The Truth About Movie Love (And Why I Don't Want It)

Don't take your relationship to the movies.

Posted May 31, 2012

Dirty Dancing Baby and Johnny romance

Dirty Dancing -- who didn't lust after this movie?

 “So perfect was Naoko’s physical beauty now that it aroused nothing sexual in me. I could only stare, astounded, at the lovely curve from waist to hips…”—from Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami.

Literature and movies are rife with these quixotic descriptions of otherworldly adoration and love – emotions so incredible they are able to transcend time, space and most of all, reality.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I was a huge advocate of this type of “love.” I longed for those epic moments found only in classic movies—Romeo and Juliet’s first glance through an electric blue aquarium, Baby and Johnny’s salubrious dirty dance the first night they meet or Naoko and Toru’s tentative first night together on her 20th birthday.

After many years of hoping and waiting for scenes like this to unfold in my own life, I’ve come to realize that my inexorable relationship with movie love is to be forever unrequited.

romeo and juliet fish tank romance

Romeo and Juliet -- I swoon just thinking of this scene.

If you are a hopeless romantic, you may know what I’m talking about. The qualities of movie love are: perfect, wildly romantic, magical, and most of all, ostensibly possible. I don’t have to describe to you what movie love is—because chances are, you have your own special movie or book that you fantasize about on a regular basis. Perhaps, you are waiting for your own Mr. Darcy to confess, “I love you just the way you are.”

Stop… waiting. It’s not going to happen. Ever.

 And even if it did happen, it wouldn’t be as good as fiction. It never is.

Those movie moments are written, edited, then rewritten 15 more times to get to the final glamorous state in which you see them. They are meticulously composed of the perfect lighting, direction, makeup and wardrobe—which meet in perfect harmony to create the ideal romantic scene.

To some extent, the entire notion of romance is somewhat contrived. According to psychologist Keith Oatley, the love tradition was born sometime during the 11th century with the French troubadours (aristocratic poets and musicians who often moonlighted as knights and kings). He writes:

“There were all these women of high birth and there were these knights rushing around on their horses and they would admire the women from afar. Stories grew up around that—Lancelot and Guinevere being a typical one. The love poetry of that time was about this. The woman would ask for some task to be done, which could be trifling or it could be to go kill a dragon or something. And then there would be a reward, which wasn’t necessarily sexual, though sometimes it was.”

Filmmakers and writers just took it a step further and exaggerated its effects.

Valentine's Day proposal

"She said YES!"

I have had my share of soul mates, loves of my life, and “the ones.” It’s not a bad thing to get swept away—after all, who doesn’t love romance?

But to expect those cinema-quality-over-the-top scenes in real life? It has less to do with romance, and more to do with selling a fantasy. The worst part is that these films portray the fantasy like it could actually happen—to me. And that’s where the trouble begins. We wait for it to happen. And then we are disappointed when on Valentine’s Day, instead of getting an engagement ring, we are treated to a box of chocolates and a nice dinner.

The real agony is that you didn’t even know you wanted the engagement ring until you saw Ashton Kutcher give one to Jessica Alba in that movie.

And then you get angry and feel sorry for yourself, thinking that no one loves you. When the truth is—I'm an idiot that needs to stop thinking life is a movie. Because two hours from now, I'll still have the rest of my life to enjoy even more wonderful and original moments than this dumb movie has.

Movie love is just a figment of someone’s imagination. Real love shouldn’t be.


Speaking of real love, this is the most romantic (and amazing) thing I've seen in a while:



Follow me on Twitter: @thisjenkim