Romance films and novels give people false expectations?

I used to LOVE popular romance films and books, but now whenever I watch/read them I am struck by how often they portray lust, and pass it off as love. They’ll show this whole ‘love at first sight’ stuff, and often have the scenario of one person being with a long term partner who is ‘okay but boring,’ who is essentially traded for a new exciting alternative, without any admittance that the new exciting partner wont be new and exciting for long. The focus is almost always on the beginning of love, and rarely on a long term, developing love.

I think this just serves to add to people’s false expectations of marriage - people think the honeymoon period will last forever, or think lust is love, or love is just a feeling.


It’s not just the romance films and novels. The same thing applies to action and adventure films and books. And also to murder mysteries.

The “problem” is that people read these novels and watch these films and television programs and get the totally wrong impression about what real life is like.

If you watch very old Western cowboy films, in the shooting scenes, the cowboys have “six-shooters” that never run out of bullets. There are fights and nobody gets hurt. And the good guys shoot the guns out of the hands of the bad guys and nobody actually gets injured.

Then people ask why police can’t just shoot the guns out of the hands of criminals.

None of the viewers have ever fired a gun or rode a horse or raced a car or flown a plane or run an obstacle course or boxed or wrestled or worked on a crime investigation or done science. The viewers and readers are all a bunch of couch potatoes and they think that reading a novel makes them an expert in life.

I agree that novels and shows can give people false expectations about life.

OTOH, romance novels can help a woman to be more attracted to her husband. I often find that after I read a good romance novel (not a trashy one), I fall in love with my husband all over again. (We’ve been married 30 years.) These novels often give us ideas of activities (not sexual) to try to make our lives richer.

For years, I’ve been working on writing a Catholic romance novel, and I just recently returned to it and totally overhauled and re-wrote it. One of my specific goals in writing this novel is to help wives (and any husbands who read it) to recognize how blessed they are to have their spouse and their children. The hero in my novel has neither, and longs for them, but has to suffer through a lot of trials before he finally…well, I won’t say how the story ends.

Mysteries and adventures can make us dissatisfied with our hum-drum real lives, but OTOH, I think most people who read or watch them realize that these are just stories with a lot of exaggerations. I just read The Secret Life of Bees and I was so impressed with many of the practices and traditions of the black family, and then I read the author’s discussion at the end of the novel–she made it all up! None of it’s true! Joke’s on me! I was completely fooled.

And honestly, how many of us would truly want to be in James Bond’s shoes (with the throwing knives hidden in the soles)? My knees would never work to do those stunts! And I would probably tick the villain off and he or she would just shoot me rather than torturing me first and giving me the opportunity to escape. And I don’t know how to play cards.

I’ve written a couple of teen mysteries, and yes, I suppose that teens who read them could get disillusioned with their lives. But most teens understand that the novels are just pretend. My novels build life lessons and good values into the storyline for children and teenagers. The girls in the stories work together and make sacrifices for each other. They also are respectful of differences in each other, and they respect and love their parents–lots of family togetherness in my stories. I suppose you might call them “morality tales” and turn up your nose at something so old-fashioned, but the kids who read my novels are generally very favorable in their comments, and the parents love them.

Anyway, if someone has a hard time separating fiction from fact, then I would suggest minimizing contact with novels, films, TV, and plays. Maybe try visual art to fulfil the artist in your soul.

I’m a romance writer as well, and I love to write (and read) the super-fluffy, super lovey-dovey novels. The ones that make people go ‘awwwwww’. I also like the more angsty, not-quite-happy ending ones. Romance is actually a varied genre; there’s the super-romance, super-sad, and they all vary in … uh, explicitness.

However, I think readers tend to forget a very important word: FICTION. The novels are fiction; they’re not always meant to be realistic and true to life. This is where common sense comes in. Most novels don’t show what happens after the ‘I do’. The early mornings, the arguments, the sleepy nights where neither is in the mood, messy kitchens… etc.

Cat, your idea sounds so cool! Yay for a fellow writer! :hug1:

I agree, it can be hard to remember that romance novels are FICTION, and it can be disappointing when real life just doesn’t live up to what books and movies tell us it should look like. I was thinking that one of the major culprits for our being so readily enraptured by romance novels and films is early exposure to fairy tales. While I do admit that a lot of the old fairy tales definitely have some moral message, a lot of them also have regular girls and princesses alike marrying the hero/prince without even really knowing him (eg. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White). Then, with Disney repopularizing these stories in the animated movies, kids have been exposed to unrealistic romances with happily ever after endings from a very young age. And since children do have a hard time distiguishing fact from fiction, it can be easy to internalize the fairy-tale romance as the ideal to expect in real life. This results in adults who become dissatisfied with their ordinary adult relationships and may end up breaking up/divorcing to go in search of that false ideal.

Anyway, just thought I would throw my two cents in. :rolleyes:

God’s Blessings!

I think there is a ever growing disconnect between fiction and reality, especially amongst those in the developed world.

I love fiction myself, but that’s it is, fiction. I see more and more youngsters having real-world expectations derived from fiction, especially women. I see a lot of young women not getting married, because they’re waiting for their “Prince Charming” who is also a Billionaire (millionaire is not aiming high enough anymore it seems) and has the looks of a Photoshoped pictures.

That’s another thing, a lot of young people are getting a false impressions of beauty from impossibly-derived material. Magazines, mannequins. People don’t look like that.

I wish people would take more stock in the realm unseen, such as that described in the Gospels, rather that their imaginations running wild.

The thing is, if you are a creative person of a particular slant, you almost need to create something, even if that includes creating fanciful stories of happy-ever-after. Since we are made in God’s image, He seems to have chosen to endow some of us with a taste of what it is like to stand in His shoes and bring a whole world into some level of existence, just with the power of our intellect and a few strokes of a pen or taps on a computer keyboard. Saying that we shouldn’t exercise that gift is like telling an eagle not to fly so high or a sunset to not glow so brilliantly. Sure, there’s a lot of trashy writing out there, but one cannot sweep away an entire body of literature because of a handful of immorally written stories. Think of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy or Michael D. O’Brien’s Children of the Last Day series…

The purpose of all art is to communicate a message. Anyone who picks up a book labeled fiction should be fine, but a line has been crossed in films and novels. Instead of imagining what it’s like to meet someone, get to know that person and fall in love, modern film just shows guy and girl hop into the sack, and boom, they’re a couple. Subtlety has been lost completely. I can’t think of any modern actress who is glamorous who has not played a trashy role.

People, especially the young, but older people as well, are influenced by what they see and read. I remember watching real romance movies and thinking, I would like to be in that situation, but I did not think I would ever meet that person on screen. However, I did notice qualities that made me think, I would like to meet a woman with qualities like that.

I think that movies and novels pale in comparison to growing up with a real mom and dad and seeing what they go through every day, and seeing what your friends’ parents go through. That was part of my education regarding life and relationships. I saw how it could actually work.

As a writer myself, I am accountable to God, and will be held accountable. I refuse to write trash.


Fairy tales have been enjoyed by children for centuries. I’ve read that their simple portrayal of good and evil helps children to organize their world.

Disney’s Snow White (among other fairy tales) has been around for over 50years.

I honestly think most children grow up and understand the difference between fairy tales and real life, just as I believe that most adults understand the difference between fiction and real life.

I doubt that. People watch MILK with Sean Penn and believe it. That’s the problem. People are putting their beliefs in fiction.’

People in the developed world are using fiction to shape their view of the world.

It’s the same thing with romance novels. Little girls are shaping real expectations from garbage, essentially.

A little girl needs to believe that a husband is a handsome and charming prince who will make her live happily ever after. That is what makes a little girl see marriage as a good thing.

A little girl does *not * need to know about all the realities of male-female relationships and marriage. She does not need to know that Mom and Dad are struggling to make ends meet, or that Mom has a lump in her breast, or that Dad is uncertain about whether to move or repair the old house, and that both Mom and Dad are trying to decide whether to make love during a fertile period or whether to abstain.

These are grown-up things, and good parents will try to keep their little girl innocent of these things until she is old enough to understand. As a little girl (or boy) gets older, parents can allow them to know more about the realities of being married and teach them that struggles and conflicts do not destroy love, but make it stronger.

But they don’t need to know these things when they’re little. Good parents will make sure that their little girls (and boys) see that they love each other no matter what happens and that they plan to live happily ever after–just like their little girl reads in the fairy tales. A little girl needs to think of her Daddy as a strong, handsome prince of a man, and her Mommy as a beautiful, pure princess of a woman, and she needs to believe that some day, she will meet a man just like Daddy and that she will be as happy as Mommy.

What exactly is a “little” girl? I think each parent has to decide that. In my opinion, the longer a girl or boy can stay “little,” the better. I was at least 14 years old before I stopped believing in fairy tales–and then I met my future husband at age 15 and realized that fairy tales ARE real after all. But that was back in the 70s.

In this day and age, I fear that most children have to grow up by the age of five or six and start thinking more like grownups.

BTW, if you read teen and women’s magazines, which MANY teen girls and women read faithfully (yes, even Christian girls and women), you will find that these media are saturated with teaching AGAINST the “handsome prince and happily ever after” marriage. In the last forty years, extremist feminists have had a tremendous impact on the way women feel about marriage–most women vehemently deny that they are looking for the handsome prince and the castle.

So perhaps what we are seeing is a backlash against the severe feminist teaching that tells a woman that SHE ALONE is responsible for her happiness. Maybe we are seeing girls, teens, and women who realize that there is something warped about a life philosophy that says it’s OK to use a vibrator for sexual fulfilment, it’s OK for a woman to have children without a man around to help raise them, and it’s OK for a woman to think of men as superfluous.

Maybe females of all ages are trying to return to a time when we believed that marriage to a good man and creating a happy peaceful home with him is a wonderful way for us to live happily ever after.

Beautifully put, Cat! I think you make an excellent point.
And I would love to read some of your writings, do you have them online somewhere?

See the website in my signature.

My romance novel(s) isn’t published anywhere, as they are still progress. I’ve done about ten rewrites over the last five years. At the moment, I am stuck on obtaining authentic first-hand info about Yamoussoukro! I’ve corresponded with a missionary, who gave me some good stuff. But I would like more. So if anyone knows anyone in Y’kro, send them my way, please!

Actually, Cat, I have to agree with you, I think it is a good thing for little girls to be looking for that prince, and for little boys to be on the search for a princess. And no, they don’t need to know about the various difficulties and decisions that occur in every couple’s married life until they are old enough to understand. Even happily-ever-after isn’t completely a bad thing, as long as parents make sure their children understand that happily-ever-after is meant to encompass ALL events in married life, whether or not they make you FEEL happy. Unfortunately, I don’t know if all parents really do that for their children, especially parents who have left their own spouses because the marriages weren’t making them feel “fulfilled” or “happy”.

Frankly, the main problem with happily-ever-after fairy tale romances that I have is the whole love-and-marriage-at-first-sight concept. Seeing Snow White get saved by her prince isn’t bad, but the story doesn’t show her afterwards taking time to develop a friendship with him, get to know him, and then discern with him whether or not marriage is right for the two of them. Instead, it shows them instantly falling in love and her going off to his castle to marry him immediately, without even knowing him. Same for Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. I am not denying that love-at-first-sight exists for some people, but I am saying that it is a bad premise to base immediate marriage on, yet this is exactly that idea that is promulgated in fairy tales. I do know there are a lot of people out there that jump into serious relationships and marriage far too quickly because they mistake infatuation or even lust for love-at-first-sight, and they end up regretting their marriages they didn’t properly discern and resenting their spouses they don’t even know. This is the problem I have with the message fairy tales send to little children from a very early age, this skewed notion of romance without work that may not be corrected by a lot of parents. And, of course, this same skewed notion of romance is carried forward from fairy tales into a lot of romance novels and films, which just perpetuate the same idea in adults. And even though adults can and SHOULD know the difference between reality and fiction, often there is a subconscious effect on expectations that they may not even realize and which can end up affecting their adult relationships. :smiley:

But for children, time is not the same as for adults, or more accurately, chidlren don’t perceive time the same way. For a child, one minute is an hour, and an hour is eternity.

No little girl is going to meet a boy, fall in love, and marry him at the age of eight. So why worry about their childish perception of time while they’re still little? It will change.

Unless something is not quite right in the child’s brain, most children, as they get older and mature, will learn to correctly estimate time and place a value on it. They learn that a minute is only sixty seconds, and not very long at all.

And I think that as they grow up, most children learn that you don’t meet a princess or a prince, fall in love, and get married quickly. I don’t think you need to worry about this for most children. The fairy tale is a starting place, but most children set it aside as they get older and more experienced in life.

Again, I’ll refer you to women’s and teen’s magazines. I can’t speak for the men and boy’s magazines, but I can speak for the women’s and girl’s magazines–these popular “teaching” materials (unfortunately!) hammer it into a girl’s or woman’s head that she must WAIT and get to know a man before marrying him.

These are SECULAR media, very popular with many girls and women (including Christians), and they argue against the “love at first sight” fairy tale. And I think that most girls and young women take this to heart and don’t expect love at first sight. I think that most women in the U.S. would state that “love at first sight” is a fairy tale, and that they don’t plan to get swept up into a marriage with a man that they don’t know.

(Of course, most of these magazines also tell a girl or woman that it is OK to have sex outside of marriage, so please don’t get the idea that I’m advocating that young Christian women get their romantic training from Seventeen, Glamour, and Cosmo.)

And then, of course, there are always exceptions. My husband and I met at 15, fell in love, stuck with each other for six years, stayed virgins, and got married when were were 21. We’ve been married 30 years.

My daughter met her husband when she was 14 (he was 16), they dated for seven years, and got married last summer when she was 21. I hope they are married for as long as we have been, and longer!

Always keep in mind, though, that a woman’s basic need is not love, but security. There are many situations where a woman (or teenager) feels insecure (and perhaps she really is insecure, if her home life is unstable due to parents living sinfully, abuse, etc.). Women who feel insecure tend to latch onto any man who looks like he might be able to provide security and safety for her. This is not the same as “love at first sight,” but it might appear to be this “fairy tale.” Well, the insecure woman who is afraid often finds it difficult to correctly discern reality. She’s so scared of losing everything that she will take the path of least resistance.

And of course, many men are so flattered (and turned on) by the woman’s desire for him that they fall for this, and encourage the woman, and eventually marry her, and only realize after the wedding and honeymoon are over that there really isn’t love, just need.

Cat, I love reading your replies. You seem to be saying all that I would say if I could write it as eloquent as you have.

I also found my Prince Charming when I was 16 and he was 18. We were married 2 years later and have been married for 33 years now. When I was a little girI I played with Barbie and, loved watching Cinderella on tv. Now that I am a grandmother I still read romance novels and watch romantic movies. I consider myself blessed to have found my Prince Charming who has helped me survive life’s bumps along the way. I can only pray that my granddaughter grows up in the same manner.

I loved fairy tales, romantic novels and movies, etc. But now that I’m older, it seems a little, naive. I haven’t met my Prince Charming, and I doubt I’ll ever find him. I want someone who will sweep me off my feet. Make me feel like the sun rises and sets by me. But no, that is not happening. :frowning: So I have to pick myself up by my bootstraps, and carry on alone. And after almost 28 years on this planet, I’ve built up a thick layer of protection. Do I believe in happily ever after? Most certainly do, but not for me. And I’m come to accept that.

I think that scene has always been around. Recently I found a channel that shows silent films. Just Imagine it with color and sound, but the plots are still the same. Boy sees girl, boy goes after girl, and so forth. I mean todays movies sometimes show the girl going after the boy, but its the same thing. I think its up to parents to let their kids now that marriage is like anything else, TEAM WORK. Nothing gets done and things fall apart fast when there is not team work and an individual thinks of him/herself only.

My girls have seen dh and I argue. One time, because I dont like to “fight” back dh was really raising his voice at me. My girls came in and asked if we were getting a divorce. We both stopped and talked to them that our fighting is much like their fighting. Sometimes they feel like their sisters do not see eye to eye. Well husbands and wives are the same thing. We tell them that we are best friends. My dh and I are best friends, but there are times we just get on each others nerves, and we just argue.

In the end, you just have to realize that movies are just someones unrealistic dream. Someone had to come up with the storyline.

I know I will get some flack for my opinion on this subject, but I think Romance Novels (if not all of them, then at least the vast majority of them) are not only bad, but basically sinful. They pretty much always involve nothing but lust and are essentially pornography in word form, made for women. I would be very upset if my girlfriend read them and I think as Catholics we should have higher standards than such trash (i know that’s harsh, but it’s how I feel).

You are basing your opinion on just one genre of romance, and that’s not fair at all.

It’s like saying that all men’s magazines are sinful because Playboy is sinful. Not true! Lots of men’s magazines are wholesome and useful. My husband and son-in-law like Make Magazine. It’s not about making out, it’s about the home workshop and various projects for the do-it-yourselfer.

There are a lot of authors who write romance that is completely free of lust. In another thread in the Family Life Section of this board, I mentioned Victoria Holt (RIP). Her novels have great plotlines, and the romance goes no further than a kiss. I highly recommend this author.

There are also dozens of Christian authors (in the Protestant bookstores, not in the Catholic bookstores) who write squeaky clean romance novels. I personally find them too unrealistic, since sometimes the married people don’t kiss or have sex. I also think a lot of the dialogue is completely unrealistic. But if you are looking for a nice romantic read, these novels are pleasant for women.

Eugenia Price is a Christian author who has written excellent romances that are critically-acclaimed.

And there are different lines of Harlequin Romances, and several of those lines are completely free of any type of sex.

Many of the older romance novels are free of sex (dig into the Used Book stores and garage sales).

However, I think that sometimes people are fooled into thinking the classics are sex-free when in reality, the sex is more subtle in the novel.

Even the great novel, Little Women, is chock-full of romance! It’s about four girls, after all! Louisa May Alcott herself jokes with the reader in the novel (or is it in Little Men?) about readers who want more “lovering” in the story!

A lot of the Gothic romances by authors like Marion Ross (a man) are completely lust-free as well. The emphasis is more on the mystery and the brooding surroundings of the old mansion and its inscrutable master!

It is best to avoid hyperbole, as it creates doubt about a person’s credibility.

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