Picture Perfect: The Reality of Romantic Love vs. The Hollywood Fantasy

Picture Perfect: The Reality of Romantic Love vs. The Hollywood Fantasy

If you love movies as I do, there’s nothing like a happy ending. Most of us grew up on Disney, so the idea of happily ever after has been ingrained into our minds for a long time. Many people subconsciously carry this idea into adulthood, hoping they will find their “true love” or “the one.” I was fascinated by how many people expect real life to be just like this. Don’t get me wrong—people do find love, but the movie version is always exaggerated, although always “based on a true story.” However, there does seem to be cultural bias toward romantic love. But what really is the difference between the Hollywood fantasy and the reality of romantic love?

The Hollywood Fantasy

Noah builds Allie’s dream house in an attempt to win her back

Hollywood is certainly guilty of perpetuating the romantic fantasy. The usual scenario goes something like this: A chance-encounter, two people meet, fall in love, go through some challenges, but work it out in the end, big kiss, cue the music and roll the credits.
It offers this “happy ending” as closure to the audience; the characters hardships have paid off, and they’ve earned their happiness. The love tends to be enduring despite the circumstances. Adversity seems to make the love all the more intense.

In The Notebook, when Allie found another man, Noah builds her the house of her dreams in order to win her back. In movies, people rarely fall out of love, and when they do they usually wind up rediscovering that love.

17 Again, was a movie about rediscovering love, despite the whole time travel, Matthew Perry becomes Zac Efron aspect.

Why do we so readily believe the love portrayed on screen to be something true, even something we must strive for? Because love is more of a grounded story, where ordinary life becomes extraordinary through the meeting of two people. It could happen to anyone, anywhere.

As Ethel Person wrote in, In Dreams of Love and Fateful Encounters:  “Love is an act of the imagination…Most of us are not originators of stories. Most of us pull our ideas of love from the culture, from the poets and artists who bring this form of desire and gratification together into one script, one scenario. Only then does the average individual try to change the imaginary act into a lived life.”

In other words: Me, Meg Ryan; you, Tom Hanks—even in New Jersey, maybe especially in New Jersey.

The Reality

The reality of romantic love differs greatly from the glamorous Hollywood portrayal. The romantic feeling at the beginning may be more of an infatuation because it is new and exciting. Oxytocin and endorphins fill our brains, giving us a drug-like high, and as with drugs, things are glossed over, and we imagine a future of endless possibilities (Psychology Today, 2010).
In We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, Jungian psychologist Robert Johnson writes: “The fact that we say “romance” when we mean “love” shows us that underneath our language there is a psychological muddle. We are confusing two great psychological systems within us, and this has a devastating effect on our lives and our relationships…We project our fantasies on the person. The passion of romance is not love of another person but love of ourselves.
While this infatuation tends to fade, it is possible to form a lasting and meaningful relationship through honest attachment, and compassionate love. You have to be able to look outside your self and to the needs of the other person. This type of love is not simple and needs work. This is something were told shouldn’t be the case; especially in our world of instant gratification, we believe everything should be easy.”

Instead of hoping for an ideal love with an ideal partner, we should view love as a journey, sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes life changing, but hardly ever what we expect it to be.
Because to quote Holden Caulfield, “The movies they’ll ruin you.”

Works Cited

Smith, A. (10 December 2010)
The Reality of Love Retrieved from

Konner, J. (February 2003) Grown-Up Love Retrieved from

Edited by:  Kim Rooney

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Edited by: Shruti Ram

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