Every girl has said it at one point or another: I’m looking for my Prince Charming. Mr. Darcy. Edward Cullen. Noah Calhoun. Jake Ryan. Seth Cohen. Regardless of what we look for in a partner, most of us have idealized a “soulmate” some time in our lives, and often that image is based on a fictional character that appeals to us. If we’re realistic about everything and we don’t let our thoughts run too wild, the idea of a real-life Zack Morris or A.C. Slater probably isn’t the worst thing we can think up. However, sometimes the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred, and we begin to hope for something that doesn’t actually exist.
In my first entry on A Paper Town for a Paper Girl (my previous blog), I discussed the dangers of taking romantic comedies too literally, because we are often disillusioned by the way relationships work on screen. The entry dealt mainly with the plot of these movies as a whole, but not so much about the specific characters that we fall for every time.
The thing is, romantic comedies aren’t the only ones guilty of deceiving us. The books we read and the TV shows we watch can also present those same male leads that we can’t get enough of. And isn’t that every writer’s goal — for the audience to become invested in the characters and their fates? So maybe it isn’t the creator’s fault; maybe that lies in the way we absorb what’s in front of us.
In his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman illustrates this point with Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) from the movie Say Anything. Although Lloyd Dobler is completely fictional, the actor who plays him is not, and therefore according many women (including Klosterman’s then-girlfriend) transferred their love for Lloyd to John. Even when Cusack took on grittier roles, those women still perceived him to be exactly as Lloyd Dobler was. They would always see him as the hopeless romantic who held a boombox over his head and played Peter Gabriel for the girl he loved… even though he was really just John Cusack, an actor who merely did a good job delivering a role.
So then, what happens to those girls who pray for a Lloyd Dobler in real life? I’ve blogged before about the dangers of building our significant others up to be something they’re not, but what about the dangers of those comparisons between fictional heartthrobs and the ones in our own lives? If you always have the manufactured image of that boy with the boombox in the back of your mind, and you can’t replace it with something tangible, then you may never be totally satisfied in your love life.
Ultimately, if we’re ever going to have healthy relationships, we need to ditch our fictional “soulmates” and go with the people in our real lives who will make us happy just by being themselves. 🙂