Not too long ago, I was hit with the flu, and naturally while fallen ill my IQ dropped significantly. After all, I was constantly drugged by medication. Unable to read anything of depth or go out as much, I found myself picking up a novel from my bookshelves which I had ignored for some time. The novel was a romance paperback, a genre I wouldn’t voluntarily read had I been feeling happy and healthy. But the times commanded something sweet, and simple, so I started reading through its pages. As sick as I was at the time, I still found myself cringing and even laughing at the story’s predictability.
As is the case in all romance novels, the protagonist of this one found herself alone unexpectedly. She was stranded in Paris after her boyfriend decided not to show up for the romantic weekend they had planned together. She contemplated going home, but as is the case in all romance novels or movies for that matter, she stayed anyway. Feeling lonely, she went to a cafe and as is the case in all romance novels and movies, she happened to go to the one cafe in Paris that had an amazing looking waiter in it. She was a high powered executive, so she couldn’t possibly fall in love with a waiter. So, as all these stories are crafted, this was not just any waiter he was a deep thinker who was also a struggling writer.
Now to solve the issue of availability, this waiter was also a tortured soul who had just broken up with a girlfriend because she didn’t believe in him and the girl in the cafe was also a tortured soul who had just been dumped by her boyfriend who left her with a shattered self esteem. Naturally, they fell in love and lived happily ever after.
At some point during this story I found myself hooked to this very predictable plot, although I could tell from page 20 what would happen in the end. I realized that I was enjoying the read, just in the same way that I enjoy watching movies in which I know that things miraculously work out in the end. I knew in the back of my mind that this story was as far from reality as it could possibly be.
I knew very well that if a woman in real life was stranded in Paris she is required to dust herself off, move on and enjoy her weekend alone like a gown up. I also knew that most waiters are waiters, and if this woman were to fall in love with a waiter all the power to her. This would still be a great story about abolishing class prejudice but he would not be a writer, a struggling artist, or a closeted philosopher.
The bigger possibility is that she won’t fall in love with anyone at all. She could discover that she is perfectly fine on her own and in that case good for her once again. She could also stay in her room, because she is afraid to go out alone and her weekend could be spent crying over how she trusted a guy who just stood her up. These are all more realistic takes on what would happen if a boyfriend didn’t show up for a romantic weekend but chick flicks tell these stories differently.
In the case of all “Chick Flicks” an awful situation is suddenly turned around. A woman on a plane sits next to a perfect guy, they fall in love and live happily ever after, while we all know that in real life, a woman traveling alone would most probably end up sitting next to the family with the crying baby, or the man who snores, or in my case, the guy who had to take off his slippers and clip his toe nails next to me the minute they removed the seat belt sign (True story). At best, in my travels, I end up sitting next someone who is sleeping for the whole flight and given my luck I am thankful for that too.
In a romance novel a guy sitting in an airport spots a girl he finds intriguing so he talk to her and they exchange numbers. They then carry on a long distance relationship, and then they realize they can’t be apart so they give up everything to be together and they live happily ever after. What are the possibilities of that happening in real life? I can tell you that the possibilities are close to none. In real life a guy sitting in the airport for many hours would have his nose buried in his laptop and the intriguing girl would do the same so they won’t notice anything or anyone. I can tell you that in my last long layover, I spent my time chatting with friends here in Amman via Facebook messenger the whole time, so maybe my soul mate was doing the same so we didn’t meet.
A car crash in a romance novel or movie, would involve two strikingly attractive individuals who fight and then fall in love. In real life the crash would involve some angry guy who is throwing around so many profanities that the girl would not even want to know him after they work out the details of who is fixing what.
So now that we have established that love doesn’t happen in stranded cities, cart crashes, or planes, I can’t help but wonder what is the allure of the chick flick? Why are we as rational human beings attracted to this genre of literature when we know that it is so far from reality?
I guess these stories give us hope that good things can happen. Maybe these stories are our break from reality. They make us forget for a few hours that we actually have to work hard at a relationship to make it work. Maybe they paint a world where perfect men and women do exist, and they give us hope that we are perfect too. Maybe, they negate the level of understanding and compromise needed from both sides to deal with mood swings, life, problems, fights, and conflict in a relationship and they make us believe for a short while that love is synonymous with perfection. Maybe that is why we like such stories. They make us feel good, and feeling good is never a bad thing.
As long as we are not looking for this perfect universe where love is around the corner, I still think they are enjoyable for what they are. After all, a break from reality is always welcome even for the most cynical and realistic of us.
Not everything in life needs to have deep and profound effect on us, it is ok to be shallow at times.