Matt Lewis

Goodbye to romance: Are rom-coms worse than porn?

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

“I once loved a girl who almost loved me, but not as much as she loved John Cusack.” – Chuck Klosterman

Anyone who has seen the trailer for the new movie Don Jon knows that Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), really cares about his porn. Fewer know that his love interest, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), is likewise addicted to the sappy fairy tales we call romantic comedies.

I like the juxtaposition. Both things can be destructive. But while porn has a bad reputation, those who peddle unrealistic notions about love and marriage and relationships get a pass.

One wonders which of these fantasies have done the most damage to families.

In his 1973 book called The Denial of Death, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker explains why we developed this modern notion of romance — why we imagine that finding that special someone will magically make everything right in the world.

In short, he argues it’s because we no longer look to the Almighty for our personal fulfillment. Instead, “[m]odern man fulfills his urge to self expansion in the love object just as it was once fulfilled in God.”

We’re always looking for that perfect person whom (we think) will fill that gaping hole in our soul. We tell ourselves: “If I could just date/marry/whatever her, then everything would be perfect.”

When we find this person, we deify them. For a time.

And popular culture only reinforces this notion, via movies and music. Unlike porn, this fantasy isn’t discouraged by polite society, and is, in fact, often celebrated.

Sadly, the end result is a world full of people seeking fulfillment in other human beings who, being imperfect, eventually let them down.

Women are presumably stunned when we aren’t Hugh Grant or John Cusack — when our actions don’t match the romantic fantasies Hollywood sold them. So they leave us when we fail to meet their impossible expectations. Or, assuming we can keep up the charade, we get married and (gasp!) have kids. You don’t want that to be when reality sets in.

A better model is to become the purpose-driven men and women we are supposed to be, and then to find that perfect someone.

This, of course, isn’t as romantic. But it’s much more effective.

In any event, Don Jon just came out. And here’s a spoiler: When you have two little kids (as I do), going on movie dates is tough. So my wife and I haven’t seen it yet. But here’s hoping this rom-com dispels some of the myths perpetuated by all those other romantic comedies, to which we’re so addicted.