Romantic comedies and that thing called love (Part 1 of 2)

“The past is prologue.” —Shakespeare

IF you’re a woman who believes in secret in such things as love-at-first sight and happily-ever-afters, TAKE HEART.  Even during this cynical, jaded Age of Information when nothing seems sacred or mysterious any more, there are still countless women (and maybe some men) the world over just like you, who believe in the magic and mystery spun by that ancient, invisible force called LOVE.

It is written in our DNA. So don’t fight it. It’s just that modern women (and some men) probably won’t admit being romantic in public, for fear of ridicule. They will say,  “Bah, humbug!” with a straight face and then watch every romantic comedy on the sly.

That is probably why the Hallmark Channel is at the forefront of this storytelling genre. Some have cheesy, predictable plotlines completed in about an hour and twenty-two minutes viewing time.

Women are a captive audience and these women, in turn, drag their partners, more than likely, kicking and screaming because they would rather watch violent movies oozing with blood and gore. Yeah, yeah. Talk about women coming from Venus and men, from Mars. That’s what makes the chemical attraction between straight genders so compelling and fascinating — repelling and binding at the same time.

Deep within most women, despite all that they’ve seen and been through, some, despite being scarred beyond belief by past toxic liaisons, if they don’t let bitterness and acrimony permeate their hearts, that thing called LOVE, still rules and does so mightily.

Romantic comedies churned out fairly regularly from the Hollywood story factory seem to come from a well-worn template, copy-fitted in about 90 minutes of predictability. After a while, they taste like prepackaged burgers, food enough for the starving romantic soul, but hardly satisfying.

After you have seen a few, you can very well interchange the characters and the plots and subplots like pieces of Lego.  It’s a formula that keeps on giving: girl meets boy; a delicious attraction sizzles; a situation sets up a series of conflicting, seemingly complicated twists and turns made more tenuous by a third opposing character, just like Bluto, in the Popeye, Olive Oyl triangle.

There is always that horrible antagonist that prevents the girl and the guy from coming together. The couple almost gives up trying but then an unexpected twist happens, some deus ex machina, a manipulation by the love god, that resolves the conflict and zaps away all obstacles e.g. a can of spinach that rolls from nowhere, that energizes Popeye to pummel Bluto; guy gets girl or whoever is doing the hot pursuit; and finally, the way is then made clear for the de riguer wedding scene.  Sigh. THE END.

Disney has pretty much scoured the bottom of the barrel in spinning out modern versions of animated stories from ages past. In medieval times, when marriage, the nunnery or spinsterhood were the choices that were available, most young girls dreamt about that rich, dashing knight riding on a horse, that would slay the dragon, overcome overwhelming forces, sweep them off their feet, ride out into the sunset and live happily ever after. For a few centuries, that was how it was.

But we all know, real life tells far different stories. The fairy tales turn out to be more like Gothic novels. Girl and guy don’t always end up happy. The depressing d’s descend on every life: divorce, deceit, despair, discouragement, disillusionment, darkness and death. And we’re left disappointed.

But for all that, hope springs eternal in the human heart and keeps the romcom writers busy. We have this need to believe even if we begin to view with a jaded eye that the concept of happily-ever-after is just a myth, long after the harsh facts of reality beat us into submission in a stare-down. Slowly, warily, we learn to separate fact from fiction.

Our world has changed from the simple to the utterly complicated present times. We now live with ubiquitous social networks available to our fingers where we can engage electronically in our pajamas and unmade beds, engage with one another instead of what used to be face-to-face interpersonal relationships when we need to be right where we need to be to make our case.

We facebook and twitter all day long electronically creating, maintaining or killing off disposable internet relationships, that can defy space and time constraints, that can either bloom and thrive or take shallow roots and die in an instant.  It doesn’t really matter. The next thing is just a click away.

It remains to be seen what will come out of this relatively new phenomenon that is rewriting how this generation and the succeeding ones will find their mates that are right for them. There is no precedent, no formulas, no template, no books to copy from.

(To be continued in the next issue …)

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail monette.maglaya@asianjournalinc.com

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