B Is for Buzzkill

A Galentine’s Day rant on Rom Coms

I was eighteen when I decided that I hated romantic comedies. I remember the exact moment, sitting in a circle of freshmen women with our Bible Study leader. In my quintessential non-sequiter style, I said to the group, “I’ve decided that I don’t like romantic comedies. I watched them for a long time and I told myself that I liked them, but I do not.” Meg, the group leader, laughed and probably said something supportive. Maybe a general dialogue followed my uncomfortable statement, I don’t remember. But I felt better having said it out loud. It was a surprisingly scary admission. Why was I so nervous? The world did not turn on my movie preferences, but it felt like a moment of truth, a test as to whether I would still be accepted if other girls knew this about me.

Dramatic much, Marebs?

I remember watching movies like Ever After and 10 Things I Hate About You and Never Been Kissed (apparently my rom com repertoire was Drew Barrymore heavy?) and feeling happy while watching them. I would laugh at the right moments, and feel the warm fuzzies of the lovably fallible guy doing everything to win the girl back. As I continued to watch them into college, I became aware of an empty feeling afterwards. I remember thinking that I felt alright for a moment, but ultimately these movies made me feel pretty crummy. Perhaps it’s because I can’t just enjoy for something for what it is, but I was noticing how these movies were influencing my expectations of relationships and romance.

I was in an unhealthy relationship with a guy end of high school into college, and I wanted him to be that fallible love interest. Part of the problem was I couldn’t distinguish that fallibility from genuine red flags. I excused a lot of behavior that should have been unacceptable because I was waiting for the turn, for my life to follow the neat narrative arc of a ninety-minute film. But it didn’t, and so I stayed in that relationship far longer than I probably should have.

But I was young. I try not to be too hard on myself for how little I knew. I’ve learned that things in real life ruminate and shift more slowly than in your average Hollywood blockbuster. I noticed that the more I let this formula into my brain, the more it informed my perception of what my life should look like.

I also think that many of the films I see rely far too heavily on a romantic plot line. It’s just all so predictable. It’s like when comedians rely too heavily on sexual humor. We get it, dude, sex and stuff. Even the film adaptations of the Lord of the Rings, a story driven by quest and platonic relationship dynamics, played up Aragorn and Arwen’s love story more than Tolkien did. I can’t even get started on the nonsense that was the Hobbit movies. Seriously, y’all don’t want to see that side of me. *channeling Bruce Banner* You won’t like me when I start ranting about Tolkien.

To me, rom coms basically amount to emotional girl porn… Yeah I said it. We get a nice quick fix of those romantic warm fuzzies, scratch an itch, but ultimately it’s not what our souls are truly craving. It creates an attachment to an idea of what romance should be and sets us up for disappointment when we get into the nitty gritty reality of everyday relationships.

I know this is an unpopular opinion. Perhaps the disappointment I’m describing is a catalyst for self-discovery. Perhaps I’m just a cynical curmudgeon who doesn’t understand the value of escapism. This would be another good place for a Tolkien rant, but I’m going to spare y’all again. Maybe the role of entertainment is simply that, to entertain and not to provide a compelling commentary on the human existence. Your girl’s existential as shell, though, so good luck with that one. My favorite movie is Dead Poets Society followed by The Dark Knight, so you get a sense of what you’re dealing with. (LOTR movies are in a cinematic category of their own, and we do not speak of the Harry Potter films).

My point is this, maybe I do get more excited about the next Marvel movie release (still unspeakably furious with Peter Quill, aka the reason Infinity War ended the way it did) than a story about a high-strung woman finally being happy and complete because she found a derpy dude to live happily ever after with. Make a movie about the after happily ever after where Katherine Heigl and Joseph Gordon Levitt are arguing about their mortgage and IVF, then we’re in business. Think Act 2 of Into the Woods.

Regardless, why should my cinematic preferences have anything to do with my girl card? And, for that matter, why should the reverse be true? Why should a guy who likes rom com be embarrassed by that? It’s just all so reductive. AND, for me to be self-conscious and judgmental is to reduce rom com lovers to shallow and indulgent anti-intellectuals. That’s not cool either.

We are complex beings created in the image of an infinitely complex God. Period.

But whenever the subject comes up with any of my female friends, particularly in a pack, I get that tickle of anxiety. I don’t want to be that buzzkill that says, “Well actually…” like Oscar from The Office. I usually just don’t say anything and wait for the subject to change. I don’t know how to state my opinion without being condescending, and that’s not kind (see previous paragraph). In practice, I mostly stay quiet and wait for the subject to change. I might even help it along with a classic non-sequiter.

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