fond of romantic comedies. That isn't to say I have a hard rule against them, and I do enjoy films that have aspects of romance in them (Stardust, WALL.E, and Train_Man to name a few) but I feel like I need something else in there to make it interesting. Most of the romantic comedies I've watched have felt cliche and overly predictable, but then maybe I just haven't watched the right ones? I know I haven't seen any of the films mentioned in this post, so perhaps I should look into those.

Lanafactrix said...

I love When Harry Met Sally. I think the reason it's so good--besides, as you say, the strength of its writing (and of course Billy Crystal, <3)--is that, unlike practically any other romantic comedy, it actually takes the time to establish a relationship between the main characters. It's not an entirely realistic movie, but when the leads do end up together, it doesn't feel forced.

Anonymous said...

The best part of While You Were Sleeping (for me) was the clip of the kid on his bike delivering papers. He hoves the paper in one direction and wipes out in the other. It's about 3 seconds of screen time, but IMO, the only funny thing about that movie. I was laughing about it for days afterward.