The Dominance of Romance in Film and TV

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This was created out of bitterness. And before you argue that romanticism was an 1800s movement, I will now warn that romance as a term is used in this post as a shortcut for “romantic love”.

One of my former high school classmates, Jessica Marie Lagdaan (twitter here), after watching my highly recommended film and one of my favorites, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), insisted with such grave that Andy Dufrense (played by Tim Robbins), the protagonist, and Ellis “Red” Redding (played by our beloved Morgan Freeman) were gay for each other. I argued that Red was only “black” which was rather offensive.

I persisted that they were only good friends. She never believed me.

This kind of outlook is not new. In our Communication Theory class where our instructor tasked us to write an essay about one of the discussed theories (I chose Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory), I had passionately laid out my arguments about the dominance of romance in the world of cinema and TV. It cannot be denied that “romantic love” seems like an omnipresent theme in any movie or TV series ever made.

Say, a film about kindergarten students. Of course, the little boy will give flowers to this cute little girl who will then give him a kiss on the cheek because that’s cute, isn’t it? Say, a war film. Of course, the soldier will fall in love with the nurse. Or heck, with another soldier. Say, a film where everyone dies. Of course, at the end the carcasses of the boy and the girl are holding hands even after an atomic bomb has exploded, a wave of zombies has passed, and the earth’s crust has already collapsed into its mantle.

Duh. People like this shit. If the boyfriend likes action films and the girl wants to be with him so that they can have a quickie in the dark, cold cinema, slap in a scene with cheesy lines where the superhero kisses the beautiful girl. That covers her boredom. Romantic love is everywhere that people often mistake friendship as dependent on this. Again, Shawshank.

Recently I have seen this wonderful, beautiful, heartfelt film called Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Sundance winner!). Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke respectively, this movie is not only about death. It is much more than that, in a warm and pillow-fuzzy kind of way that you should not masturbate to *pop* (get this after you watch the film). This movie is based on the novel of the same title by Jesse Andrews, who also wrote the screenplay.

By the way, the cinematography is epic and cool and the mini-films are awesome (check out the header image).

by Fresh Movie Trailers

Cooke, Mann and Cyler on the set of the scene where the two boys are accidentally on drugs.

The real gem that is treasure in this film is its apparent diversion and distancing from the typical coming-of-age, young-adult, book-based movies (that seem so popular now, are they) such as It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), and all others John Green. You would think that Rachel (Cooke) and Greg (Mann) are ever going to kiss or say they love each other as they touch faces. They do not however, even if Greg recognizes that he feels it, and it is somehow refreshing and beautiful. The story relies more on the usually downplayed themes of friendship and losing friends, and less making out or having sex with a girl who has cancer.

Cultivation Theory discusses the long-term effects of movies and TV shows and how they affect our worldview. I am guessing it is never our fault but the mainstream cinema that spoon-fed us with this specific and limited view on “love” that we ought to believe it is all that there is. But if we try to look around we will see that love is not just one thing. Love could be anything and so many things and they would all mean the same.

Thanks for skimming, Alexandre Dumas!