When Movies Ruin Us For Real Life

A young woman wrote in yesterday's "Modern Love" of a life in which, lacking real male role models, she came to expect instead the archetypes of movies. But don't we all suffer from this to some degree?
Writes Anna Breslaw,

At college I observed stable, long-term relationships between real-life people for the first time. Some of them seemed so effortless, lukewarm even, that it shocked me. The rules of movies were as deeply ingrained in me as the laws of physics or the pledge of allegiance, and they went something like this: The best relationships aren't easy. Without conflict, you can't have a happy ending. If a guy doesn't hurt you so badly that he has to perform some grand and cinematic gesture (typically with pop song accompaniment) to win you back, then who cares?

But no matter what our backgrounds, few modern women are immune to the 2-D world of celluloid. Those of us who come from stability crave drama; those who don't yearn towards the semblance of normalcy. And while I wish I could tell Breslaw we outgrow it, that would be doing Hollywood a disservice. Recently, coming off a marathon viewing of North and South, I found myself irrationally furious with my boyfriend. In real life, I knew I was happy to be with someone who gave me space, who knew my tastes in books, who bought tampons without embarrassment. Yet, he was so clearly not a saturnine yet honorable mill owner from humble beginnings, played by Richard Armitage. I wrote of my feelings to a friend who'd been watching the miniseries in tandem. "I know." she wrote. "Fuck Dan." Dan is her equally blameless husband.

I don't know that men have this problem — or, at least, this problem with characters; I'm perfectly willing to believe a lot of them fall for projections of their own fantasies, be it in virtual form or not. But then, romances aren't made to lure men, for the most part. At the very least, it doesn't seem like they're encouraged to express it if they do, beyond the physical. Women are expected to blur the line between fantasy and reality, to swoon at actors, to shriek at teen idols. We're encouraged to.


April's Vanity Fair features Robert Pattinson, wearing an alligator like an ungainly boa. The ensuing interview is conducted in his trailer, since the actor can't go outside without being mobbed by screaming women. "You have to wonder, what do they want?" he asks of the rabid Twi-hards. It's not hard to see: they want to feel like they're in a movie. Don't we all?

Casting Call: Bit Player, Male [NY Times]