Growing up, I was a complete sucker for chick flicks and romantic movies. And although my mom would often say, “It doesn’t work like that in real life!” I didn’t quite realize what she meant until I hit my 30s.
After several failed relationships, some down to my high expectations (thanks, Disney), it hit me:
Love and relationships are incredibly misrepresented on the big screen.
And sure, they make for great entertainment, tug on our heartstrings and give us hope of finding “the one”, but are they causing more damage in the long run than we realize?
In this article, I’ll explore this idea in more detail. Here are 7 toxic ideas movies normalize that hurt relationships:
1) Love at first sight overlooks the importance of building relationships
Let’s start with the most obvious lie that movies love to play on – the idea that two people, complete strangers, lock eyes and instantly fall in love.
It’s a nice idea, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over my time on earth, it’s not love, it’s lust.
Because real love needs time. For it to blossom and deepen, a couple needs to face many different experiences together.
Let’s be honest, we’re all lovable during the honeymoon stage. But things change when work, stress, childhood trauma, habits, and family come into the mix.
So if you haven’t magically fallen in love like in the movies, don’t beat yourself up over it. Real relationships need commitment, time, and lots of communication to build real love.
2) Overemphasis on grand gestures and materialism
I remember having a go at an ex once for never doing anything “big” for me. Looking back, I realize how much of a b*tch I must have sounded like.
It’s not that he never did anything nice, but they were small, meaningful gestures, and I wanted to be swept off my feet and surprised, like in the movies.
But the truth is, this is an incredibly harmful expectation to have.
To expect someone to constantly prove their love through gifts or extravagant dates is not what happy relationships are built on.
And I have to add – if movies push this idea, social media takes it to another level. The next time you find yourself wishing your partner would do something wild and fancy, look around you:
I bet the happiest couples you know don’t live by this notion.
3) Jealousy and possessiveness as signs of love
We’ve all seen films where one person is excessively jealous – and rather than show it as toxic, it’s portrayed as love.
Movies have a way of making us think that this is healthy in relationships.
And sure, some jealousy is normal, but restricting your partner or acting like you “own” them isn’t.
I’ll admit, I’ve fallen for this idea in the past. Turns out, that jealousy that made me feel so “wanted” and “desired” was actually the start of an abusive relationship where I was constantly monitored and controlled.
Ultimately, a healthy relationship is based on trust. It’s when two people acknowledge that they’re still individuals who have chosen to come together out of love.
4) Normalizing toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes
I was never a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, but I still read the books and watched the first film.
While it’s saucy and I can see the appeal to the millions of women who did enjoy it, it’s a fine example of normalizing toxic masculinity.
Because for as much as we can argue that there was a degree of consent, ultimately, a woman is once again portrayed as being submissive to a man who does all manner of things out of “love”.
Here’s the thing:
We need to get over the idea that a man needs to beat his chest, command the entire family, and bring in the bread, just to be seen as a real man.
And women – well, we’ve proven we can do a heck of a lot more than just slave away in the kitchen and bedroom.
5) The ‘makeover’ trope reinforcing superficial values
I’ve got to admit, I do love a good makeover transformation. But only if it’s what the person really wants for themself – not to attract their crush.
Because news flash:
It’s surface level. It doesn’t contribute to an overall happy relationship.
I actually did this after watching so many films (Grease, Miss Congeniality, and Pretty Woman to name a few). I spent silly money trying to look good for a guy.
Did it make him desire me?
But it didn’t make him respect me more. It didn’t ensure a lovely relationship. In fact, we weren’t even very compatible, and on top of that, I was terrified of having a bad hair day in case he lost inteest.
Anyway, jokes aside, if someone doesn’t like the way you look, just the way you are, that’s okay.
You might not be their type, but you certainly are someone else’s type, so don’t change the way you are unless you’re doing it for yourself.
6) The notion that love conquers all, even abuse
In Bollywood, one of the most famous films of all time (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham) depicts a woman, a mother, who is forced to cut off her adopted son by her husband.
Whenever she tries to question her husband, he silences her. He calls all the shots. He effectively breaks up the family but is still revered as the powerful father figure, the husband who maintains the household.
And of course, in the end, everyone makes up and they’re back to playing happy families.
But, while the film is still great to watch, it’s not portraying reality.
People who don’t get a say in such important matters due to control or abuse of any kind aren’t in happy relationships.
And as much as they might make it seem this way – an abuser doesn’t abuse out of love. That right there is an incredibly harmful idea.
7) Instant resolution of conflicts
You know how in the films, a couple fights, spends some time cooling off, and then magically makes up over steamy post-argument sex?
Yeah…it doesn’t quite work like that!
In reality, conflict needs communication and time.
One argument may need multiple conversations until both people fully understand each other and reach a healthy resolution.
Copying the movies and expecting your partner to just “move on” after you say sorry is a surefire way to build resentment and tension over time.
And trust me, that’s a dangerous combination that usually leads to separation in the end.
So, to wrap up, it’s fine to enjoy a good movie from time to time, but don’t base your relationships on what you see on the big screen.
They’re much more complex, nuanced, and delicate in real life, and buying into these toxic ideas can cause an incredible amount of hurt to both sides.
P.s – I mentioned above that my high expectations ruined quite a few relationships. If you also want to break out of this toxic mindset, watch this free video – it helped me make so many improvements in my relationships, so it’s worth checking it out.