The Royal Wedding is over, but the public’s love affair with the royal couple endures. Just today, the internet was busy decoding the new coat of arms for Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, to find any hidden romantic homages to Prince Harry.
Markle, the once-divorced 36-year-old biracial television star, seemed a modern-day Cinderella when she married Prince Harry of Wales — whom she met on a blind date and scolded for being 40 minutes late. Lifetime even made a TV movie about their romance. Their unconventional courtship, carried out in the public eye with an intense scrutiny on everything that made Markle a unique addition to Buckingham Palace, renewed the romantic notion that perseverance, a bit of luck, and belief in true love can lead to a fairytale ending.
Of course, it was Hollywood that perfected the fairytale ending. We’ve all seen the one about the improbable couple who get together after some hilarious hijinks. But, if you dig a little deeper, rom-coms and other tearjerkers can teach us serious (and sometimes silly) lessons about real-life love.
This week, the NewsHour staff joined three film and culture experts in sharing what they’d learned about love from romantic movies — from the necessity of friendship in a relationship to the imperfection of love.
“My Best Friend’s Wedding” taught me that these movies are fantasies, modern-day fairytales. They’re not a guide for how to be a real person in the world. Throughout that movie, Julia Roberts’ character behaves like a rom com heroine. She lies, she sneaks around, she hurts the people around her — all in the name of love. It doesn’t work. She doesn’t get the guy — in fact, she nearly loses him for good and she’s held to account for all her unkind, unethical behavior, just as you hope she would be in real life.
“Notting Hill” came out when I was 11 or 12, and it was the first time I can remember watching a movie couple making each other laugh and thinking, “that seems like a pretty important part of a romantic relationship.” That movie is, for all its flaws, an exemplary genre film and the banter between the couple isn’t the kind of combative sparring you usually think of when you think of rom-com banter. They’re not competing, they’re collaborating, and it’s endearing and fun and sexy.
I didn’t enjoy “500 Days of Summer” all that much, but one thing it taught me was that each party will remember the relationship, and its end, differently. And they’ll tell themselves — and the people around them — their version of the story. I always wonder what if Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) really saw Summer (Zooey Deschanel) as a full person, not just a hot blank slate, and listened to her? What would that movie look like if we got to hear her version of events?
–Chloe Angyal, Huffington Post deputy opinion editor
From the slow-burn love affair that develops between Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan), as well as the vignettes of all those lovely old couples, “When Harry Met Sally” taught me that couples can’t be happy — no matter how much sex they’re having — unless they have a healthy friendship. Harry had it backwards when he said in the beginning of the film that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
What I learned about love from “Moonstruck” is summarized pretty well by what Nicolas Cage’s Johnny says to Cher’s Loretta: “Love don’t make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We’re not here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.”
–Jen Chaney, pop culture writer and film, TV and book critic
“The Five Year Engagement” has taught me a lot about getting married, especially as I plan my own wedding. Lesson 1) My fiancé and I will probably break up at some point during the wedding planning process. We’ll both be sad and I’ll probably grow a huge beard and take up crossbow hunting, 2) after a pep talk by Elmo, we’ll eventually get back together, and Lesson 3) It’s really easy to overthink things. Sometimes it’s worth just going for it.
“The Notebook” taught me that the way to impress a girl is by jumping onto a Ferris wheel and threatening to hurt myself if she doesn’t want to go on a date with me.
–Michael Boulter, PBS NewsHour news assistant
“She’s All That” taught me that, much to my chagrin, women are rarely impressed by hacky sack.
“The Break-Up” taught me that you should not underestimate the fighting skills of a person in an a cappella singing group.
–Shea Serrano, The Ringer staff writer
“He’s Just Not That Into You” taught me to stop over-analyzing relationships and never accept the quote “blinded by love.” When a person shows you who they are, believe it.
“Because I Said So” taught me that love is not always what is expected. It is not always who you want, who your parents want for you, or who you’ve envisioned yourself with. Loves show up when you least expect it and the man of your dreams could be the last person you expected.
— Deema Zein, PBS NewsHour online production assistant