The Disillusionment of the On-Screen Romance

There is no denying the fantasy of film; the magical quality of the lives of characters portrayed on-screen that are almost at the point of unbelievability. The beautiful people in their beautiful cities with their (sometimes) beautiful lives that makes you ache to be a part of them. Then it has its uncanny resemblance to our own reality.

You’re lying if you say you’ve never sat looking out the window on a bus and pretended you were in your own version of a movie. You probably had some Adele ballad playing in your earphones. You waited for that guy in the seat across from yours to make a move. Maybe he’ll wait until your stop to get up and introduce himself. Maybe he’ll accidentally spill his coffee all over your white blouse and invite you over to his place to help you clean up. (A little bit of Notting Hill, anyone?) Then the love story will begin. Enter the fantasy.

Instead, the bus stops at a screech and as you get up you trip over your own feet as you make your way towards the door. The cute boy across from you doesn’t follow; he might not even notice unless to share in with the collective laughter from the strangers around you.  The fantasy falters. You stare up at the sky shaking your fists in silent resentment at Rob Reiner or Woody Allen, as if they were actually up there watching. 

The Disillusionment of the On-Screen Romance

It is in moments like these we praise the art of film and the way you can indulge in the fantasy without having to actually leave the warmth of your bed. This is a level of comfortability you can get a hang of. It’s easy to put yourself in the passenger seat of the lives of the characters depicted on screen as they navigate through their own lives. It’s almost funny how quick we are to accept this role of passive bystander. The story is laid out in front of you, the ending already written and ready for you to enjoy. It’s no wonder we find ourselves so attached to these on-screen stories. It’s not dangerous to watch someone else risk their lives because once the credits roll, you aren’t left with the consequences of the actions they’ve made. 

You are however left with an uneasy feeling of (what’s that word again?) disappointment? You’re safe but then again, your life is still the same. Instead of somehow earning the key to enter the realm of the magical, your life remains normal. Yet, now the fantasy has begun. 

When it comes to the lack of life experience, people will look for examples of the ways in which they are “supposed” to live their lives. Films fit into this role easily, as they provide visual examples of lives on-screen. Then it is as though we start using events in the fictional characters lives as examples of the ways to live our own, as though we start to treat film plot points as realistic milestones we are supposed to reach. We want the happy ending and the magic that comes with it. 

The Disillusionment of the On-Screen RomanceIt’s sometimes hard to remember that these films are usually comprised of elements of fiction and are scripted; they are made up stories that derive from creative minds that mould the stories of their characters as they see fit. They create these idealized characters and situations that don’t usually reflect real life and romanticize situations in order to help audiences vicariously live out the fantasy as spectators. When we start to realize that the situations are romanticized, we’re sadly disillusioned; it hurts and we resent normalcy. 

It creates unrealistic representations of life that are unobtainable and it is due to this that the influence of film starts to have harmful effects on its audience. It creates a slew of expectations that may never be achieved. People start to reevaluate their lives and their relationships by comparing it to those represented on screen; wondering why John Cusack isn’t standing outside their window with a boombox playing the lines of a love song or why Rachel McAdams won’t agree to dance with them in the middle of a deserted street.  

The disillusionment of reality can lead to serious consequences. It’s depressing to realize later that you have been depriving yourself of something good because you’re always looking for something better. As a fan of the romantic comedy genre myself, I also find myself looking for characteristics of my favourite movie stars in the people I meet, wondering if somewhere out in the world there is a human embodiment of a Jack Dawson or John Bender character that is ready to dance with me at the end-of-summer talent show like in Dirty Dancing. 

The Disillusionment of the On-Screen RomanceYet, it’s always nice to know that films are meant to be forms of entertainment instead of just ways to prove to you that your life is crap. Instead they can have positive influences on your life: they can make you excited for the surprises and give you ideas of how you want to spend your time with the ones you love. You may never have imagined finding the love of your life as the person you argued with in a diner like When Harry Met Sally, or as your best friend, like in Some Kind of Wonderful. The stories spark an excitement in you that can keep you open-minded and prepared for anything spontaneous that life might throw at you.

The fantasy of film can deprive us of our own healthy relationships and happy endings, but if you keep the idea of everything in moderation in your head by keeping the films you love as just entertainment, then you won’t lose power over your own life. That is, until the day that I find a Johnny Depp lookalike on the street, then it’s anyone’s guess. 


  • Jamie Tenn

    I read as much as I talk and I talk too much. I love writers with great last names: Poe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Fitzgerald and Nick Miller.

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