Why we love movies about love

Avatar of Amelie Shears
Entertainment Column

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” 

— When Harry Met Sally

Love and intimacy are the feelings the human heart and mind crave. The love we see in the movies is certainly not real life, but we can’t help but hope that it’ll feel similar. Romantic comedies date back to Shakespeare, and were some of the first films ever made. 

Everyone loves a good rom-com. One of the biggest reasons is that it sticks to familiar tropes. It must be set in a romantic place, like a tropical island, bustling city, or a spring countryside. If it’s in Paris, the apartment will have a view of the Eiffel Tower. If it’s in New York, the characters can leave their immaculate apartment and stroll through Central Park. Almost all huge rom-coms are set in New York City: “13 Going On 30,” “Serendipity,” “Love Actually,” and “Set It Up.” 

But one thing stays the same — it all starts with a “meet-cute,” whether it’s stumbling into an old flame, knocking someone’s papers over as they rush to a big meeting, or running into a one-night stand. This term originates from the 1938 movie “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” where the female lead Claudette Colbert and male lead Gary Cooper are shopping for pajamas. Claudette’s searching for a top, and Gary is looking for a bottom. In the 2006 movie: “The Holiday,” this origin is referenced, as the couple’s meet-cute where two friends switch homes and meet new people is ultimately how they end up together.

Some rom-com tropes can be seen as overused if not done differently. Take the iconic “makeover” scene. I have never liked this trope because of the message it sends — guys will only notice you if you put on makeup and a new outfit. It appears in “Grease,” “He’s All That,” and “Miss Congeniality.” In “Grease,” Danny truly didn’t want to be with Sandy unless she dressed in the fashion that was cool and popular — and unless everyone around him approved. Fortunately, this hasn’t been seen in recent rom-coms, because you shouldn’t have to walk down the stairs in a red dress for a guy to realize he likes you. 

There are psychological reasons for why we love rom-coms. They can provoke nostalgic emotions and bring you back to your first loves. According to neuroscientists from Princeton, our levels of oxytocin, or the love hormone, increase when watching a rom-com that we can connect with personally. Clinical psychologist Bart Rossi says younger people are fans of rom-coms as well. He stated that teenage girls “like watching rom-coms because they can emotionally relate to them — even if they haven’t experienced those emotions yet.” Rom-coms give teenagers proof that love does exist, and show them what love will feel like when they’re older.

Ultimately, we love rom-com’s because we like to know subconsciously what’ll happen. Love will overcome every obstacle. Above all, rom-coms are all about the main characters realizing that they too, are worthy of love,