Asking a girl if she enjoyed "The Notebook" is like asking her if she likes chocolate. Sure, Ryan Gosling wearing a white shirt in the pouring rain might have something to do with it, but that’s not the only reason why the film has become one of the most-watched of our generation.
Rom-coms have become staple ingredients of our cultural digest. They’re uplifting, easy to watch and their very name suggests they may make you laugh.
But, perhaps, most importantly, they center on the one thing every single one of us has in common: falling in love. Whether you’ve already fallen in love or are looking forward to one day doing so, it’s human nature to seek companionship. At some point, each of us has experienced love in one capacity or another.
It’s easy to relate to the onscreen characters as they bumble through their ordinary lives, making similar mistakes to the ones we already have. It's easy to laugh at their unfortunate situations and breathe sighs of relief that it wasn’t us.
Quickly, we become emotionally invested in their stories.
Then, when things go wrong as they inevitably do in films, one grand sweeping gesture, one vast declaration of love or public display of emotion fixes everything. The characters to whom you’ve connected are happy; everything worked out in the best possible way.
The curtain calls, the lights go up and you leave the theatre feeling warm and fuzzy, with a renewed faith that of course, everything will work out exactly like that for you… Won’t it?
From creating ordinary characters and extraordinary gestures, thanks to rom-coms, the overarching perception of love is changing. It is even, perhaps, ruining modern dating.
Rom-coms are beginning to perpetuate an ideal that love has to be shown dramatically, and relationships must be filled with magical moments in order to be deemed real love.
Our expectations are changing, and the bar has been raised. We see love in the movies as airbrushed fairytales. Boy meets girl, and they can’t help but fall blissfully in love, until disaster strikes. Family or friends don’t approve and intervene or a simple miscommunication causes heartbreak.
Cut to the next scene and one character (often the guy) has a moment of clarity. In a romantic bid to make things right, he stands outside her bedroom window with a boom box playing their favorite song, writes her 365 letters or performs a very public rendition of "Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You."
We’re told that's what love is — the sweeping declaration that surely must define love.
So, what happens in real life when a relationship simply goes smoothly, follows normal trends and contains no singing? Although arguments are just a part of life and everyone makes mistakes, what happens when regular, simple apologies are made?
They’re taken less seriously. Suddenly, we expect far more of everyone; we wait to be swept off our feet and grand gestures are expected over sincerity.
Love, or simply caring about someone, doesn’t have to be shown through exaggerated acts and we shouldn’t underestimate the nice guy or the small, thoughtful moments. The reason the grand gestures are on the big screen is because they’re not in real life.
It’s becoming harder to remember that life outside the cinema holds plenty of more meaningful, heartfelt moments. The authenticity of these moments should not be questioned simply because there's no audience or Nicholas Sparks hasn’t written it into his latest novel.
In this generation, especially with things like Tinder and social media playing such a huge role in the game, dating is a whirlwind within which finding simple happiness shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m not saying we should all drastically lower our expectations, but we shouldn’t expect the Hollywood extraordinary.
Chances are, you’ll fall for an ordinary person who won't search every house in the dodgy end of Wandsworth on Christmas Eve to find you. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
If your expectations are too high, no one will ever meet them, and you might miss out on the greatest journey of all: letting yourself fall in love.
Then again, if the bar is constantly being raised, will everyone eventually rise to it?