What Has Hollywood Taught Us About Love?
Let’s start with a pop quiz. Can you tell me the name the movie the next paragraph came from?
A man and woman are falling in love, yet the woman harbors a dark secret.
She is not the person he thinks she is. She realizes she needs to be honest and divulge the truth, but she is afraid.
“If he knew who I really am, he wouldn’t love me!” she thinks.
She decides to confess her dark secret to her beloved, but her deception is revealed prematurely
and he pulls away from her in complete disgust, only to realize
eventually that he loves her no matter who she is or what she has done.
If this sounds to you like the plot from the movie, While You Were Sleeping, you’re right. Of course, if you think it sounds a lot like as, Ever After or Message in a Bottle, or Maid in Manhattan, or Return to Me, or even How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, you would be correct also. Swap genders (the guy has the secret) and you are watching Pillow Talk, or maybe even Disney’s Aladdin. Disney even used the same plot device. In each case, the moral of the story is, “Be yourself.”
Love and romance are a fundamental ingredient of countless films and television shows produced in Hollywood since the 60s. And if the other lessons we learn about romance in these stories were just as bland as “Be yourself,” we wouldn’t have a thing to worry about. But the film and television industry goes much further. After all, they create what sells.
The next time you watch a favorite movie or television program that includes love as part of its plot, take a closer look at how the characters in these stories behave, how they make their choices. It doesn’t take long to realize that Hollywood persistently promotes specific views about romance and sex. Should we be surprised that many of these lessons do not reflect a healthy, balanced viewpoint?
Here are just a few of the lessons you and your family learns about love and romance at the hands of our Hollywood home tutors.
“Nothing is more exciting or fulfilling than finding and pursuing your one true love.”
Yep, this is the basis of innumerable plotlines. If you find that special someone, that “soul mate,” you think is your perfect fit and you’d better jump on it. You need to heed the call of destiny and do everything in your power to pursue this new love. Did I hear the words, “No matter what?” This is the fantasy we dream of before we’re married, and if the marriage doesn’t work out, we try and revive the dream and continue pursuing that elusive soul mate. Thanks, famous screen writer.
This pursuit of true love approaches the height of silliness that “reality” shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and others made just like them. Each week, millions of people watch these shows, promoting the silly fantasy that you can make rational decisions about relationships that will affect the rest of your life during a controlled and contrived competition. Who doesn’t know it’s a farce? Yet ratings indicate that we keep on watching all the same.
“A great way to start a relationship is to have sex.”
Now I am a guy, and guys enjoy this one, but I am not so sure I want my daughter thinking that way. It seems that in today’s stories, we find that when two people begin to feel an attraction or fondness for each other, they start sleeping with each other almost immediately. I saw this attitude played for laughs in a comedy I recently came across while channel surfing. A young man revealed his affection for the first time to his classmate and then blurted out, “Will you have sex with me?” No dating, no holding hands, no dinner out… nothing. Just let’s just get right to it. I guess it shortens the rejection cycle but seems kind of hard on the heart to me.
“It’s good to wait for sex … at least, until you’re ‘ready.'”
What does “ready” mean to a teenager? I know, this philosophy contradicts my previous paragraph a bit, but it often pops up in the form of parental advice to a teenage child. Instead of encouraging the child to wait until marriage, the parent says something like,
“It is a wonderful thing for two people to experience physical love together (you don’t want to look like a bore), but it’s not wise to rush into it. (Now you’re the sage.) You need to wait until you are mature enough to know what you’re getting into.”(When is that?)
Your local DA considers the age of consent to be 18, and who am I to argue with him or her just because as a parent, you copped out and passed the decision onto your teenage child. And guess what, left to their own devices, and your divisive advice, the average healthy teenager frets awhile, and then decides (big surprise!), “Hell yes, I think I’m ready!”
“Once you are mature, you should feel free to have sex whenever you want.”
Yea, I get that one, too. People who want to wait until marriage are regularly portrayed as moralistic, judgmental tools who are likely wound too tight. This reinforces the belief that it’s unhealthy to “repress” your sexuality. Characters in a television comedy like Friends (speaking of a show where the characters manage to make every wrong choice and still wind up with a smile and the girl (or guy) may have dozens of sexual partners, but are able to live happily ever after when they are married at the end of the show’s run. No regret, no guilt, no disease, no problems! And what is amazing to me—no comparisons. But you notice there isn’t a Friends redux movie; well, at least yet.
“It’s impossible to control your sexual desires.”
According to this belief, we are helpless prisoners of our erotic needs.
“I didn’t mean to have sex,” a woman says to her friend after sleeping with a man she hardly knew. It just happened.”
Right… Ask yourself: How does that excuse work in any other part of your life?
This is only an abbreviated list of fine lessons we learn about love from our tutors in Hollywood. You could probably add a few “lessons” you’ve noticed from films and programs you’ve recently seen. And yes, it’s very true that you also can find more positive portrayals of love and romance in films and on television. Can you think of any that your grandmother would enjoy?
But Hollywood promotes these ideas over and over and over. These ideas are presented in a way that influence us more than most of us care to admit. I can’t help but think that they create an image of “fantasy love“ that undermines the sanctity and commitment necessary to build a solid, transcendent relationship with your spouse.
In my coaching, I see just how many marriages over the years have ended because people have bought into this fantasy love idea without even realizing it. When you see the same values promoted in stories recurrently over long periods of time, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur and our cultural values change. How often do two people stop pursuing each other after the wedding and look elsewhere because they desperately want to recreate the excitement, fulfillment, and energy of new love? Did they even consider what got them to that point, or what they can do to regain the love that they are so desperately trying to replace?
When you see the same values
promoted in stories recurrently over
long periods of time, the line
between fantasy and reality
begins to blur and
our cultural values change.
Hollywood values rarely ever portrayed the type of love and romance that we all need; real love for real people living real lives. A love where a man and woman start by building a friendship before committing to a physical relationship. A love where they use solid values to set the direction for their lives together, and when they marry, their sexual union reinforces and symbolizes a binding, lifelong commitment to remain man and wife “til death do us part.” And for those of you like me, who said “hell yes” to one of those earlier questions, imagine a life with no comparisons. Imagine a life where you know nothing but your partner and caring for them. Heavy sigh.
Hollywood values rarely ever
portrayed the type of love
and romance that we all need
What I am talking about is the type of sacrificial, unconditional love so many of us dream about, but are unable to find. It is the type of love that we can experience in a marriage empowered by solid core values and honor. And it is what we can and should model for our children.
Just don’t expect Hollywood to give you much help or guidance in the matter.
SPEAK WITH A LIFE COACH IN BATON ROUGE
Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.