What’s February without romantic comedies, am I right? It’s practically called for – whether you’re happily in a relationship, stuck in a half-relationship (that dreaded are-we-or-aren’t-we phase), or just loving life as a singleton. Apart from just giving us those kilig feels, romantic comedies do impart us with important love lessons we can apply to our lives.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my fave romcoms:
1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
This is a common theme in many a romcom. You know the drill. Geeky guy/girl meets hot girl/guy. They butt heads at first but then discover that underneath all of that, they’re not so different after all. Think She’s All That (both the ‘90s version and its 2021 remake starring Addison Rae), Shallow Hal, and Pretty Woman.
Someone who may not be our type at first can surprise us, proving that love really goes beyond skin-deep.
2. First impressions are rarely accurate
Much like the first lesson, romcoms teach us that you need time to make a relationship develop. Someone you may not have initially liked can surprise you – you just need to give them time to get to know them.
Take a look at the ‘90s classic 10 Things I Hate About You. Julia Stiles’ character, Kat, was, in a word, appalled by high school bad boy Heath Ledger’s Patrick. They spend most of the first half of the movie constantly bickering. From Patrick’s end, the “courtship” was nothing more than a paid gig. As the movie progresses and the two get to spend more time with one another, they learn more about what makes each other special. In the end, they develop genuine feelings for one another, something neither of them could have predicted.
3. Love is a choice
We grew up thinking that love is a feeling – how we fall into love, it catches us by surprise, blah blah blah. While love can seem like an overwhelming feeling, love really is a choice. We have to choose to fall in love with our partner, over and over again. Love is rarely easy, but that’s what make love worthwhile.
In the biopic, The Theory of Everything, which depicts famed scientist Stephen Hawking’s early life, we see how his wife, Jane Hawking, makes a conscious decision to stick by her husband, even when it was far from easy. It was a choice she made every day to wake up and to care for her husband, devoting her entire life to him.
(Writer’s note: While Jane and Stephen Hawking did eventually separate in the end, the two remained good friends until Hawking’s death in 2018.)
4. Love takes time
For someone, love can happen overnight. For the most part, however, love takes time. Take 13 Going on 30, for example. We see childhood best friends Jenna Rink (played by Jennifer Garner) and Matt Flamhaff (played by Mark Ruffalo) fall in love with each other when they grow older.
While this did happen in a sort of alternate timeline, we did see them get married in the end when Jenna went back to the original timeline. Based on their appearances and clothing, it looks like they got married when they turned 30 (same timeframe as their altered timeline selves), taking them a whopping 17 years to fall in love and tie the knot.
It can be tempting to skip forward to the good parts in life where we get that happily ever after, but real love takes time to develop and bloom. It wasn’t like it was *boom* I’m in love with Matt now. Rather, we saw how Jenna slowly learned to fall in love with Matt as she grew alongside him. If we take the time to slow down and be present in the moment, we just might learn that our own Matt Flamhaff has been right in front of us all along.
5. Real love embraces flaws
Okay, I know this isn’t a romcom but I’m still on an Encanto high, so let me have this.
In the 2021 cinematic masterpiece, Encanto, we see Abuela rule her family with an iron fist because of her love for them. But this wasn’t real love. She was in love with the ideas she had of her family members – Isabela being the beautiful one, Luisa the strong one, and so on. No one dared step out of line for fear of upsetting Abuela and losing her love.
This isn’t what love is. We see this kind of thinking ultimately lead to the destruction of their magic. The real and true form of love we see in Encanto comes from Mirabel, the only magic-less Madrigal. Through her we see that to love someone means to see them for who they really are. This kind of love means loving them in spite of their messiness, perceived weakness, or their “flaws.” When we truly love someone, we allow them to be who they are, which then allows them to blossom and grow into their best selves.
And this, I believe, is the magic of Encanto. While we cannot discredit the love that Abuela did feel for her family, it was a suffocating and debilitating form of love. The Madrigals were afraid of being anything but what Abuela wanted them to be. And this can happen if we do the same with our partners. They will be forced to keep living up to an idealized version of themselves which may be far from who they really are.
Instead of forcing our partners into molds we make of them, we should allow thew to be unapologetically real about themselves.
6. Choose yourself
The best love you can ever receive is from yourself.
Get ready as I’m about to give you a hot and probably controversial take… The real villain of The Devil Wears Prada isn’t Miranda Priestly, it’s Andy’s boyfriend, Nate. Don’t cancel me just yet, let me explain.
Miranda, despite her cold-hearted exterior, always had Andy’s best interests at heart. She groomed Andy and gave her avenues for her to succeed because she saw Andy’s potential. Nate, on the other hand, restricted her growth because his bruised ego couldn’t handle her making her job a priority for once.
In the end, Andy didn’t give up love for her career, she chose it. She chose to love herself. She chose to put herself and her goals first, even if this future didn’t involve Nate. She stopped living a life that pleased Nate, and instead, went after her dreams. This is a powerful statement in a romcom, where it was always taught that love conquers all and a fulfilled life involved being in a relationship.
Having a partner is pointless if that partner doesn’t support your ambitions. In situations like this, it’s better to be alone and focus on yourself than to be forced to shrink yourself for your partner’s happiness.
Romcoms get a bad rap for presenting fanciful situations and ideas of love, but there are nuggets of wisdom to be found in them. Apart from just providing us with a source of entertainment and a chance to escape reality for a bit, romcoms have serious life lessons grounded in them.
Now that I’ve shared my fave romcom lessons, I want to know about yours! What is your favorite romcom and what lesson did you find inspiring from it?
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Nikki is a petite marketing copywriter by day, unicorn-chaser by night with a thirst for exploring the big world.