Romantic Comedies Are Making Kids Miserable


Image from Romantic Comedy Notting HillHollywood’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. 

(Thanks, Miller-McCune.)

Image from the film Notting Hill.

Bennett Gordon
1/15/2009 11:13:14 AM

Hmmm... yes, I definitely see your points, but I still stick by my original idea. The researchers go to great lengths to show the link between popular media and people’s psychology (especially children’s). They cite previous research showing that people use media as a model for their own relationships. The use of the words “may” and “could” point to the fact that not every child is going to be affected by these movies in the same way. And yet, if romantic comedies do present an unrealistic view of relationships, and children do use those movies as a model for their own relationships, then romantic comedies are going to make kids miserable.

D Champoux_2
1/14/2009 11:11:46 AM

But Bennett... You state a POSSIBLE result of adolescents viewing these movies (notice the repeated use of "may" in the quote you cite). This study - again, as Mac said - looks at the content of movies. No one (apparently) studied the adolescents themselves to see what were the actual effects of these movies. The effects stated in the article are a guess - which might very well be right. But the article acts like that's what the research actually determined. It isn't. I think writer is well-meaning (and, again, possibly even right) but hurts his/her cause by trying to finesse a conclusion.

Bennett Gordon
1/13/2009 2:00:39 PM

Hi Mac, The research does actually examine effects on viewers. It says "Adolescents repeatedly exposed to these highly idealised images may therefore come to perceive them as normal, which in turn could have an adverse effect on their satisfaction with their own future relationships. When their own relationships do not compare to the exaggerated depictions in the media they may come to feel as though they are lacking a relationship that others are enjoying." That would probably make me feel miserable.

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