The films we love have a whole lot to say on the topic of romance. Here are 7 popular movie cliches about love.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of movies have a lot in common. After a little while, you start to pick up the formula. Sometimes I wonder if I couldn’t put together a movie myself. I mean, some of the tropes seem fairly easy to master.
Young boy has been chosen by destiny and is the only one who is able to save the day under the guidance of an older sage? Lord of the Rings, Eragon, The Seventh Son. Teenage girl having to deal with new locations and deal with the popular kids? Almost any movie with Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff or Amanda Bynes in it. And did anyone notice Will Smith has played the same character in every movie since Independence Day?
There’s a formula to it. Michael Bay means explosions. J.J. Abrams means sci-fi (bring on Episode 7 IMO), Christopher Nolan means you need to watch this movie at least 3 times before you get it.
And one of Hollywood’s favourite topics to hit us with is love. After all, love is the central human experience. Everyone wants it, everyone is interested in it, it speaks beyond cultural and physical barriers, and it’s just really interesting to talk about and explore.
So let’s have a look at some of these tropes. Here are 7 popular movie cliches about love that I’ve really noticed lately. Some of these are awful, some of these are great, and all of these are worth thinking about.
Also, mild spoilers… for a whole bunch of random movies. You’ve been warned. Don’t flame me later.
#1: Shared action sequence = happily ever after
Offenders: In Time, Jupiter Ascending, Indiana Jones, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers… and pretty much every action movie with a female character in it
Think of any movie where a male and a female has to face insurmountable odds together. They meet, sometimes abruptly, then some sort of major conflict occurs, they run and gun for the next 80 minutes without saying too much about themselves, and then bam. Instant relationship. Just add water.
Is that really all it takes for a relationship to develop? It seems sometimes like these couples fall in love based on nothing. Their shared experiences are all side-by-side, rarely containing any face-to-face relating (asides from the inevitable make-out scene). They don’t even really know each other.
On the other hand, sharing a traumatic or major experience together definitely does reinforce and build the bonds of love. If you loved him before, you love him even more now. If you weren’t as committed to her before, through your struggle you’ve gotten to see each other on a deeper level. This can be a good thing if you’re together, and a not so good thing if you’re already committed to someone else. Your heart goes where your trust goes.
While I usually hate seeing this one in movies, I guess I’ve gotta give the storytellers credit for taking quite a deep reality about relationships and fast-tracking it within 2 hours.
#2: I hate you becomes I love you
Offenders: 10 Things I Hate About You (duh), The Proposal, 27 Dresses, You’ve Got Mail
Omigosh, she’s so annoying. Omigosh, I hate his guts. Omigosh, you’re possibly the worst person in existence and I hate the fact that you draw breath.
Next minute, swoon under the moon.
The wisdom of those older would call this phase of the relationship “denial”. It’s not that they always hate each other – it’s usually that they really like each other, but they hate the fact that they do (here’s looking at you, Julia and Heath). For whatever reason – the pressure they put on themselves, the pressure put on them by others, the fact they resent some awkward quality about their beau. The audience knows it too, and we’re waiting for them to stop fighting it and let love take its course! The slowest ones to get the fact that they’re MFEO are the two people involved.
But they get there eventually.
#3: Changing your mind on the wedding day
Offenders: Bride Wars, The Proposal, Sweet Home Alabama, Spiderman 2
Ah man, this is *everywhere*. If the lead is in the process of pursuing marriage with someone, but he/she likes someone else, guess when they’re going to change their mind? Yep, you guessed it. At the altar. In front of all the friends and family. And it’s not uncommon for this scenario to turn into their wedding with the one they actually liked.
I think this really appeals to the reality that we are very uncertain in a lot of our love journeys. Do I like him, or do I like that other guy? Do I like my oldest friend, or do I like my newest one? What do I do when I have two good options? All of these questions we have in our minds in making that big decision of “I Do”. Movies can be great (and sometimes dangerous) because they allow us to explore these problems within ourselves, through the screen. And then there comes that moment of clarity where the person finally has the revelation of who they are meant to be with, and they make a big speech about how much they actually do care about this other person.
I just wish they did it in a less expensive and heartbreaking forum.
#4: Money is attractive – you rich, we gettin’ hitched
Offenders: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin… Disney and its ten billion princes… and pretty much any other movie containing romance and/or Patrick Dempsey
My brother made me laugh when I told him I was going to write this one. He went straight to Beauty and the Beast, and summed up the reason their relationship bloomed was because “dat library”.
You know, I tried really hard to think of a movie where the guy was poor. I’m sure there are some, and there are definitely movies where it’s not blown out too extravagantly. But in most flicks, there’s never a lack for finance to pay for the ring, to propose to you at Tiffany’s, to give you a castle to live in, or to let you have the entire country of France.
The only one I could think of was Aladdin. But would Aladdin have actually been able to stop her from moving on unless he dressed up and did the whole prince scenario… with the magic carpet, the genie, and all the bells and whistles? She loved the street rat, but would she have continued on unless he pulled the prince card first?
Sorry for ruining your childhood with that question. And if you can think of more movies with characters who own a normal amount of money, please let me know!
#5: Sharing the same weaknesses
Offenders: The Holiday, Shrek, The Lego Movie, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Hitch
You know, not all of these tropes are bad. This one in particular I actually think is a very powerful cliche in movies. Usually one character is shown to have a weakness, whether it be that they’re shy, lack confidence, feel lonely, or even just that they’re an ogre (figuratively or literally). Enter the love interest, who appears to have it all together. But over time, lo and behold, we find that both of them have the same weakness, or have an area of their lives where they feel just as destitute or unsure as the other person.
The beautiful thing about life is that we’re not the only ones who go through what we go through. We’re not alone in our struggles. There’s something powerful about seeing another person’s weakness – it helps free ourselves of how we feel about our own.
All the more reason we want to see these people end up together, to be strong where the other is weak. Powerful stuff.
#6: Men with zero or limited character
Offenders: 27 Dresses (I just hated this story honestly…), The Killers, James Bond franchise
Not much to say on this one, but so many leading men are absolute jerks. They either deliberately deface or debase the person they end up with, are selfish womanizers, or are just generally not people who would be great to live with. Usually, this means the love choice is between a handsome, rich jerk, or the quirky, steadfast male friend… or more often than not, she ends up with the jerk who has done nothing to show he isn’t really a jerk other than apologize or be hot.
Maybe you guys have some more thoughts on this. I’d just like to see the men of character get a better wrap.
#7: I understand you now
Offenders: Fortunately most of them
Most movies feature characters who are very guarded. They hide their weak points, they don’t let anyone get too close, and they’re usually quite aggressive when someone touches one of their buttons.
The highest grossing film of all time (so far), Avatar, features a love story that hits the nail on the head on why we love our love stories so much.
“I see you”.
One of the greatest things about love is that it’s a journey of discovering another heart. It’s about going through the big fights, the big disappointments, and the high drama, and, through it all, finally realizing why the other person is the way they are. Even more than that – you recognize and appreciate who that person truly is. Where once you only saw the externals, now you’re seeing the precious nature of the soul within that body.
And all these love stories that end happily usually end with the characters discovering each other, and discovering they have so much more to learn. If that isn’t a great description of what love is really all about, then I don’t know what is.
There are so many more cliches that I could write about here. I did write about another bunch in my Anatomy of a Chick Flick, and I’m sure there’ll be many more times I’ll revisit the topic. But how about we hear from you? What are those movie cliches about love that you love or hate?