Blog: Tell Your Story

The Real Villain

Monday, May 23, 2011

The numbers are discouraging.
53% of all marriages end in divorce.
40% of marriages will have at least one spouse cheat on the other.
74% of men say they’d cheat if they knew they’d never get caught.
68% of women say they’d cheat under those same circumstances.
And yet, every time a public figure gets caught with their pants down, we all act shocked and indignant. Why?
Now, to be clear, I’m not expressing any support for Ah-nuld’s behavior, I’m simply saying his transgressions are as American as baseball, Starbucks and boom and bust banking cycles. So why do we feel the need to wag our fingers and act outraged when chances are you, your spouse, or one of your neighbors is cheating as you read this.
Since Arnold-gate blew up, I’ve read theories placing the blame on feminists, our sexist society or the trappings of fame and wealth.
But I think these people are all missing the real culprit… romantic comedies.
Rom-coms, as they are referred to in Hollywood, have thoroughly infantilized our society.
Oh, they seem harmless enough at first glance.
But ultimately they send men and women a very dangerous message– don’t worry about self-improvement–just be true to your less than mediocre self and some powerful or beautiful person will notice and fall madly in love with you. Why would this ever happen? Well, ahem, just because– after all what smoking hot uptown girl wouldn’t fall madly in love with a TSA agent with self-esteem issues (‘She’s Out of my League.’)

Rom-Coms aimed at men present two types of fantasies.
1) Hot girls love overweight men with no confidence and few career prospects: This fantasy made Judd Apatow a very wealthy man. Take Knocked Up for instance. Now how many hot TV reporters do you know who are married to overweight, stoner porn addicts? Or how about Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis fight over the affections of Jason Segal, a struggling puppeteer.
2) If you’re about to lose a girl, win her back with a big speech. This is best illustrated by Ben Affleck’s overwrought declarations of love to his lesbian girlfriend, Joey Loren Adam, in Chasing Amy. Of course, in the movie it worked and Ben got the girl even though she didn’t like him or his gender just moments before he made his grand proclamation of love. Guys, trust me this doesn’t work. I tried this approach a couple of times in my younger days and the results were such spectacular failures, my friends still laugh about it to this day.

Rom-Coms aimed at women also present two types of fantasies:
1) Men love nothing better than bossy, materialistic women with a sense of entitlement. This seems to be the most popular type of fantasy being peddled these days. Case in point Sex and the City. My favorite thing about the franchise is how the women always seem so surprised that they’re still single. I mean, what man wouldn’t want to scoop up Sarah Jessica Parker and support her Jimmy Choo habit?
2) Prince Charming is coming to save you. This is for the women who haven’t matured much since they were 10 years old. Maid in Manhattan is a good example of this. J-Lo, playing a maid, is rescued by a handsome U.S. Senator. Happens every day, riiiight?

In Europe, it’s a very different story.
When former French President Mitterand was buried, his wife and longtime mistress showed up and barely anyone blinked. Now here’s the bitter irony: France has a significantly lower level of infidelity than we do in the US. Could it be that our repression, our deep-held belief that we are entitled to love, our desire for marriages to be like fairy tales– could that be what’s causing the institution to fail so badly in the U.S.?
All I know is that when I read about the Guvernator, my reaction wasn’t shock. I just shook my head and said, ‘Isn’t that the exact same storyline as Maid in Manhattan?’

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