John Cusack or Are Romantic Comedies Evil?

My husband pointed me in the direction of a recent study which asserts that romantic comedies aka “chick flicks” are more than just the bane of his existence.

“Why do I always let you pick the movie?” he asked, the thin air really, when I chose Must Love Dogs out of a stack of mostly John Cusack movies last evening.

In a sentence, the study claims that romantic comedy aficionados are more likely to have unrealistic expectations of potential or current romantic partners, believe in soul mates and become disenchanted when their partners cannot read their minds. And I have to admit the study makes good points. The idea that love and marriage should follow the standard plot-line of a chick flick has probably been one of the most damaging in terms of the current state of the union between men and women (and possibly men and men and women and women though I can’t say for certain not having any statistical or anecdotal evidence to back me up).

As a female, however, I can say that girls are raised on a steady diet of misinformation and storybook ideals where romance, love, sex and monogamous coupling are concerned. Take love at first sight for example, it’s not possible, and yet we fall willingly into that abyss. One often fueled by hormones and, unfortunately, alcohol. What is nothing more than the normal chemistry occurring between those of similar orientations is labeled “love” to avoid acknowledgment of our baser instincts. From the earliest moment of indoctrination, girls are taught sex can only be good and only be permitted when love is involved. This creates a dilemma which must be solved and so – voila – we have love at first sight.

In Must Love Dogs, Cusack’s character is instantly smitten by the heroine played by Diane Lane. She, however, had been lust-struck by Dermot Mulroney’s character and, true to type when she caves in and sleeps with him knowing he is a womanizer, she justifies the encounter just short of love but the implications of deeper feelings hangs over the moment.

And then there is the soul mates thing. I don’t believe in soul mates though I do profess a belief in the idea that certain people are destined to spend time in our lives in some capacity for predetermined reasons. The idea there is but one match for a person is ludicrous, however, and I find it is mainly employed by those who, for whatever reason, are declining to risk their emotions but aren’t averse to others risking theirs.

Case in point in the film is the character played by Christopher Plummer. He is the father of Diana Lane’s character and a widower. Like her, he is using Internet dating sites to find romance, but unlike her he believes he has had his one true love and no other woman can ever come close. Consequently, he winds up dating three women simultaneously. In several scenes where the family gathers to celebrate, Plummer’s character is flanked by these women on a “group date” Brigham Young would have approved of.

Lane’s character calls him on this shallow use of others’ affections later in the movie ,and I heartily agreed with her. If a person can’t give another potential love the same chance and affection as a lost one, don’t play the “game” at all. It’s not only not fair; it’s morally questionable.

Mind reading is probably the most damaging of all romantic love concepts floating around. The movie plays with the concept that Cusack and Lane are on the same wave length but doesn’t travel too far into the idea except to exploit the misreading of signs and events that keep the two apart until the predictable “ah-ha” moment close to the end.

During our long distance dating days, I wrote a lot about the importance of staying in perpetual touch and communicating. I was as guilty of pulling the “he should be reading my mind” card as any woman during my younger days and even at times during my first marriage. Though it is difficult for me sometimes to say what I really think or ask for what I really want, anymore I speak rather than assume my demeanor will clue my husband to my mood, need or question.

I don’t take romantic comedies as anything more than an affirmation the world still believes in the idea of love even if it sucks at it. They are certainly not blue-prints for women or men to follow in any case.

Must Love Dogs was a cute flick. There are plenty of laugh aloud moments, mainly afforded by the supporting cast, and Lane and Cusack make a believable pairing.

8 thoughts on “John Cusack or Are Romantic Comedies Evil?

  1. Regarding your comment below: (good heavens! Is this the author of this blog?)

    “I think men would be thrilled if they could read our minds and aren’t not doing so out of laziness or anythng else. The examples you mention are based, I think, on the human tendency to not want to work too hard to be content or happy. We want fairy godmothers. Men and women alike. It may be our nature, but it has never worked. We are just slow learners.”
    Blessed are those who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed? OY. If you can imagine a good relationship you are not “a slow learner” you are someone who has not given up on life.
    Women get what they expect, and if you lower your expectations low enough, you can actually damage your relationship. Men have a lifetime of experience with women.
    They learn, and they are not clueless. They are raised by a woman, for pity sake.
    “If you are just nice, accommodating and agreeable with your partner, always going along with what your partner wants, never disagreeing or requiring your partner to accommodate you, you will unintentionally teach that person that your needs and wants don’t matter. You will help the person learn not to be sensitive or respectful to you. Disappointments, hurts, frustrations, irritations and anger will fester inside of you and eventually poison you to the relationship.”
    Demanding a gentleman who wants you to be happy, is not outrageous.
    Don’t blame women’s discontent on John Cusack. It’s our fault for letting the man step away from his protective role. A real man protects you and wants you to be happy. That is not fiction.

    I am pretty sure I didn’t blame ole John for anything because I was just reporting on someone’s study. He was just an example of the genre which I still think fuels the unrealistic expectations many people have when it comes to relationships. A person should have expectations of what a good relationship should be but they shouldn’t be based on Hollywood movies, Disney Princesses or some of the tripe that’s published.

    Dreaming is fine but a relationship grows and is negotiated over and over again as we grow. I had a dream guy once but what I found when I finally was willingly to let go of that was an amazing real man in my first husband. And knowing what I did about relationships and great guys is what helped me know I had found that again in my husband now.

  2. I don’t think it’s about whether or not men can read women’s minds. I think it’s about whether they want to. Do they want their girlfriend to be happy, or do they figure out what she wants and then make sure she does not get it? Relationships work if both the two people are willing to do almost anything to make them work. That was shown by Diane Lane swimming to John’s boat. The guys complain about RomComs but they sit thru them, and if they pay attention they get lots of usable info. Before Romcoms we had cinderella, snow white, and the other fairy tales. They address the fundamental difference between women and men. I mean I think you are right, but women will never turn into men, and that’s the breaks. We’re just different. Of course they complain when they have to be “The Prince” but if it makes us happy, then whatever. 😀

    I think men would be thrilled if they could read our minds and aren’t not doing so out of laziness or anything else. The examples you mention are based, I think, on the human tendency to not want to work to hard to be content or happy. We want fairy godmothers. Men and women alike. It may be our nature, but it has never worked. We are just slow learners.

  3. If a movie has John Cusack in it, horror films excluded, I will watch it at least once. “Say Anything” and “High Fidelity” are two of my all-time favorites, and I liked “Grosse Point Blank” more than I care to admit.

  4. I don’t believe in a single soulmate, either. First off, it’s not logical. 6 billion people on the planet, and only 1 of them is the one for you? What if your soulmate is living in Kenya, or the wilds of outer Mongolia, and doesn’t happen to have internet access and a PoF account? Then you’re just destined to live in lonely misery your whole life? That’s just dumb. And I know better from my own experiences. Loving people find love, and love is infinite for the loving heart.

  5. “the dabblers” – know it well. that’s what i would be if i made any pretense of “finding love” out there. i date. several men at a time. all of them know that it’s not exclusive, and if they don’t like it? see ya!

    although i’m not one of those who’s had the one great love… i just don’t think i’m capable of it. sesame street attention span and all that…

  6. I can definitely attest to the efficacy of vibrators and dogs, but it is nice to be the companion of someone who is on your wavelength. Laurie Cabot, in The Power of the Witch, states that soulmates come into your life to teach you something, but are rarely “forever”, and for the most part aren’t marriage material, either. I met my soulmate, and I did learn a lot from him. But I knew up front it wasn’t forever.

    I know I had a special connection with Will and we were kindred. I feel that with Rob too though with him I get the distinct feeling we have been apart more than together and that our pairings have always been couplings along the lines of marriage.

    I haven’t heard of Laurie Cabot. I will have to check her out.

  7. This is solid, rational and happens to mostly track my take on “love” and “sex”. i have no problem separating the two. But that puts me in a teeny tiny minority of women who have been brought up on this diet of “happily ever after with the soulmate who miraculously finds you in a cheery, sometimes farcical, adventure amongst millions of other possible humans you could end up marrying…”.

    ooh. was that cynical?

    No, all too accurate. What is worse though, imo, are the dabblers. Those people who’ve had this “great love” and were hurt or disappointed by it and now dip their toes in and out of the pool at the expense of others. If a person doesn’t have it to give, don’t victimize others to cope with loneliness or horniness. Get a dog. Buy a vibrator. But the fairytale with no effort or compromise thing runs a very close second.

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