Happy Endings & True Love Essay

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" `Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl'... organises, indeed

constitutes, the classical American cinema as a whole."

-Raymond Bellour (Bellour, 1974, 16)

"You don't want to be in love - you want to be in love in a movie."

-Becky, Sleepless in Seattle

"Reality and love are almost contradictory to me."

-Céline, Before Sunset

This essay is primarily concerned with the concept of the Hollywood romance happy ending. On a broader scale, it is also concerned with addressing the relationship of these endings to something which (I think it is fair to say) most believe Hollywood seldom attempts to do: depict romantic love `realistically'. Ask most if they consider, for example, Hollywood's current romantic comedies to be `realistic' representations of love and even those who enjoy the genre will be forced to answer - perhaps regretfully - in the negative. We all know that the typical `Dream Factory' image of love is, at least in this genre, idealistic wish-fulfilment. It is what has become popularly known as `movie love'.

What is it that makes the love in romantic comedies `movie love' and not `real love'? Essentially, all that separates the romantic comedy's depiction of romantic relationships from that of other genres is its guaranteed happy ending. As with the relationship between comedy and tragedy in general, the central plots of romantic melodrama and romantic comedy in fact often have very few dissimilarities other than tone (for example, the tropes of the undesirable existing / intended partner and the unfortunate miscommunication are absolute staples of both genres); their endings, however, remain polar opposites. I would argue that it is, in fact, only the happy ending (and the certainty on...

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...ed to be more associated with art than with real life. This stretches back to any number of naturalist novels or plays whose protagonists spend their days immersed in tales of romance only to find that real life does not live up to their ideals (Madame Bovary being an obvious example). It in fact goes back even further, at least to Shakespeare and his use of existing literary and classical romances as starting points for - and as references within - his own love stories (A Midsummer Night's Dream springs immediately to mind). I would go so far as to say that, perhaps more than any other narrative trope, a couple falling in love is universally evocative of the world of art and fiction, whether it be Shakespeare or Barbara Cartland.

And yet, of course, it does happen in the real world. How then does one represent this real love `realistically' in art, particularly in

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