Hollywood’s romantic comedies aren’t just innocuous cinematic tripe. They’re actually warping children’s minds (pdf), according to new research from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. The films, including Notting Hill and You’ve Got Mail are skewed portrayals of relationships with “both highly idealistic and undesirable qualities,” the researchers write, where romantic problems or transgressions “have no real negative long-term impact on relationship functioning.” The films tend to focus on the early stages of relationships, but the characters displayed emotions that generally develop over time, including deep feelings of love and emotional support. Adolescents sometimes use these films as models for their own relationships, which could lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment.
In the book and film High Fidelity, the main character asks, “What came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music?” For romantic comedy films, researchers may now have an answer.
Image from the film Notting Hill.