My entertainment diet recently has consisted of a melange of films from across the continent. Amongst the popular film genres in Africa is romance because…well…everyone loves love so yes do the maths and see that it means I have been watching a slew of romantic dramedies. Now for the disclaimer; I am no expert when it comes to romance, relationships, and other related subjects. However, while these movies are mostly of excellent quality and engaging in that saccharine way that makes you think twice before actually admitting that you are enjoying them, their lessons mustn’t be taken too seriously. The discerning viewer must always realise that entertainment is what it is, entertainment and that following the formulae of these films to the tee may not land you your “one true love.” So, let’s break down their key lessons, shall we;
Feeling miserable and uninspired? You need…wait for it…a relationship
The storyline is simple, person x is sad because (fill in the blank) their previous relationship ended badly/they lost their job/ they lost someone close to them, and by the end of the movie they are happier because they found love. The South African films, Tell Me Sweet Something and Mr. Right Guy, good as they are, are true examples of this. The undeniable, indisputable truth is that relationships ought to make us better people but this is not always the case. Romance does not always get us out of our funk; it may sometimes pull us into an even deeper one. Not to mention the fact that embittered people are sometimes the most difficult to be around. Why not start the work of healing, and being the best person you can be while you are alone?
Look for love in one direction and you may find it in another
Whether it is When Love Happens whose wedding planner protagonist wants a wedding of her own, or Isoken which depicts a 34-year-old woman who has to deal with the pressure to get married from her parents, the fear of lifelong spinsterdom is a common theme in a lot of movies. The main aim of these films is to show that the right person will come in the manner you will least expect. Interestingly enough, they also convey the idea that the right person inadvertently comes when you are desperately searching in the wrong direction. Life is not always like that. You won’t always find what you are looking for if you start in the wrong place.
There is a bestie of the opposite sex who is always waiting in the wings, ready to profess his/her undying love
This one does actually happen in real life, and yes, some of the best marriages evolve out of friendships but, as the Kenyan film Disconnect so rightfully highlights, sometimes friends are meant to be nothing more than that. So, before you corner your friend into a relationship, realise that you may have not met your future partner yet.
It doesn’t matter what happens along the way; the end goal is to get married
To be fair no one has everything figured before they enter matrimony but the end does not justify the means. There are movie plots that would actually result in an unhealthy marriage if they were applied in real-life contexts. Take for instance the scene in the Nigerian movie, The Wedding Party, where the groom is almost tempted into a sexual encounter with his ex…on…his…wedding…day, or The Wedding Party 2 where the male protagonist accidentally proposes to his girlfriend. They all are married by the end of the movie but their next destination really should be the marriage counselor’s couch. If you want to stay with one person for the rest of your life, make sure you actually want to.
The goals of most romantic films are mostly the same. They entertain, they thrill and they make their audience want to fall in the love but they are often fantastical, serving their audience with a version of love that is sometimes devoid of all the challenges and complexities that define real-life relationships.