Rachel McAdams' shrewish character in Midnight In Paris doesn't like walking in the rain. Wait, she doesn't like getting soaking wet at inopportune times? What an un-spontaneous asshole! No one who's mildly reserved about one very reasonable thing could possibly be passionate in other areas of life. Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses is everyone's "most reliable friend" -- a terrible character flaw! -- who only starts living when laidback James Marsden gets her hammered and they shout-sing at a crowded bar. Good thing, too, because no one who's superhumanly organized and thoughtful could possibly be good at sex, the most basic human impulse.
There's a million more examples, to varying degrees -- Along Came Polly, The Proposal, The Wedding Planner, Knocked Up, Morning Glory, like seven of the plots in Love Actually, any movie where one of the characters doesn't want to dance (BOOOOO!) but another does (INSTA-SOUL MATE!). Being "wild" and "spontaneous" is the only way Hollywood knows how to portray characters falling in love.
But here's the catch: In real life, making snap romantic decisions is the EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD. Fucking ANYONE can do it. It doesn't take some magical, transcendentally alive character to suggest getting hammered on vacation and having sex in your Airbnb kitchen. That's the easiest part of life. And guess what? People who are organized and thoughtful in their day to day lives are also legally capable of making fun snap decisions. Real humans don't exist on a sliding scale from "stable and unromantic" to "unhinged and ROMANTIC." Being a hard-working non-fuckup doesn't preclude someone from understanding the concept of "fun" and pursuing it.
Being a reliable partner takes WAY more work than deciding to do an occasional fun thing. And by "reliable," I obviously don't mean "perfect" -- we all have our issues and suck at things from time to time. But striving to be stable -- doing the dishes when the other person's had a hard day, entertaining each other's families, not being constantly late to meet the other person, letting the other person vent without judgment, refilling the gas tank when you know the other person has to be somewhere early in the morning, even remembering to buy friggin' paper towels -- is NOT antithetical to "being romantic." It all requires more thought and demonstrates a deeper level of kinship than, say, pushing someone down a zipline and screaming "LOOSEN UP, PUSSY!"
Does anyone even want to put up with constant free-spirited bullshit for more than an hour and 35 minutes? What happens after these movies end? Do these characters come home on a Tuesday night, exhausted from work, then ridicule each other into jumping off a cliff or running naked in the snow? Every weeknight for the rest of their lives? Breaking into museums after hours and saying "Just trust me" a lot is fun, but don't these people sometimes want to get drunk at home and yell at Top Chef?
Granted, movies only have two hours to make everything happen, so they need to use shorthand for characters ("free spirit," "the overthinker," etc). Plus they need conflict, which requires blatant opposites to clash, and they ultimately want to see the characters change, and nothing's easier than seeing the "no time for love" person finding time for love. So on one level, I get it. It'd be viscerally strange to watch a full movie about two flawed but reasonable people remembering to buy coffee filters after work on Friday so they can chill at home Saturday morning. (On that note, I'd totally watch The Coffee Filter Rememberer, but I fully concede that I don't speak for the majority of the ticket-purchasing public.) And you do have the occasional Trainwreck, in which someone's TOO free-spirity and a reasonable person calms them down, even if the relationship clearly won't even last the duration of the credits.
But in the end, this bombardment causes us to arbitrarily devalue obviously valuable qualities because we're afraid they sound "unromantic." I'm sitting here questioning whether to even publish this thing in which I call my wife "reliable," even though it's clearly a compliment, and I spend 80 subsequent paragraphs explaining why it's a better compliment than the stock romantic answers we're required to give. That's how deeply movies have ground this shit into our brains.
It's time we got over it. Being reliable and thoughtful and organized and helping your partner on a small-scale day-to-day basis IS romantic. Being a spontaneous free spirit is great too, but you can be that on top of being the other things, and it's a way easier and way smaller part of any long-term relationship that we'd ever like to admit in movie form.
I promise I'm fun and spontaneous. Seriously. Sometimes I just don't feel like dancing at weddings. STOP SILENTLY SIPPING YOUR DRINKS!!! God dammit, movies.
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