Forget artery-clogging trans-fats, chemically-altered artificial sweeteners, unexpressed anxiety and unprotected sex: New research suggests the latest in the hazardous-to-your-health lineup is… going to the movies. (And surprisingly, this has nothing to do with what you buy or don’t buy at the snack counter.)
But relax! According to scientists, it’s still absolutely safe to tuck into a juicy shoot-‘em-up; likewise, a good old fashioned tear-jerker isn’t likely to do much harm. Thankfully, action-adventure and sci-fi films, westerns and war movies, even a three-day marathon of Hitchcock flicks also won’t leave you any worse for the wear. It’s those nefarious romantic comedies—rom-coms, as insiders call the insidious big screen baddies—that are going to bring us down.
I am not making this up. Here are some actual, verbatim lines from various sources reporting on the study:
Rather than being harmless entertainment, romantic comedies give people unrealistic – and potentially unhealthy – expectations about real-life relationships, scientists say.
Researchers found that those who watched romantic comedies were more likely to believe in predestined love than those who preferred other genres of movie.
They were also more likely to believe that perfect relationships happen instantly, and were less likely to believe that couples need to work at relationships.
Really? I guess it’s true that you rarely hear of a rash of tragedies after the latest superhero movie comes out. (“Poor bastard thought he could fly!”) And as far as I know, hordes of drones don’t quit their day jobs and start singing karaoke in dive bars after they rent Rent. So why are so many poor slobs being disillusioned by It Could Happen to You? (“Aw hell, Eunice. I’m already married to Ed and we can’t afford lottery tickets nohow. It’ll never happen to me. Pass the bourbon, wouldja?”)
Imagine if “rom-coms” were actually realistic. Forget the happy endings; here’s what you’d have instead:
Pretty Woman: Edward wakes up to the shocking realization that his girlfriend is a hooker and promptly dumps her.Vivian eventually dies a homeless meth addict; Eddie marries his hot secretary Candy who becomes a frumpy housewife practically overnight. A parade of affairs ensues before Candy takes Eddie to the cleaners.
Jerry Maguire: Jerry relentlessly pursues his failing career, becoming a raging alcoholic in the process. Dorothy sits around waiting for Jer to realize how obviously incomplete he is without her. Fortunately, she has her cats.
Titanic: The ship sinks and Jack freezes to death in the icy water; Rose lives a long, sad life without him. Oh wait, that happened. But nobody ever loved you the way Rose loved Jack, damn it.
Just this week, CNN reported on a new phenomenon: Post-Avatar Depression. Yes, as in despair experienced after being allowed to peek inside the pristine (and might I remind you, make-believe) world of Pandora depicted in the movie Avatar. Okay, fine. Your life sucks compared to that. But your life sucks compared to lots of other stuff, too! (Did you not realize that before?) And consider, if you will, the alternative to the happy-ever-after ending: a movie about, say, a life like mine. Two-thirds of it would be shot in some grocery store or another, which would certainly make for riveting footage. Viewers would become intimately familiar with the endless bickering over the division of domestic labor that goes on between my husband and me, enjoy lots of titillating scenes involving meltdowns over missing toys and witness first-hand how bloody boring someone else’s job is when you’re forced to watch them do it. (“Is she still typing? Man, that gal sure types a lot. She’s been sitting at that computer for like seven hours straight! I wonder if her fingers ever get tired. Do you wonder that? Hey Stanley, wake up. The movie’s not over yet!”) My Monotonous Life would be rated R only for adult language, so don’t get your hopes up. If you forked over for the ‘uncut edition’ you might get a two or three minute love scene, but I’m not making any promises.
Last time I checked, the purpose of a movie (at least your average romantic comedy) is to entertain. If you’d rather come watch my life for a few hours—so you could feel better about your own—bring booze and a pillow. You’re going to need both.