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How Romance Movies Influence the Perception of Reality for Younger Viewers

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Movies play a significant role in shaping how people see the world at a young age. With imagination running rampant, they can be easily swayed by what they watch and misread films. Those ideas linger in their heads for most of them and paint a picture of what reality should be like. As they get older and develop better perceptions, those ideas start to shed away and reveal a different picture altogether. However, some people still do not or instead refuse to see the underlying message.

Romance movies have always been around to paint a picture of the ideal relationship that most people dream of. It also teaches people about how love should be done. Moments from the movie become engraved in their heads, giving them a reference of how love should be appropriately expressed or things to say when the going gets rough. While it can be a good thing, it is not always the case with reality.

In the 2009 indie rom-com & drama film (500) Days of Summer, the audience lives out events and thoughts from the protagonist Tom Hansen’s perspective. Younger movie-goers believe that he was wronged by his love interest Summer Finn. However, they often overlook the warning narrated in the early parts of the film, stating that it is merely a boy-meets-girl story. Another warning that most people overlook is Tom’s background. His belief in finding happiness by meeting ‘the one’ can be traced to his juvenile misreading of the film, The Graduate. In the same way, many viewers today make the mistake of romanticizing their partners.

Another movie that tackles the romanticization of partners is the 2012 film Ruby Sparks. Written and performed by real-life partners Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano, the movie revolves around a writer named Calvin who manages to get over his writer’s block when a girl he writes about, Ruby Sparks, comes to life. Initially, Ruby is everything that Calvin is looking for, and their romance burns brightly in the first act of the film. However, like real life, the honeymoon period comes to an end, and Calvin abuses his power to make her how he wants her. While the movie revolves around writing, it also carries a strong narrative about how some people only love the idea of their partner and cannot accept that as life goes on, people change.

Romance movies build up many people’s expectations because it provides them with a blueprint of their ideal partner and relationship. While both films serve as narratives to the negative influence of the genre, it is something that people encounter at some point in their lives. Romance movies give people standards, but they also serve as a wake-up call.

Richard Linklater’s films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight manages to capture the magic and reality of real-life romance. Over the course of the three movies, it depicts what might be, what could or should be, and what is. The trilogy takes viewers on a journey that shows them how expectations and reality can be disappointing but still delivers on the promise of romance. Linklater argues that real love can also be real life. 

Romance movies often set up standards and false promises of happiness through love, but they can also teach how one should approach it realistically. Without the genre, it would be difficult for people to navigate their way, especially for those who have never seen romance in real life. Like many things in life, how one absorbs film can either be good or bad. It all boils down to how we take them.


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