Relationships

Romantic Movies Lied To Us About Love

By Julie Mastrine··  6 min read
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For many young women, our lessons in love and relationships largely came from romantic movies. The older generation didn’t do much by way of explicitly giving us wisdom in dating and love, so a lot of our ideas came from romantic movies, which, for the most part, are totally unrealistic.

Movies are fun fantasy, and the best ones contain some semblance of truth. But if movies are the only things we rely on to form a basic understanding of love, we can end up with a distorted view. 

Here’s how romantic movies lie about love.

Love Isn’t Just Intense Feeling 

Movies lead us to believe love is just a super intense feeling. We see characters who are so overwhelmed by intense emotion around their crush that they can’t speak or move or think. They get super intense butterflies and sweaty palms. They stammer and act clumsy. This, we are told, is how you know you’re in love — when you have super intense, even debilitating feelings that are so strong, it doesn’t matter if someone is objectively bad for you.

We also see characters who are so obsessed with the object of their affection that they actually seem to worship him rather than to have a healthy attitude toward him. They become obsessed and think this person will solve all their problems. It’s idolatry, and it’s not healthy or realistic. 

The super intense butterflies and longing depicted in movies do happen in real life, but they often signal lust, not love.

Love is a matter of both the head and the heart, action and feeling.

In reality, love is a matter of both the head and the heart — the one you fall for ideally is both objectively good for you (you have the same values, goals in life, beliefs; they’re not an addict, narcissist, coward, etc.) and you subjectively like them (you enjoy their company, feel oriented toward them, feel at peace around them, and want to be in their presence). Sometimes, feelings grow over time as you get to know someone — they don’t always hit you like a truck. 

While feelings are certainly a part of love, love is also an action and a choice, in which we choose someone and then make sacrifices to serve their highest good. It’s both action and feeling — body and mind working together. 

Romantic Movies Show Men Not Having To Court Women

Sometimes in modern movies, we’ll see women obsessed with men who have done nothing to earn the woman’s affection or to prove themselves as virtuous, protective men in any way. Often, the male love interest hasn’t done anything to show he’d be a good partner other than looking good, but the female character doesn’t seem to mind. 

This goes along with love being depicted as feeling only — the main character seems to like a guy just because of a random whim of a feeling or because he’s cute, not because he has demonstrated good character or courted her.

Men are attractive when they demonstrate that they want to lead, protect, and provide for us.

But in real life, men are attractive when they demonstrate that they want to lead, protect, and provide for us. When they show virtuous behavior, a willingness to commit, be decisive, and take care of us, we become interested. They’re attractive when they court us — opening a car door, walking us home, sending us flowers, taking us out. Yet women in movies will suddenly fall for a man despite him putting in zero effort to court her. In reality, we women need to see that a man is truly worth our time and attention.

Opposites Don’t Necessarily Attract

In film and TV, a woman often falls in love with a guy who stands for everything she’s against, someone who is totally her opposite or is from a totally different cultural background.

Big things — like your beliefs, values, culture, and feelings on politics and religion — don’t seem to matter in movies. They’re depicted as unimportant — again, as long as a super strong feeling is present. Big differences often lead to an “opposites attract” scenario.

Two people need to be aligned on most of the big things for a relationship to work.

But an appropriate similarity is really important in real-life relationships. Two people need to be aligned on most of the big things for a relationship to work. You don’t want to have wildly different opinions on what religion you should practice, or where you should live, or whether you should live a bohemian lifestyle or a more rooted one — in all likelihood, opposite values and cultures mean it just isn’t going to work.

Casual Sex Doesn’t Lead to Love

Lots of movies show a couple having sex shortly after meeting, then falling in love. In reality, men are actually wired not to stick around after they sleep with a woman too early.

Casual sex leading to love is one of the biggest media lies. Women form long-term bonds by having sex because they release the bonding hormone oxytocin. But men don’t. The male long-term bonding hormone is vasopressin, and it needs to be released over a long period of time for a man to see a woman as a long-term partner. If a man sleeps with a woman too early, it’s very unlikely he will ever see her as a wife.

Men are actually wired not to stick around after they sleep with a woman too early.

Contrary to what movies show, men don’t fall in love with you if you casually sleep with them, and being friends with benefits doesn’t end in commitment.

Movies Show Unworthy Guys Getting the Girl

Movies often depict unworthy guys snagging the hot girl. They give the impression that love is so blind that an out-of-shape, slovenly guy with no social skills, job, ambition, or virtue can just magically attract a beautiful woman — despite him putting in zero effort to win her over.

This is total fantasy. In reality, women prefer men who are physically fit and socially competent. As academic Camille Paglia says, “A woman simply is, but a man must become.” Men in the real world must prove themselves through achievement. If they remain gangly, awkward boys who can’t hold a conversation with a woman, it’s just not attractive. 

Women prefer men who are physically fit and socially competent. 

A man doesn’t have to be the most handsome one in the room, but hitting the gym, holding down a job, developing masculine virtue, and learning courtship rituals make men much more attractive to women — no matter what the movies show.

Closing Thoughts

Romantic movies can show us unrealistic depictions of love. This can be somewhat damaging for young people who get their ideas about love from the media. But as long as we’re aware of it and manage our expectations, we can still enjoy romantic movies without bringing those distorted expectations into our real-world relationships.

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