I have a confession to make: I am a devoted lover of romantic comedies.
As the hilarious Mindy Kaling wrote for The New Yorker , “saying you like romantic comedies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity.” But I don’t care. Rom coms are a regular and essential part of my evening ritual. Every night before I begin to pack up for the next day and head to sleep, I pick out a chick flick. Last night it was “The Holiday”; tonight, it’s “The Devil Wears Prada.” A couple weeks ago, I watched season five of Gilmore Girls in a few short weeknights.
I don’t know why I love these movies so much. It could be the unfailingly unattainable attractiveness of the male and female leads. More likely it’s the unrealistically emotionally expressive men. Whatever the reason, I have spent many, many hours relaxing while my tiny TV plays me Jane Austen adaptations or princess movies.
There’s just one problem with a lot of these flicks. While the characters (as well as the actors and actresses, themselves, at times) eschew traditional relationship wisdom, they miraculously seem to escape all the possible ill effects of doing so. We’re meant to believe that Bella and Edward (of the “Twilight” saga, of course) are actually going to have a stable, loving marriage for eternity, despite their relationship’s bizarre beginnings, secrets hidden from Bella’s parents, and a slightly criminal age difference between the husband and wife. Lorelei Gilmore successfully raises her brilliant and focused daughter, Rory—who graduates from a fabulous prep school, and then graduates from Yale, and then becomes a journalist—entirely on her own after giving birth to her at age 16. I could go on and on; I’ve already blogged about “What’s Your Number” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
This is not to say that single mothers are doomed to raise miscreant children, or that relationships with rocky beginnings will necessarily fail. Every person is different. All relationships, and all people, are within the reach of redemption. But the social science is very clear that the choices we make in our relationship—which and how many people we are physically intimate with; whether we choose to cohabit and make use of all marriage’s perks with none of its commitment; whether we choose to bear and raise children outside of a home rendered stable by legal and religious promises—have consequences. I just wish the movies so many of us veg out with reflected this reality.
The thing is, while it may not wreck an A-list starlet’s life if her child’s father abandons her, onscreen or off, these actors and actresses are contributing to a culture that diminishes marriage and chastity, which will damage the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. “Think Like a Man”—yes, the one based on the Steve Harvey book—might be the sole movie I’ve seen lately that even approaches an accurate reflection of male-female relationships and the power women hold when they (even temporarily) raise their standards.