DISSECTING THE ROMANTIC COMEDY

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in "No Strings Attached"

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in “No Strings Attached”

ADDICTED TO HAPPY ENDINGS

Calling Mr. Darcy: For years, romantic comedies like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sleepless in Seattle and Pretty Woman have had an influence on the way that society views love and relationships. For better or for worse, these movies have had the ability to affect the way we see ourselves and our significant others. So, why is it that we are so addicted to the Hollywood happy ending?

It might just depend on where we are in life, according to Shauna Snow-Capparelli, Chair of the Journalism Department at Mount Royal University’s Faculty of Communication Studies.

“Everyone wants to fall in love and have the happy ending, but I don’t think we are addicted to it,” says Snow-Capparelli. “Depending on where we are in life, some people like sad movies as an escape, or if we want to feel good, some people want happy ones.”

Snow-Capparelli suggests the reason that many people love watching romantic comedies with the typical happy ending is because it’s a way to make us feel hopeful when life is tough. But does watching these movies influence the way we view our own relationships?

“Some people may drag their significant other out of the house to give some hints about what he or she might like,” says Snow-Capparelli. “But I think most people realize that movies are not real life.”

Snow-Capparelli believes that as a society, we are moving away from being influenced so heavily by movies and more so by social media.

Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston in "Along Came Polly"

Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston in “Along Came Polly”

“There is a role with social media now – you live vicariously through others easier.”

Brenda Duncan (MSW, RSW), a counsellor and psychotherapist who provides both individual and couples counselling, said that these types of films can be a positive influence on people and relationships.

“One thing that happy endings in a story convey is that out of all the bad things that can happen – stress, tension – good things can come out of it all,” says Duncan. “People want to believe that they can have what they see in these movies.”

Duncan doesn’t believe that romantic comedies cause unrealistic expectations, but that we create the expectations ourselves.

“What is unrealistic is wishing and hoping instead of doing the hard work.”

Anu Sharma-Niwa, a registered psychologist and founder of Heart of Communication, suggests that if people are feeling affected by romantic comedies it is often a reflection of specific needs that are not being met, but there are both realistic and unrealistic parts of romantic comedies.

“Although a romantic comedy is intended to entertain, it can perpetuate the thought of a magic moment, that ‘aha’ moment, improbable coincidences that don’t always happen,” explains Sharma-Niwa. “That being said, it is realistic for us to want to feel loved and desired. These movies can trigger forward movement, and get a couple to use tools that may be needed to feel more connected.”

Sharma-Niwa believes that it is important to look upon other sources if a relationship is having problems, such as books and healthy role models, as well as taking on the hard work and shared responsibility, and these tools will help create a healthy partnership.

By Kaila Sept
Stills: Paramount Pictures (top) and Universal Pictures (middle)

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