Hollywood and the celebration of toxic love stories
The Me Too movement started in Hollywood yet this same Industry is still producing dozens of Rom-coms every year that promote unhealthy relationship expectations and toxic behaviors.
Let’s explore the love myths and harmful relationships models celebrated in Hollywood and see what alternatives we could produce instead.
Love at first sight
The chance to find your soulmate in a bookshop (Notting Hill) is infinitely low because love doesn’t happen magically. Of course you can feel a strong desire for a stranger in your supermarket but it has nothing to do with love. There isn’t a writer in your life who will make you fall in love instantly for someone you never met before. Like every emotion love is created by our brains so it is not a passive feeling that magically appears in our heads. Therefore love happens once we make the choice to feel the love toward someone else which imply time, commitment and effort.
Women need to be saved and men are immature
Hollywood loves clichés. Many Rom-coms follow the same patterns : a woman falls in love with a man. The man is messy and immature so he needs to change or fix his mistake in order to win the woman’s heart again.
No need to wonder why most heterosexual men don’t go to the movies to watch Rom-coms. This genre perpetuates negative clichés about men because it is primarily targeting a female audience. Yet most of these films are written, directed and produced by men which explains why most of the female characters who are self-sufficient and confident are depicted as eternally single women who don’t deserve to be loved (Bridget Jones).
Change yourself to be loved
If you're like me, then you grew up knowing the word to every single song from Grease. But the last scene of the film is the perfect example of another toxic message from Hollywood to young women : you need to change your appearance and who you are so a man will like you.
Happily ever after
Most of the Rom-coms end by a “happily ever after” or a wedding. In real life a wedding is never the end. It’s actually the beginning of a long path with lots of ups and downs because a relationship is never linear.
When I first came to the US I was very surprised to experience how much a wedding was the main expectation from a love relationship. The wedding industry here is benefiting from the concept of “happily ever after” designed by Hollywood. It tricks people to think that a wedding should be the most important day of their lives and a beautiful show that would prove their ability to be happy as a couple. In fact it is mostly a contract made between two individuals. Originally it had nothing to do with love.
Hollywood has a real responsibility in influencing people to have unrealistic love expectations and to believe that a wedding would solve any unhealthy relationship pattern.
I believe our Industry’s goal should be to help our society evolve towards better equality. Good stories help people figure out who they are in order to be able to communicate their own emotions. I would really love to watch more romantic comedies that promote freedom and self-discovery, while showing characters’ internal struggles and the difficulties to love ourselves and others.
I want to share some of my favorite romantic films. These films celebrate characters who carry their own struggles without falling into the trap of clichés, toxic behaviors and unrealistic happy endings.
Paterson is the celebration of the tiny bits of beauty in the everyday life and the ability of each of us to create poetry and art.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores the complexity of love, identity and loss. It also inspires us to question ourselves.
Bokeh is about a romantic getaway in Iceland that leads the characters to reconsider everything they know about themselves and the world.
Water Lilies explores desire among teenage girls and the uncertainty of love.
This is the “possibly happy ever after” end of Eternal Sunshine.