What We Learned: Romance in an Era of Funny Love

red yarn heart
I give romantic comedies a hard time for setting unrealistic expectations that make it harder for average people, people without castles and magic potions, to feel good about their love lives. A handful of rom-coms, however, could teach us important lessons about life and love.

Annie Hall
Annie Hall ends happily even though Woody Allen’s character, Alvy, doesn’t end up staying in a relationship with Annie, played by Diane Keaton. The movie, however, isn’t about losing love. It’s largely about fighting for it.

Alvy and Annie both have complicated pasts that involve a circus of men and women. It’s not surprising that the couple breaks up during the film and that each of them move on to new relationships. What’s surprising is that they try so hard to stay together even though they have plenty of reasons to split up earlier.

Annie Hall sweeps away the promise that you will find one person and never have feelings for another. That’s reality for people today. We don’t live in little tribes. We live in cities. Even small towns give men and women plenty of romantic options. Alvy and Annie eventually go their separate ways, but that’s what a lot of couples do even when they love each other intensely.

I’d say that the vast majority of people I know have been in love several times before they settle down. We learn from those relationships and, hopefully, carry those lessons with us.

If you take anything positive away from this movie, it should be that you’ll always have good memories no matter where the future takes you.

Groundhog Day
Finally, a movie that tells the truth! I’ve never been a fan of Andie MacDowell’s one-character-fits-all-roles approach to acting, but Groundhog Day has much more truth in it than most romantic comedies.

Trying to convince a woman to fall in love with you usually takes more than 24 hours. That’s all that Bill Murray’s character has in Groundhog Day. But he has those 24 hours over and over and over again…

What does he learn? I think he learns quite a bit. Phil, Murray’s character, learns that he can’t control the universe. He learns that his smoothest moves can’t change the opinion of a woman who despises him. He also learns that doing his best to be a kind and decent person is the path out of Hell. It doesn’t earn him a night of passion. It earns him the beginning of respect.

That’s a Valentine’s Day lesson that we should keep close to our hearts all year long. You can’t scam the system. Not for long. You can’t trick someone into loving you. Not for a lifetime. But you can become the kind of person that your loved one wants to love. It might feel like an eternity of effort, but it can happen. And it’s worth it.

Just don’t believe the movies that say it happens automatically based on your natural merit. Believe the ones that taught us, as kids, teenagers, and young adults, that someone worth having is someone worth working for.

Posted by Matt T.