Snow White wakes up after receiving a kiss from the prince and they go off to live ‘happily ever after’. Cinderella marries the prince after the glass slipper fits and lives ‘happily ever after’. But what comes next? The phrase ‘happily ever after’ implies that once they work through the conflict in the movie, the prince and princess continue on with a struggleless love. A love where trials and turbulence are non-existent. Even if the phrase isn’t mentioned verbatim, the theme plays across multiple romance movies that we grew up watching. But when truly considering it, how realistic can this be?
The media often shapes the way we perceive the world and one of those things includes romance. The media romanticizes love, which causes many to be disappointed when their real-life romance doesn’t mimic the ones we see in movies. For certain hopeless romantics, love at first sight, a kiss in the rain and other romantic grand gestures are all beautiful to watch on screen. Watching these scenes as part of happy ending romance movies has conditioned many to think that these scenarios are all essential in finding the most ideal embodiment of love. But most of the time reality isn’t like that at all. The sparks will fly and the honeymoon phase will happen, but it might not always be ‘happily ever after’.
The obsession with soulmates
As an example, the media expects us to find our “soulmate” and “the one” which may very well be the thing that prevents us from finding the most suitable relationship. People who believe in soulmates are those who think people either “click” or they don’t. Thus when a problem arises, they are quick to move on. This leads soulmate believers to jump into relationships that are intense and passionate but short.
Partners are not always going to act the way you want to and so the idea of “soulmates” may ruin the relationship you have.
There are people out there who will better match you than others. However, disagreements, conflicts, and incompatibility exist in all relationships. Partners are not always going to act the way you want to and so the idea of “soulmates” may ruin the relationship you have. These romantic movies we’ve grown to love don’t show us that after the ‘happily ever after’ it still takes work and effort to maintain a healthy relationship.
Why can this be harmful? Well, the cultivation theory suggests that consuming a heavy amount of media can create false ideals of relationship, creating a false perception of what we deserve. Therefore, the more romance movies we consume, the more we start accepting what happens in the movies as reality. The media puts on pressure for us to find love just as intense and passionate as the ones we see on screen. This becomes problematic when people start adopting this into their real lives, with unrealistic standards making it hard for them to find relationships and romances that are actually fulfilling.
Escapism as a coping mechanism
However, viewers feed into the films because maybe for some, it acts as an escape from the realities of the real world. Thus for some, after a big argument or a rough break-up, these idealistic romance movies are an escape from the unpleasant reality of what their real-life relationships and romance are. These ‘happily ever afters’ are therapeutic as they help us deal with our emotions by using entertainment to regulate our moods. Humans seek experiences that provide them pleasure and avoid pain and these romantic movies can be one of the ways they do this. Therefore the question becomes: how can you continue enjoying romantic movies the same way whilst keeping your expectations grounded?
We now know that too much media consumption of romance can lead us into a spiral of disappointment when we consider our own. Those sappy romantic scenes and happy endings may not be all that realistic and so it’s important to separate the realistic from the unrealistic. We can enjoy romantic movies without letting it cloud our view on how real-life love is. Media acts as an amazing platform for entertainment as it allows us to dive into our fantasies when life becomes a little dull. So find a realistic version of your ‘happily ever after’ and don’t let the media ruin it.