BORA ZALOSHNJA ’20
Boy meets girl. They start to fall for each other; there is probably a montage or two. They get into a fight, but they make up, sometimes dramatically in an airport right in the nick of time. It is a story we are all too familiar with. Hollywood is starting to get more creative, but during the adolescent years of current college students, this rom-com structure was a staple of Hollywood.
Watching the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson fall in love over and over again on-screen has ultimately colored our generations idea of romance and how to conduct intimate relationships. It not only makes people expect more out of their relationships, but also makes finding love seem easier than it is.
Sociologists at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland found that romantic comedy fans were deficient in effective communication with their partners. Many fans held the view that if you are in love with someone, they should be able to perceive what you want from them without you telling them.
They found that the issues couples usually reported in relationship counseling reflected misconceptions about romance often portrayed by romantic films.
Leading the research was psychologist Dr. Bjarne Holmes, who stated, “[t]he problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realize.”
People are also less likely to search for love because of the notion of fate, glorified by movies. Holmes’ team found that viewers of romantic comedies were more likely to believe in destiny than viewers of drama.
Mary-Lou Galician, Head of Media Analysis at Arizona State University, conducted research in the 1990s that yielded results similar to Holmes’ study. She stated that while it is hard to definitively link relationship failures and watching romantic comedies, there is research to suggest causation, stating that “[i]f there were suggestions something was dangerous for you, even if the results were in small numbers, it might not be a bad idea to be cautious.”
Fictional relationships in the media are not the only ones that have an effect on us. The heavily broadcasted real-life relationships of celebrities also change our perceptions. While the average divorce rate in America is 50 percent, the average divorce rate in Hollywood is closer to 80 percent.
Society fetishizes Hollywood and idealizes the relationships in it. This can take a toll on people when the majority of couples continue to split. This is especially hard on younger, more malleable minds that often follow and idolize these marriages. People only see the highs of these celebrity marriages play out in tabloids, leaving them shocked when they come to an end after domestic issues have been craftily kept out of the media.
After the split of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, social media filled up with cries of “If Brangelina couldn’t last, how can my relationship?” The break-up of the notorious Hollywood couple has given us cause to question our perception of love and marriage.
Of course, long lasting relationships do exist, but we think less about our next-door neighbors who have been married for 35 years than we do about Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. This leads people to be wearier of marriage and romance.
The U.S. Wedding Forecast reported a marriage rate of 6.74 marriages per 1000 people—a record low, only expected to drop. A Pew Research Center Report said that one fourth of millennials are likely to eschew marriage. People are less likely to get married nowadays. There are multiple factors contributing to this, but the constant barrage of headlines about divorces and relationship problems is one of them.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is no doubt that the media impacts the way people view romance and how to go about relationships.
Hollywood is moving in the right direction. Romantic comedies are getting more diverse, complex, and emblematic of real-life relationships, but it is still important to take movies and TV shows with a grain of salt. Romantic comedies can be great, –– no one is saying to stop watching them –– but it is important to not view them as a blueprint for real life.
Individuals should look to real people in their lives and how they maintain healthy, strong relationships, rather than obsessively following Brangelina. Movies and celebrity couples can be a good source of hope for people looking for love, but it is important to remember to live your life. Acting like people you see on TV can be a recipe for disaster.
BORA ZALOSHNJA ’20