From Fiction to Reality: How Romance Films Are Misleading You About Love and Success

Serendipity is one of my all-time favorite romance films. The story, acting, directing, and pace is great. Everything that the crappy Netflix Original romance films or latest Christmance rom-com get wrong, this film gets right.

I first discovered Serendipity when I was a little kid flipping through channels on TV. I sat through a bunch of commercials to catch bits and pieces of the film, and I didn’t watch the whole thing because my family pulled me away.

I was finally able to watch the whole film from start to finish as an adult, and it was magnificent. It was just as amazing as I remembered. The story follows two people who meet in New York City. There’s immediate attraction yet they are both already in a relationship. The two of them talk about the magic of fate, destiny, and serendipity. The woman doesn’t claim that everything is already pre-determined and that there’s no point to choices. Instead, she says that the universe leaves us clues to steer us in a direction towards where we should or want to be. It’s up to us to interpret these clues like tea leaves and get us there.

They play a little game where each of them write their contact info on an object: a dollar bill and an used book. Then, they gives these objects “back into the world” and if they’re meant to be, they’ll find these objects and each other again. The man is unsurprisingly shocked and skeptical about this idea, insisting on just getting her contact info now. But she is sure about this idea, and they part ways.

Fast forward a few years, the woman has become more pragmatic and given up on this magic serendipity idea. And that’s where the story really starts to get fun. Both of them take one last chance to find each other, going on a semi-crazy adventure to try one last time before they both get married. You get to see a lot of amazing, fun scenes where they go so close to meeting each other. They bump into people that know each other. They bump into objects or go to the same places, just a few seconds apart. And when all feels lost and they give up, those objects come back into both of their lives. I can tell the audience would be on the edge of their seat each time it happens, yelling in exasperation each time they barely miss each other.

The ending is the most magical, fulfilling thing as they let go of trying to control it all and let fate do its thing. There’s a tearful, magical moment as they bump into each other at the ice rink place they had their first “date.” The moving ends with a fast forward to their wedding anniversary; they are happily married and content.

The actors Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack play these roles to perfection. Their mannerisms are just so lovable, down-to-earth, and a perfect fit. You can’t help falling in love and rooting for both of them. I instantly became a huge fan of both of them. I couldn’t resist the longing and thought that it would be so nice to bump into and date a cute British girl like Kate Beckinsale myself.

Romance films and TV have long been a popular form of entertainment, but have you ever stopped to consider the impact they have on your ability to succeed in the real world?

While romance films can provide a brief, fun, idealistic escape from reality (which is why they sell), they ultimately promote an unrealistic view of love and relationships. The idea of a perfect partner who will magically solve all of your problems coming into your life without any effort is a harmful myth perpetuated by these films. Serendipity paints this idea of a magical fate of the universe sending some very clear signs to take you to a happily ever after (For example, the used book the man was looking for ended up being given to him by his fiance as a wedding gift). In reality, things aren’t that magical. Not everyone has a happy ending. People get divorces. People never marry. People starve to die, get terminal illness, or die in war. Most women will flock to the top 1% or 10% or 60% of men, more than they can handle, and the bottom will be left in scarcity; if you’re in that bottom percent, no Kate Beckinsale character will magically come into your life; you have a better chance by starting to hit the gym consistently and getting a better career.

When you look at the lives of these two actors in the real world. Kate had an eight-year relationship while filming Serendipity. She broke up, married someone else for a decade, and then got a divorce a couple years ago. John is in his mid-50s now, and he never married. When asked why, he said he doesn’t want to do what society tells him to.

They’re not happily ever afters that you would imagine from the film, yet I would argue they still found a level of happiness in their own way. John seems to be living his romantic life how he feels fit, which is outside the traditions of societal marriage. And Kate had two strong relationships and a child. It just so happens that those relationships didn’t last forever like in the fairy tales. They ran their course. And I believe she is still good friends with at least one of her exes. One can argue she could’ve had a longer relationship if she chose better yet studies find that we’re often misinformed about what we think leads to a lasting marriage. That’s information one has to discover and use (I highly recommend John Gottman‘s work).

By being aware of the myths perpetuated by these films, we can take control of our own lives and pursue real success. When we expect our partners to magically come into our lives with no work and be perfect and fulfill all of our needs, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure. There’s that famous saying that you should be happy on your own rather than try to seek a partner to fill some hole in you. A woman doesn’t want to be all that you are. She would rather be an add-on to an already happy, amazing, interesting life.

On rare occasion, I’ll watch one of these romance films or TV scenes when I’m chilling or it’s Christmas. And if it’s done well, I find myself longing for something so amazing and picturesque afterwards for a few hours or days. Just like with Serendipity, I remembered I was longing for romance with someone upbeat and awesome as Rose in the Dr. Who TV series back when I was watching the show in college.

Some of that longing is perfectly fine. Some would argue it’s healthy to long for a committed relationship with someone who has a great personality, look, and that you get along with. You just don’t want to take it the wrong way by letting other picturesque ideals of the story capture your expectations or hold you for too long because that’s when it gets dangerous.

These entertainment businesses cast the best-looking people. Kate is a knock-out. And we’re not always going to end up with someone who looks like Kate given our market value in the real world. And we have to know that’s okay and that you’ll still be happy even if she’s not a supermodel in terms of looks rather than hold onto some crazy expectations of things in the real world or else, things won’t pan out that way and you’ll get frustrated or lash out or sad. Similarly, some moves in the film won’t work in real life. 9 times out of 10, a woman is not going to entertain you and ice skate around with you, like in the film, when you both are already in a relationship and just met off a chance encounter in a department store in NYC. Getting too romantic too soon can code as desperate or needy instead of romantic like the films, and that behavior will repel women. You may not be as smooth or charismatic yet at John Cusack, so your mannerisms may also turn people off rather than attract them.

The best course of action is to put your best foot forward. Continue to hone and improve your skills in the real world. Learn what works in the real world and how that’s different from idealistic films. Find contentment and happiness on your own. Build an interesting, fulfilling life. Don’t feel like you are in scarcity or dependence on a partner to fulfill you. And have healthy expectations on what you can get right now; realize that’s fine even if it’s not perfect. Put in the work to meet and get the people you want. Let it flow and let it go in moments because you can’t control everything about your future.

Perhaps, you disagree and you think you can shoot for the moon, and get some incredible British dynamite like in the film. Go for it. The market will tell you if that’s true right now. And if not, maybe you still can. Maybe you can continue to increase what you have to offer and in time, maybe ten years, it does happen. You never know. Make your dreams come true. Just remember that there’s not just one soulmate for each of us. There’s billions of people on earth, and we won’t have time to meet 99% of them. And there’s so many of them who have similar enough personalities, values, and things to offer that there’s more than one person that’s a fit for us. Don’t rely on fate or fixate on one person. And don’t feel like you need to get this one perfect person with this one high standard of value to be happy. You don’t. You can thrive and find happiness right now.

At the same time, perhaps, there’s some mysticism or magical truth to bits of the film that we should consider. When you aren’t feverishly looking or trying to control the future, when you are happy and enjoying your life, sometimes, the person you’re looking for shows up. Many people have claimed that you find what you’re looking for when you least expect it.

There’s a good amount of followers of the whole Law of Attraction idea. And part of it is knowing and letting in what you want. Feeling as if you already have it. And then, letting the universe do your thing. Perhaps, you still have to work towards it. You can’t just sit on your butt all day. But there is a certain level of letting go at some point. Things may not happen how you think, but you’ll get there. Sometimes, letting go is what you have to do to get rid of the all the anxiety and negativity holding you back. Sometimes, you realize there’s nothing you can do further to control things; you’re already spinning your wheels as much as you can but you know you’re already caught in the strong currents of a river and you’re going to fall down a waterfall. That’s a moment when you just have to let go and rid yourself of negative emotions, enjoy the ride, and know where the universe will take you.

And a waterfall might not be the best metaphor since that implies that you’ll end somewhere unfortunate or hurt. Maybe there’s a safe landing with an even more beautiful scenic view at the bottom of the waterfall, and you just don’t know it.

So, let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree. Any advice you would have for our community for anyone struggling with a similar thing? We would love to hear your life experience, stories, and tips.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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