Hollywood movie romance myths and love stories have a way of becoming cultural reality. When accepted as romantic truths, some of these “romantic” notions can be harmful to your dating efforts and relationships. Below, I give examples of five Hollywood movie romance myths, plus reasons to think twice before springing any of them on a potential mate or current partner.
- The Big Marriage Proposal (such as proposing at a stadium sporting event.)
- The Soulmate (There is only one for me.)
- The Big Completion (“You complete me.”)
- The Big Diamond (Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.)
- True Love is a Fairy Tale (It’s only real love if it’s heroic or magical.)
Here’s the first one, of which the world has been witness to more times than we could ever count.
The Big Marriage Proposal
There is no shortage of big marriage proposals in Hollywood. In The Wedding Singer (1998), Robbie ends up proposing to his love Julia by singing Grow Old with You through the PA system on a plane.
In the 2004 movie Taxi, Jesse struggles to find the right moment to propose to wannabe NASCAR driver Belle. It all comes together when he proposes to her before her first big race on the racetrack Jumbotron.
Big marriage proposals like this have been baked into our culture with these “kiss cams” at sporting events. Another common variation on the theme is a big proposal at a restaurant. People (primarily women) have been famously proposed to at rock concerts, the New York City Marathon, and at the Olympic podium during a medal presentation ceremony.
If you think about it for a second, public marriage proposals, no matter how well-intentioned, are the opposite of romantic.
🚩 It publicizes a private, personal matter without permission of the partner.
🚩 It puts intense pressure on one partner to say “yes” no matter what they truly think.
🚩 It reduces them to the role of “audience member” in a staged event, rather than active participant.
🚩 It removes the option for discussion.
🚩 It puts them both at risk of public embarrassment and ridicule on social media.
🚩 The narcissism revealed in public proposals can ultimately kill the relationship.
This video of shows a woman respond with grace and presence to the extreme pressure of a marriage proposal at a sporting event.
As it starts to happen, you can hear the announcer worry for her, “I really can’t imagine doing that…that’s under pressure, isn’t it?” Incredibly, you can hear some of the crowd booing as she walks off the court.
Don’t try to engineer these special moments in our lives, no matter how popular this romantic movie myth becomes. Let the important things happen organically, with true consideration for the person who is to be your partner.
And if you’re dead set on a public proposal, please be 100% sure that your partner is okay with such a display, and is ready to say, “Yes.”
Although the myth about soulmates is not a Hollywood invention, there are hundreds of movies that reinforce the idea. The protagonists in soulmate movies typically try to overcome incredible obstacles in their attempts to be with their one true love.
The 2004 movie The Notebook tops many lists for most romantic soulmate movie. In it, a young lumber mill worker meets a 17-year-old heiress at a carnival and pursues her romantically. They overcome parental disapproval, war, years of separation, and unanswered letters before getting together again for a sappy Hollywood ending.
Then there is the 1990 movie The Ghost, in which a murdered banker’s ghost sticks around after death, the ultimate obstacle, to save his lover from the person who killed him.
The concept of a soulmate probably started with the mythology that early humans were androgynous. Male and female existed in one body and at one point, decided to scale Mount Olympus, home of the gods. Zeus, worried about this potential assault but not wanting to lose their offerings and devotion, decide to cripple them by splitting them in half.
Ever since then, the story goes, we’ve been running around looking for our other half to regain our true nature. There is only one, and once reunited, we’ll never be separated.
Okay, it makes for great movies. But remember, it IS a myth. (You can read all about it in Plato’s Symposium. In it, the comic playwright Aristophanes even warns the reader that his mythical story is more absurd and satirical than funny.)
In the search for love and in relationships, adhering to the idea of a soulmate can lead to disappointment and frustration.
First, there are more than seven billion people on earth. So, we’re supposed to believe there is only one with whom we’re compatible? No matter how you slice the numbers, the odds are pretty good that there are many potential partners within your geographic area.
Another problem with the soulmate ideas is outlined in Why You Should Stop Searching for Your Soulmate by Bjarne Holmes, Ph.D. Holmes says we should think about how we’ll react once our “soulmate” starts looking less than perfect. And no one is perfect.
“People who hold strong beliefs in destiny are prone to lose interest in their partner much faster than others and are likely to give up much more easily when the relationship looks a bit less rosy.”
When a believer in soulmates sees these imperfections, they’ll start to believe that they were mistaken and that their partner isn’t truly their soulmate. So, why bother to work on the relationship at all if the real one is out there somewhere?
The soulmate fantasy also hurts the process of dating. When we’re looking for “the one,” we’re more inclined to put on a show for our dates, to present ourselves as some sort of perfect partner. In doing so, we’re not authentic, which builds a barrier to finding some potentially great partners.
This next romantic myth is related to the soulmate idea.
The Big Completion
In the 1996 romantic comedy/drama Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) tells his love interest Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), “You complete me.”
Despite the aura of romance and true love attributed to this line, Dorothy should run.
In “You Complete Me”: An Examination of Marital Expectations, Eunia Lee, LCPC writes,
“That statement is meant to depict true love. Yet it expresses quite the opposite sentiment upon closer examination: Jerry looks to Dorothy with needy eyes. You complete me because I need to be completed and therefore I choose to be with you. Being with you is about me. My needs. My wants. My feelings. And that is why I value you.”
The fact is that relationships often break up because of this needy sentiment. A good relationship is more about loving your partner and less about loving yourself. Every one of us is already a complete human being who doesn’t need another person to be fully human.
Of course, we all have needs. They’re natural drivers of survival and success. Yet some people feel like they need another to be happy and well-adjusted.
According to PsychCentral, some signs that a person might be a “needy” partner include:
- The need for constant conversation via texting, calls, emails, and social posting.
- Wanting to spend all free time together
- Inability to make decisions without the partner
- Anger, jealousy, or sadness when the partner is with others
- Defensiveness or sensitivity to even the mildest of criticism
- Constant need for reassurance
This sort of unnatural, self-centered neediness points to other problems and signals that some professional counseling might be in order.
The Big Diamond
This movie romance myth is all about the idea that you need a big, splashy engagement ring worth several months of your salary.
In the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sings about her passion for diamonds:
Then there is High Society (1956) that featured Grace Kelly with a 10.48 carat diamond engagement ring. And of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) in which Audrey Hepburn sports a 128.54 carat yellow diamond in a Tiffany necklace. Who hasn’t heard of Tiffany’s?
Like most of our movie romance myths, this one got its start long before movies.
The American Gem Society writes that anthropologists believe the engagement ring tradition can be traced to a Roman tradition “in which wives wore rings attached to small keys,” symbolizing their husband’s ownership. That’s right. Women as property…how romantic.
Up until the 1930’s or so, engagement rings were mostly the province of the wealthy or nobility. At the time, diamond miner DeBeers needed to figure a way to keep the prices of diamonds high amidst a worldwide glut in which prices were plummeting. Their idea—keep alive the fiction that diamonds were scarce and inherently valuable.
To that end, they hired a NY ad agency to “persuade young men that diamonds (and only diamonds) were synonymous with romance, and that the measure of a man’s love (and even his personal and professional success) was directly proportional to the size and quality of the diamond he purchased. Young women, in turn, had to be convinced that courtship concluded, invariably, in a diamond.”
To accomplish this, they gave movie idols diamonds to wear as symbols of love. They suggested stories to the press that showed celebrities and the wives or daughters of political leaders with conspicuous diamonds. They urged fashion designers to talk about the trend towards diamonds. They even sent lecturers to high schools to talk about engagement rings! And when television arrived, diamond ads were ever present. In short, the decades long campaign infiltrated every nook and cranny of global culture.
Their campaign worked, in large part thanks to the ongoing promotion of diamonds as romantic and essential. Today, the average spent on engagement rings in the US is $5,500 nationwide.
Do you really need a diamond engagement ring, especially later in our adult life? Of course, it’s up to you and your partner. If you can afford it and it suits you both, why not?
Just don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a pre-requisite for love or a committed relationship. It’s not. It’s a clever, successful, and ongoing ad campaign.
True Love is a Fairy Tale
In the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, the two protagonists, Buttercup and Westley, fall in love when they meet on her farm. Westley leaves to find his fortune so they can marry. The two go through incredible misadventures before they finally connect and ride off on four white horses at the end.
Fairy tales make great movies because they’re good stories.
That doesn’t mean that our search for partnership and happiness needs to be magical, dangerous, or heroic. It can be quiet, thoughtful, and calm.
True love is about finding and living with a compatible partner. Sure, the world throws us events or personal problems that we must work to overcome. But struggle and conflict are not a pre-requisite. Intentionally looking for danger and excitement in a relationship is not the road to compatibility.
As Daisy likes to say, true love is the feeling of being at home. To me, that is the ultimate fairy tale, to find a way home in a relationship, whatever form that might take.
We’re not saying we don’t enjoy romance movies here and there, myths and all. The bottom line—don’t look to Hollywood for personal, romantic guidance. Hopefully, we can recognize their fantasy notions of love and see them for what they are, entertainment, and not as relationship ideals to be achieved.
Have your own marriage proposal story to share? Or a romantic story related to a movie? Let us know in the comments below.