Spoiler alert: This post might spoil the ending/plot of some classic chick flicks. Beware.
I’ve seen my fair share of chick flicks and rom coms and completely recognize that, sure, they may not be the Mona Lisa of films, okay? But I actually think we can occasionally look to them for some practical advice about life, love, and finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. After all, there must be some reason we watch them over and over again and make them box office hits, right? Oh right, that’s because of Zac Efron, Ryan Gosling and Matthew McConaughey. I forgot. Regardless, there are some valuable things we can learn from these movies and also some ridiculous things we should forget ASAP.
First, for the things we can learn from chick flicks:
- Letting the sort-of-right-guy go. Sometimes, the one that got away was supposed to get away. It’s hard to let go of the “what-could-have-happened?” mindset with a person you never pursued. But if you’ve always been just friends with the guy, it can be safe to assume you were just supposed to be just friends. My example here happens to be from one of my all-time favorite chick flicks: My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts. She basically turns into a psycho trying to make a guy she never gave a shot to fall in love with her before he marries someone else. After a lot of unnecessary mishaps and backstabbing, she realizes they were always just supposed to stay best friends. Trying to turn any and every loose end into “the one” can result in chaos, car chases and a young Cameron Diaz slapping you. We don’t want that, do we?
- Always be yourself. This is a seemingly popular lesson in romantic films. Someone pretends to be someone they aren’t, falls in love with another person, and then reveals their true self to their new love only to find the lover is totally pissed off they lied about who they were. I mean, come on – that’s like a less-creepy version of photoshopping your online dating pictures. No one likes to be lied to. Even though the angry lover typically forgives the wrong, it is always better to be honest from the start. Don’t lie about how you feel, where you work, your interests. It can all come back to haunt you if you truly fall for the person. Case and point: Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. Okay, it ended up working out for her because – surprise – he forgave her. But before that, he was deeply hurt so let’s try to avoid that. Not all men are so forgiving.
- There are pretty much always strings attached. You might not really need a movie example for this point, but I’ll give a couple anyway. The idea here is that it’s very rare for the “friends with benefits” idea to go smoothly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s possible. But after a certain amount of time and getting to know one another, it seems feelings always develop. Just look at Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits (such a clever name). Or, if you don’t believe me, there is always the less popular No Strings Attached featuring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Side note: Why didn’t anyone question these identical movies coming out at basically the same time? Weird. Moving on…
- The right one doesn’t always translate to “the perfect one.” This lesson hails from an empire that provides unending love advice: none other than Carrie Bradshaw herself from Sex and the City. Everyone could see Mr. Big was the one for Carrie, throughout the series and into the movies. However, everyone could also see Big wasn’t the best boyfriend he could’ve been. He was terrified of commitment. He put her through more heartbreak than any other man on the show, including cheating on a previous wife with Carrie. But O.M.G. that chemistry. They belonged together but that hardly made either of them perfect. Another example from Sex and the City is the relationship between Charlotte and Harry. The pristine, Episcopalian city-girl never imagined falling in love with a bald Jewish man. He wasn’t the perfect one she’d always imagined but he was completely right for her.
- Don’t forget about yourself. Relationships don’t tend to be healthy or happy if you never focus on yourself. Whether that’s spending some time being single to find yourself, treating yourself to some pampering, or traveling and discovering new interests, I cannot stress this enough. Carrie honestly needed the space from Big sometimes to not lose herself, and Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte never let her forget that. Julia Roberts’ character in Eat Pray Love found this lesson equally significant. It goes back to the idea that you have to love yourself before you can successfully love someone else.
Carrie Bradshaw summed it up perfectly with this quote: “Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well that’s just fabulous.”
Now, here are some things we shouldn’t take away from chick flicks:
- The catch-them-at-the-airport scene. If you mess up and your significant other happens to be leaving forever to a foreign country, you can totally just chase them down in an exciting scene, catch them at the airport and make everything so much better they’ll change their life plans (and their $500 flight) and live happily ever after with you. Needless to say, this is far from realistic. It’s hard enough to show up at the airport on time when you have your own flight, much less making it through traffic (and security) to catch the love of your life. News flash: TSA doesn’t care about your love life, sorry.
- Everyone ends up happy. It goes without saying that we need to take the happily ever after aspect of rom-coms and be more questioning. I want to take the time to give props to He’s Just Not That Into You, a romantic comedy that actually ended with people alone for once. Wait…someone cheated on his wife and didn’t end up happy at the end with his mistress? No way, that sounds too much like WHAT WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. Thank you He’s Just Not That Into You for maintaining some of the comfortable, predictable storylines while also throwing in some real-life surprises. You rock. Moreover, what we can take away from that movie? NEVER trust Scarlett Johansson.
- The portrayal of love. Call me a skeptic, but I think there are plenty of people out there who have experienced true love that didn’t happen as a result of jumping into Ryan Gosling’s arms in the pouring rain with a love ballad blasting in the background. Love isn’t made in a cookie-cutter fashion. It’s unique. It’s messy. Sure, it’s powerful and can be amazing, I won’t argue with that. But it won’t necessarily be the photoshopped, flawless portrayal we see in romantic movies. Just because you and your significant other don’t have the deep, intelligent, clever conversations like the ones exchanged between Jack and Rose and other love story pairs doesn’t make your relationship any less loving. It makes it real, actually. Maybe teen girls won’t obsess over it or cry for hours watching it and spooning icing into their mouths (mmmm, icing…), but who cares? It’s about you and your guy or gal, not about box office numbers.
There you have it. Don’t go plan your life around Hollywood’s portrayal of love or anything. But realize there are some very insightful lessons to be learned from the Carrie Bradshaws and Andie Andersons of film. Even if you disagree, you know deep down life is always just a little happier when you grab popcorn and indulge in the happily ever afters.
[P.P.S. – This post was originally published for Firelight, the introductions app I’m interning for and highly recommend you try out.]