Throughout my life, I’ve been told to prepare for the harsh real world, where things will only get harder as I gain responsibility. At least, that’s what people in the real world say. Television sings another tune.
Movies and television shows tend to temporarily draw people into their fictional stories, but sometimes they can affect people on a more permanent level. In my experience, they’ve somehow weasled their way into my psyche, creating unrealistic expectations for my relationships.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, optimism is welcome in any situation. But characters are often unrealistically optimistic, and highly unlikely coincidences are peppered throughout plots. The audience sees fairy-tale plots and cookie-cutter relationships, formulations those in it tend to project onto real-life relationships.
This, of course, doesn’t just apply to romantic situations. For example, the best-friend relationship is one of the most idealized and is often characterized by unfaltering loyalty and the undying ability to overcome obstacles. We see it on “How I Met Your Mother” with Ted and Marshall, who practically never fight and support each other through called-off engagements, deaths and near-bankruptcy. There’s Christina and Meredith, who are each other’s “person” and are always there for teach other in “Grey’s Anatomy.” There is Troy and Abed on “Community,” Anne and Leslie on “Parks & Recreation” and many more; no matter how hard things get, their loyalty doesn’t waver for more than forty-five minutes at a time.
Obviously, we all have friends like this, relationships in which conflict is quickly resolved. However, film and television make those exceptions seem like rules. Let’s be honest: Think back to freshman year. We make fast friends, only to later realize that we are pretty different.
At the same time, these expectations give us something to strive for. After all, seeing the trio in “Workaholics” or the funny yet insightful best friend in any romantic comedy, I want to have relationships like that, even though I genuinely like my friends. Maybe it’s just me, but if suddenly my life did become a sitcom — which is basically my life goal — I’d want it to be funny.
In a similar — but more drastic and encumbering — way, our ideals regarding romantic relationships are also shaped by the happy-ending requirement most films and shows have. The truth is, no matter how hard writers make it seem for their characters to find love, it is still infinitely easier than in real life.
There always seems to be some complication or disagreement that prevents a couple from being together midway through the plot. They somehow always overcome conflict and live happily ever after. This is the plot of basically every movie Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson or Jennifer Garner has ever been in. Essentially, it boils down to Hollywood’s campaign supporting the existence of soul mates.
Again, I don’t necessarily find this idealism to be a bad thing, and, to be honest, I personally hope that it’s possible. But what I think makes the on-screen versions of romance unrealistic — at least in some cases — is the fact that the relationships are seemingly perfect. We don’t see what goes on after the couple finally gets together. Hollywood tries to sell us happy endings because that’s what we want to see. We don’t want to see the couple in The Notebook fight unless it’s going to end in a passionate make-out session, not a divorce filing.
Here’s the thing, though: At the end of the day, I’m always going to believe that a love like Noah’s and Allie’s and a friendship like Troy’s and Abed’s is possible, even if common sense often tells me otherwise. Sure, television and movies can be cheesy and predictable, but would we really want to see Allie yell at Noah for not taking out the trash? Yawn.
I love these relationships, but I also don’t let myself be disheartened if my life isn’t as funny or flawless as the ones I see on the screen.
Eduardo Gueiros is a junior in the College. BEHIND THE SCREENS appears every other Friday in the guide.