I am a self-proclaimed, feminist. Which is why my next statement may seem a little contradictory or unexpected. Although I hate to admit it, I love cheesy romcoms. Those made for TV movies that have a 2 star rating on Netflix. I’ve seen them all. And I love them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re terrible. The writing is downright painful at times, and the plots are beyond predictable, but deep down I’m a hopeless romantic and these feed my desire to see a happy ending.
I think there’s this fallacy that feminists can’t be romantics. That they have to do everything on their own and resent all men. While there are women who feel this way, and some are feminists, that is not an inherent tenant of feminism.
No, feminism is about the equality of men and women, and when it comes to relationships it’s all about partnership. It doesn’t get more romantic than a mutually supportive team that wants to take on the world together…hence the hopeless romantic in me.
Well, having seen most of the romcoms that are out, I’ve been looking for new material to watch on Friday night (don’t judge my life). So I turned to the one true source of romantic film-making (besides Nicholas Sparks who, for the record, I’m not a fan of). Hallmark.
It started with one Hallmark movie, and then grew into stress binge (yay grad school!) and before I knew it I’d watched 6 or so in a little over a week. (I should note that I generally don’t take a full two hours to watch these. I fast forward through anything that makes me feel awkward which is a pretty decent percentage of the movie.)
Besides the lack of diversity on the entire channel, and the reinforced gender norms at every turn, the most disturbing thing about these movies was how much they were trying to teach me what a woman should want or expect out of a relationship, or rather how much of that was superficial: $20,000 wedding, huge engagement ring, lots of flowers, immediate attraction, super fast commitment, and someone who’s job title is veterinarian, philanthropist, or romance novelist.
Seriously, if any guy is out there reading this and wants to know how to woo me, watch some Hallmark channel, write a list of everything you see, and then title it “How not to date Tracy.”
So if these are all so abhorrent to me, why couldn’t I look away. Why did I keep watching movie after movie?
I think the answer is hope. The movies helped me keep hoping. Hoping that despite my insecurities I can also find someone who thinks the world of me and that I’m excited to see every day. The hope that maybe I’m just at the beginning of my own romantic comedy and “the one,” as they often call him, is going to bump into me tomorrow.
But I think the real truth is, it makes it seem easy. I don’t have to be vulnerable when I watch Hallmark because there’s a formula and it always works out. I don’t have to sacrifice anything with a Hallmark story: the man is too good to be true, and even though the protagonist probably has a tragic past, she doesn’t have much emotional baggage. #totallyrealistic
What we really need more of are movies like About Time. Stories that keep going after the wedding, and cover the infuriating conversations about which dress to wear, and freak outs because the toddler just shredded your presentation, and how to move forward after the death of a loved one and watching people you love struggle.
Hallmark is a cheep imitation of these movies. Movies that remind me of why I still go out there and try to meet new people despite the fact that it’s often a painful experience. Moves that remind me that I want to find someone to be vulnerable with. I want to find someone who isn’t the perfect cookie-cutter man, but a real person that I can share my life with. And even though he likely will not be able to travel through time, we can still work towards building a life worth living over and over and over again. A simple and beautiful life.
So, although I have some fundamental issues with Hallmark’s storytelling formula, and believe it’s a cheep imitation of a good imitation of something wonderful (aka true love), I’ll probably keep on watching the terrible shows because they help me keep hoping, and that’s worth never letting go of. Happy Early Valentine’s Day everyone!