The Weekend Five: Things That Pop Culture Taught Me to Expect About Falling in Love

25.1T073.mindyc--300x300As Valentine’s Day looms dangerously close by, we begin to think more and more about love and relationships based on our current frames of reference. Even if you have a significant other, you might still be a sucker for  cheesy romantic comedies, and this could potentially affect your own beliefs about what “love” really looks like. In my own life, pop culture has played its role in shaping my expectations, for better or for worse.

In honor of Singles Awareness Day/Valentine’s Day (depending, of course, on your relationship status and/or feelings about Hallmark), I would like to present the five things that pop culture taught me to expect in the world of relationships.

The Weekend Five: Things That Pop Culture Taught Me to Expect About Falling in Love

1. Every social encounter is a potential meet-cute.
It doesn’t matter where you are or why you’re there; any time you meet someone of the desired gender, you have the chance to find real love. This allows you to turn an awkward situation, such as running into each other and dropping all of your belongings on the ground, into something more meaningful. If your eyes meet for more than a few seconds as you laugh and help each other to pick up your things, it’s a sign of good things to come — and if your hands brush against theirs, it’s obvious that you’re soulmates. You can apply similar logic to other situations as well: meeting someone at a bar, admiring the same painting in an art gallery, reaching for the same book in a library. It doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t see all of this as reason to exchange numbers or break up with their current significant other; as long as you keep your mind open, any moment can become a meet-cute.

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2. The one who has been around the longest is the one you’ll end up with.“I’ve been right here in front of you the entire time!” the romantic female lead exclaims as she plants herself in her male best friend’s doorway. “I was here all along!” This rule can go two ways: either you will end up with your best friend, or you will end up with the person whom you met in the very first episode (a la Carrie/Mr. Big) of Your Love Life. Either way, longevity will trump all else in the game of love.

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bachelorette_ver23. If all else fails, you can broadcast your search for love to the entire world.
By becoming the next Bachelor or Bachelorette on ABC, you will not only have countless attractive dental assistants and entrepreneurs of ambiguous backgrounds vying for your attention, but you will also have access to an unlimited wardrobe of evening wear. Falling in love on television is totally genuine and foolproof; even if you don’t end up married later down the road, you are at least contractually obligated to get an engagement out of it, and your entire courtship will be littered with poorly disguised metaphors. Who wouldn’t want that?

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4. Your relationship will have its own montage.
Every memorable moment that has led up to your declaration of love will flash before your eyes. This montage will be relatively short – no more than three minutes – but will highlight your relationship’s “Best Of” moments. This also happens when you aren’t in a relationship but considering confessing your feelings for someone with whom you’ve developed a close friendship. This montage is a mental one, so don’t be creepy and put anything together in iMovie.

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5. Your relationship will be scored by a mix of 1980s love songs and modern indie music.
I always imagined that The Glory of Love by Peter Cetera would start playing the moment I realized I’d found “The One” (okay, maybe not always, but at least since I watched last season of The Bachelorette). The truth is, if pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that our relationships will take up entire soundtracks – and bands like Foreigner, Death Cab for Cutie and Sparklehorse will be the main attractions. Our relationships will consist of sweet if not slightly poppy melodies, smarmy songs that came out the year before we were born and a few songs by obscure bands we’ve never heard of. Get your iTunes ready.

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What are some of the things that pop culture has taught you to expect about falling in love?

According To The Movies, True Love Is…

In keeping with our romantic comedy theme from yesterday’s post, I thought it would be entertaining to poke fun at some more of the film and television relationships we love. Before I continue, I have to admit that a few of these come from some of my favorite movies, but I love being able laugh about them all. Without further adieu:

According to the movies, true love is…

  • Vowing to turn the nerdy girl into a beautiful prom queen until you give her contact lenses and a haircut and then realize she was beautiful all along. (She’s All That)
  • Finding the one who will rescue your cat in the rain after you let it out of the car during a tantrum. (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  • Lying about your age to your English teacher and making him think the girl he’s falling for is a high school senior when you’re actually 25 years old. (Never Been Kissed)
  • Trading your girlfriend for a hotel, sleeping with her arch-nemesis, and then asking her to prove her love for you atop the Empire State Building. (Gossip Girl)
  • Losing your ability to speak and then realizing that you can still win the prince’s heart with your looks. (The Little Mermaid)
  • Getting engaged to your employee to avoid getting deported to Canada and then marrying him anyway because you bonded with his crazy grandmother.  (The Proposal)
  • Knowing that your sometimes-enemy and business rival is also your anonymous email pen pal, but still asking her to meet you for a date in the park. (You’ve Got Mail)
  • Getting on a boat to Paris with the guy who tried to ship you off there in the first place. (Sabrina)
  • Inviting at least 20 young women (mainly account coordinators, dental assistants and aspiring models) to compete for your affections on TV over the course of several weeks and enjoying romantic moments with each before deciding that your “real feelings” are for the girl that audiences hate the most. (The Bachelor)

What has the media taught you about “true love?”

The Friday Five: Types of Romantic Comedy Couples

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s likely (and natural!) that my blog will revolve around relationships even more than usual this month. After all, aren’t the images of love and ridiculous grand gestures exactly what the media wants to ingrain in our consumer-driven/chocolate-addicted minds? That’s why we watch romantic comedies in our oversized sweatshirts while choosing to ignore the huge gaps between art and real life. It’s also why we conveniently forget how formulaic most of the films in this genre can be, and instead breathe a sigh of relief at the end when the lead actor and actress finally admit their undying love for one another.

Face it — there are only so many variations of “couples” and characters that romantic comedies have the time and creativity to introduce to us. Maybe Katherine Heigl started playing her after Meg Ryan traded in for a new face, or perhaps Josh Duhammel has become the new Richard Gere (ew), but at their very core, most rom coms are more or less the same story, same characters.

This week, we’ll poke fun at some of the couples we encounter in romantic comedies. All of these couples can be well-written and fleshed out, but then there are the ones that the writers got lazy working on. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

The Friday Five: Types of Romantic Comedy Couples

1. The best friends.
Audiences have always rooted for this couple. Why? Because audiences identify with this couple. (After all, who didn’t root for Harry and Sally?) Most people have at least one close friend of the opposite sex, and therefore, the idea that two best friends could be soulmates gives them hope that if nothing else works out, they always have a relationship to fall back on. These movies usually turn out as follows: Flashback to the beginning of the friendship (often, but not always, during childhood or college), followed by a flash forward to current state of friendship, in which both parties may act as wingmen for one another. Person A enters a relationship with a secondary character and it becomes serious. Person B undergoes a life-changing experience that causes him/her to realize that he/she has been in love with Person A the entire time. Insert emotional outburst from Person B that erupts in a passionate kiss. Cue thunder and rain. Person A storms off after Person B gives a speech about how Person A is just closing himself/herself off to true love to avoid getting hurt by something as real as their long-lasting friendship. Cue montage of Person A acting distracted around his/her clueless significant other and staring sadly out a window or two. Finally, Person A breaks things off with aforementioned significant other and runs to meet Person B (who is about to make some huge decision), prepared with an apologetic speech consisting of all the things he/she loves about Person B and something along the lines of “I just didn’t realize my soulmate was right in front of me all along.” The two kiss again under fireworks or some other romantic surroundings and the scene closes. Sound familiar? That’s because it is.

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2. The sworn enemies.
Katherine Heigl, this one is for you. Some romantic comedy characters love to argue for no discernible reason at all, and so when they find someone who loves to push the envelope, sparks begin to fly. The best part about this couple is that their banter doesn’t even have to be that witty — as long as the characters try to use words that the writer picked out of his pocket thesaurus, audiences will cling to the “sexual tension” and “unbridled passion” that the two share. After all, kissing someone you hate is a great way to shut them up, am I right? (Author’s note to Katherine Heigl: Meg Ryan has played this role in a much more likable way.)

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3. The uptight working woman and the man who helps her break loose.
I’ve always had a problem with this couple because it assumes that all successful, career-driven women: a) Don’t care at all about dating or their social lives and instead choose to sacrifice their happiness, which can only be fulfilled by a relationship; and b) Refuse to wear their hair in anything other than a really tight bun. All semi-feminist rants aside, these films usually pair up a carefree guy who has had few (if any) real responsibilities in his life with a workaholic leading lady who stopped responding to men’s advances or pursuing relationships because (as we learn in the second half of the movie) she had her heart broken and has learned to adjust by burying herself in Excel spreadsheets and expense reports. Usually in these movies, each character takes a little something from the other — the woman learns to let her hair down (literally – she takes it out of the ponytail/bun in a moment of weakness while her glasses are off, and the male lead finally realizes just how beautiful she is) and accept a relationship, while the man finally gets a job and learns to be more reliable.

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4. The player who finally finds the girl he is willing to settle down for.
This is the story of a guy who likes a girl but struggles to give up his womanizing ways. The girl recognizes this from the beginning and therefore plays hard to get, while the guy realizes that she is the first real challenge he has ever had in his life. This alone makes him fall madly in love with her, and as he finds himself doing thoughtful things for her in the hopes of getting what he wants, he realizes that she is worth more than her looks. In the end, he relinquishes his Heartbreaker title and lives happily ever after with one woman. (This couple is also one that I have difficulty supporting, because it leads younger girls to believe that the guy who cheats on his girlfriends will change for them — and unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.)

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5. The conspirators.
According to this couple’s track record, if you ever pretend to be in a relationship with someone, you will eventually fall in love with that person. These two characters fake a relationship for some other benefit (for example, they stage a wedding so that they can use the gifts to furnish their homes and pay off debts — thank you for that, My Fake Fiancee!) but in the process, they realize that they have developed feelings for one another. Finally, the whole sham unravels when one admits this to the other, before they ultimately reunite under romantic yet humorous conditions.

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Who are your favorite/least favorite romantic comedy couples?

The Friday Five: Sweetest Chick Flick Endings

After my previous, less romantic post, I thought it would be nice to give this week a fairy-tale ending. Although I generally like to tear down those romantic comedy films because of the effects they have on (mostly female) audiences, I admit that they have always been a guilty pleasure. Maybe they aren’t realistic, but we are allowed to have hope from time to time, and so this week, I would like to present some of the more aww-worthy romantic comedy endings. (Feel free to call me a sap!)

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The Friday Five: Sweetest Chick Flick Endings

1. Never Been Kissed (1999)
A copy editor in her mid-twenties, the dorky Josie Geller longs for love, and – as the title of the movie suggests – has never even been kissed. Naturally, she ends up going undercover as a high school student in order to write an expose on the popular students’ lives, and falls in love with her English teacher. A little crazy and unethical, yes, but it takes place in the 90’s — a decade of really bad but still insanely adorable teen movies — so it’s all sort of forgivable. When she is revealed as an undercover reporter and declares her love for her teacher at a big baseball game, the following ensues. Even if you aren’t particularly moved by the illegalities of it all, you have to love the Beach Boys music playing in the background. “Don’t worry, baby…” 🙂

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2. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
In this remake of The Shop Around The Corner, Meg Ryan plays the owner of a small bookshop, who falls for a man with whom she has only corresponded by email. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks plans to build a huge chain bookstore across the street, which will be sure to put Ryan’s shop out of business, and so they develop an adversarial relationship. As fate would have it (of course!), Tom Hanks happens to be the mystery man she has been emailing. In the end, they manage to put their differences aside and admit their feelings for each other in real life.

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3. He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
This is one of those ensemble cast movies that features several love stories, but smack dab in the middle of all of them is the story of Gigi, a sweet girl who overanalyzes potential relationships too often, and Alex, the uncommitted but friendly guy who helps her recognize all the lies she’s been telling herself about the world of dating. Although I don’t totally buy Alex’s profound realization in this end scene, I am a sucker for this ending. Maybe again this has something to do with the music in the background (Somewhere Only We Know happens to be one of my favorite songs) but I do think it was a clever — and sweet! — way to wrap up the characters’ story.

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4. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
What kind of list would this be if it didn’t feature multiple Meg Ryan films? (Trust me, there are plenty of other good ones that didn’t make the list but still deserve to be there.) Disregarding the big hair, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. It begs the question “Can a man and a woman be friends without sex getting in the way?” Harry and Sally grow close over a period of 11 years, but eventually their feelings do get in the way and we end the movie with this gem. Possibly the sweetest “grand gesture speech” I have ever heard in a movie. Although it may not be the most realistic at times, I think When Harry Met Sally is the kind of love story most people want to find in their own lives. Wouldn’t it be great if the perfect person for us was right under our nose all along?

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5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a “romantic comedy” or “chick flick,” but it does have those romantic elements and definitely the perfect ending, in spite of the fact that it differs from the novel. All iconic aspects of the movie aside, it has such a lovely Old Hollywood ending that current films just can’t duplicate, with great speeches from the characters and gorgeous visuals.

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What are your favorite movie endings?