I’m not going to lie, I’m an absolute sucker for a romantic comedy. Yes they’re fluffy, unrealistic and mostly nonsensical (not to mention hugely problematic from a feminist point of view), but they’re absolute gold when it comes to filling your brain with mindless entertainment. Yes, I’ll admit it… I’m the person that doesn’t care that The Holiday is quite possibly one of the worst films ever made because I still managed to get drawn into the cute love stories, I’m the soppy idiot who cries at Love Actually when the bloke turns up at Keira Knightley’s house with the message boards, and I’m also the rose-tinted fool who hasn’t entirely disregarded the idea that a man may one day run after me in an airport to declare his undying love for me (although it’s more likely that I’ve dropped my passport or am being framed for some sort of travel-based crime). Anyway, people getting together and falling in love is definitely my bag.
What isn’t my bag is the way that rom-coms portray the bit that comes after all the mushy romance and grand gestures.
When Jamie and Aurelia get engaged at the end of Love Actually, films will have you believe that they get married and waltz off into the sunset only to instantly transform into two people who cannot stand the sight of each other. Aurelia will have let herself go and have surrendered to a life of sweatpants and bad hair because she’s so tired of running around after the children all day. Jamie will be considering an affair because his wife isn’t the attractive diamond she once was. They’ll argue constantly, they’ll only have sex once a year because all mystery was well and truly destroyed by seeing Aurelia give birth, and they’ll be utterly miserable with the lives they’ve created for themselves.
Sorry, what?! How did we get from the romance of Will and Anna in Notting Hill to the bitter marriage of Debbie and Pete in Knocked Up?!
There’s an absolutely glaring contradiction between the fact that we are constantly sold romance and relationships as an ideal, and the notion that marriage* is tantamount to serving a life sentence in prison. I vehemently dislike this portrayal of marriage as the termination of all that is young, beautiful and fun because it just isn’t the case. Yes relationships are difficult and marriages require a lot of work; it’s great to have that portrayed within romantic films as a contrast to the airy-fairy demonstrations of love that feature so heavily in rom-coms. However, I want to see less of the ‘woman is a naggy-bitch’ stereotype please.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve watched a romantic movie and felt extremely worried lest I become this dreadfully bossy, unattractive, unloving, and frigid representation of the married woman. Not to mention the concern that my boyfriend might one day want to run off with a younger model as soon as the smallest hint of a wrinkle crosses my brow or the day that I decide to wear sweatpants whilst I’m doing the cleaning. I feel terribly sad that marriage is still caricatured in this way, a way that is antiquated and serves only to diminish it’s reputation as a positive, exciting and fun thing to do. I want to see more of the young newlyweds who still can’t keep their hands off each other, I want to see the couple who decided not to get married and have kids but instead choose to revel in their love by travelling the world or skydiving off a building together. Simply, I’d love for the ‘ball and chain’ stereotype to not be the default when a film features a married couple.
Marriage is so many things to so many people and it’s vast in its difference of meaning across cultures, beliefs and personalities. So why are we so keen to just keep churning out the same old tired stereotype?
(*I use the term ‘marriage’ as an umbrella term for anybody who has decided upon a lifelong commitment with their partner.)
Have you seen any films which feature fantastic newlyweds? Have you noticed this trend of the bitter couple? Let me know your thoughts!
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