On screen romances impacts off screen reality

Relationship status this Valentine’s day: I tried to hold my dog’s paw while we were watching TV on the couch. When he pulled away, I pretended like I was really looking for the remote. 

Being single is hard, but being in a relationship is even more so. You have to find someone who has the valor of Jon Snow, the skills of Katniss Everdeen, the quick-wit of Han Solo, the intelligence of Hermione Granger, the brutality of Neo, and the beauty of Wonder Woman. These are just a few examples of the many expectations and standards people have set for our potential significant others using figures of media.  

Media has been known for creating some of the most iconic scenes and characters, particularly in terms of romance. (500) Days of Summer took audiences on a whirlwind trip from small romantic walks in the park to the large aisles of Ikea. The Princess Bride showed viewers just how far people in love will go to be reunited. And Twilight showed theatergoers that some people can’t tell the difference between an attentive boyfriend and a stalker. 

With pop-culture having more of a prominent effect on society, it’s not uncommon for people to go out into the world of dating hoping to find the Harry to their Sally, the Rose to their Jack, or the Shrek to their Fiona. However, it’s not all the time that the people they get involved with end up being what they want them to be, or rather what they expect them to be. This is a result of a tremendously toxic trend in society; building prospects for a future partner based on characters or realities created in media and pushing them onto one’s significant other. It not only leads to drastic disappointment for these individuals but also the people they give these unrealistic expectations too. 

In a study conducted by Professor Bjarne Holmes of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on the relationship between media and romantic destiny, it was found that “individuals observe media characters and the consequences for their actions, learn what those consequences suggest for what is valued or deemed appropriate in society (and what is not), and consider that information in the formation of their own attitudes and the enactment of their behavior.”

This strain of behavior then leads to complications within oneself. As they trek through life using the experiences of characters portrayed on a screen, they no longer live as themselves using their own personal experiences to dictate their choices and actions, but that of a figure using impractical logic on romance built by a team of writers hoping to sell the next big blockbuster or binge-worthy TV show. 

The present then begs the question about where individuals stop feeling like characters in a movie, TV show, or book and actually begin to feel like themselves. A good start would be to break the stigma that life has to be a certain way, dictated by different forms of media. People can’t always expect their significant others to be at their beck and call at all hours of the day. Individuals can’t expect their partner to read their minds. And a person can’t rely on their romantic partner to make them feel the same way a character on a screen makes them feel. Because dating shouldn’t be about trying to alter someone to fit your expectations, it should be about finding someone that makes you content with who you are by being themself.


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