Cookie cutter romances…
You know what I’m talking about.
The movies that are short enough to forget about the next day, but long enough to finish a whole bottle of wine by yourself.
The tv shows that always ensure a happy ending, yet somehow have enough drama and tension to keep you interested.
The movies AND tv shows that always include characters with girl next door, dark and handsome, young writer, charming guy, and quirky type vibes.
In fact, a substantial portion of the TV audience resorts to watching all types of romance genres per year.
From 2017 to 2018, 80 million Netflix accounts watched a romance film.
Or is it?
There has been a definite evolution of romance shows and films over the years, most notably with including more LGBTQ personas and characters of color. However, the overall structure of the romance genre has barely been amended.
And we don’t want it to be.
First, the definition of a romance show or movie is based on the journey of romantic relationships of characters, romantic ideals, and the dreaded popular idea of “true love.”
Second, the basic structure, hence cookie cutter, that most romances follow are two protagonists who may appear or not appear to be interested in one another, suffer through creative obstacles, and eventually unite at the end. We can go a lot more in depth on the types and variations of plots, but maybe that can be saved for another post.
For the purpose of this article, we will keep this basic structure in mind and how we binge watch all kinds of movies and shows that follow it.
But, we are here to figure out why does watching the same exactly structured love story feel so good? Why do they inspire a warm feeling at its conclusion, encouraging you to kiss your SO whose face is laden with bits of popcorn?
Romance shows and films make us feel happy. They make us satisfied. They guarantee a rush of endorphins, excitement and intrigue. Every. Single. Time.
But most importantly…
We’re addicted to the fantasy of possibility, especially when it comes conceptualizing romantic love.
What in the world is “the fantasy of possibility?”
In short, the fantasy of possibility is a depiction of what our own lives could be like.
The fantasy of possibility can be depicted through all time favorites, classic oldies, and new goodies: The Notebook, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, To All the Boys, the latest Bridgerton….(I am definitely drinking the cool aid on this one!)
All of these movies and shows promise us a reality that may be possible, even if they most likely won’t be in actual life. However, the key is that there is a possibility, and it is the notion that there is a possibility that keeps us so engrossed.
When possibility is combined with romantic love, we get excited because of the obviously beautiful feelings that love and romance often promise. We are intrigued that love is the only connection that can make a seemingly impossible relationship quite possible.
Let’s take Bridgerton, for example. The Duke and Daphne would have never “formed an attachment” if it weren’t for the sake of marriage. Even though we all knew they would obviously get together, we all couldn’t resist the typical arc of two characters going from faking to helplessly “burn” for one another.
This cookie cutter storytelling technique of two characters seemingly falling in love despite planning not to has been done so many times: Friends with Benefits, Reign, What’s Your Number, to name a couple.
We are addicted to the possibility that love is the one thing that can conquer all. It can bring people together, despite those two people literally promising that they will never be together. When we see that they are united in the end, we feel inspired and hopeful.
It is the possibility that love exists in all kinds of situations and forms inspires us. Perhaps we have just gotten out of a toxic relationship or we are sick of being lonely, the characters on the screen provide a sort of realistic escapism.
We are addicted to watching as many happy endings as possible as a way to affirm that this possibility may just be doable. We already know that these movies are fairytales, yet we still secretly desire to somehow convince ourselves that we will achieve the same one day.
We can enjoy what we are watching because we can imagine ourselves as the main characters. We can live through them because cookie cutter outlines are relatable, encouraging, and predictable.
Cookie cutter romances allow us to indulge in a fresh start that we often crave in these moments. As a result, we come out of these movies with just the right amount of hope to drink until we’re thirsty for more again.
Most notably, we eat up cookie cutter romances because they encourage us to believe the common naive, but tempting reassurance that anything really is possible when it comes to the ever allusive idea of love.