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Students and experts explore the complexities between romantic comedies and real life

March 20, 2024

Romantic comedies are simple, film professor Rick Blackwood said.

Girl meets boy. They fall in love. They live happily ever after. 

Real life, however, is much more complicated — and entertaining.

"I think real life is actually much more interesting than movies," Blackwood said. "Movies are controlled and contained in a way that the real world isn't, and that complexity itself is really fascinating."

Romantic comedies, or rom-coms, have charmed audiences for decades. From characters’ outlandish displays of affection to the simply mundane ideas of two people falling in love. However, some students question if watching these types of movies has affected how they view their real-life relationships. 

"I feel like, if anything, it's more subconscious," digital storytelling sophomore Sarah Romain said. “Just like growing up watching love stories that are really grand and, I guess, in a sense, kind of unrealistic, maybe that does sort of put expectations in my mind."

Yet, Romain believes these expectations might not be completely negative.

"I also think that it can be inspiring," Romain said. "Maybe if someone sees a movie, they're more likely to tell someone how they feel or something."

Blackwood agrees. He said the relationships portrayed in romance movies can be something a person can strive for in real life.

"They can be really good learning tools about the complexity of relationships because one sees a relationship (that is) probably much less complex than the one a person is actually in, and it gives you some idea of something to work towards," Blackwood said.

Journalism junior Karl Jensen questioned if rom-coms perpetuate the idea of what is "cliché" or if they have an inverse influence.

"It's also like the chicken or egg thing: were they cliché before the movie, or did the movie have that effect?" Jensen said.

Having grown up with three older sisters, Jensen said he’s watched his fair share of romantic comedies. Although he thinks the displays of love in the movies are not feasible for his own life.

"It sets the standards high," Jensen said. "The giant acts of romanticism, people going out of the way, the dedication. I don't have that time in my life."

Blackwood said that while these movies can be a great form of escapism, he warns against using them as the sole measure of what to expect from love, considering their detachment from reality.

"There is nothing in the universe more fake than a movie, and yet they feel real, more real than real life sometimes," Blackwood said.

For psychology sophomore Ayanna King, she said she’s dreamed of her own happily ever after since she was a little girl. An adamant rom-com lover, King said these movies shaped her perception of relationships when she was younger, but those ideas have changed over the years.

"You get older, get into the real world, get into relationships, and you see that it's not always so perfect," King said. "You're gonna go through a bunch of stuff and that's not shown in those TV shows or movies."

Despite not finding her fairytale ending just yet, King remains hopeful.

"I will still continue to watch my rom-coms and love shows until it happens for me."

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