Why I Don’t Want ‘Hollywood Romance’

Hello, my little lightbulb!

I hope that you’re doing well and feeling confident today! I’m still waiting on my car and itching for a night drive, but my time will come eventually! I’m still managing to get out and about, it’s just a little trickier and takes a lot more organisation.

Rivington Reservoir, UK

There’s one journey in life where there is no requirement to drive a car and that is… our self-growth journey of course! As we continue our never-ending but ever-important mission, it’s important to take time out and assess.

Knowing what you want in life is essential if you want to be your authentic self. That awareness helps you to set (and manage to uphold) the right boundaries, as well as surround yourself with people who align and support your lifestyle and goals. Your priorities and preferences are inevitably going to change with time so reflecting consistently is a good shout. This post is about reflecting on your romantic goals, but it can also apply to platonic relationships as well – especially when we think about the expectations we might be bringing to those relationships. My romantic goals have shifted a lot since I was younger and I’m very glad they have.

When I was a teenager, I’d mosey downstairs on a Sunday afternoon, stick a mini-roll in the microwave for 10 seconds, and sit down with me mum and sister to watch a rom-com (because they knew that as soon as dad was home a nice horror/ sci-fi would be on – which I always preferred). Despite my preference for the mad and macabre, I’d sit and watch PS I Love You, A Cinderella Story, Twilight, Grease, Dirty Dancing, 10 Things I Hate About You, Notting Hill, The Wedding Singer, Mannequin, 27 Dresses, as well as every oldie Disney romance we had on video, then DVD, then BluRay, then Netflix/ Prime. While I did prefer horror and sci-fi (even though teen Jess wouldn’t admit it) I liked the rom-coms too.  My all-time favourite has to be 10 Things I Hate About You, because Kat Stratford is an absolute icon, deflecting the cheesy advances of cringey men with amazing one-liners in her hidden hunt for legitimate connection.

Kat Stratford was one of my earliest feminist influences! She taught me the importance of sticking to your guns rather than changing to impress other people, even if it seems ‘unattractive’

I loved seeing these quirky women stumble into situationships with guys who were crazy about them from the first glance. Or women who were completely uninterested in love and focusing on their studies or careers before a guy came along to convince them that, actually, there was something missing from their life. I loved the teenage awkwardness, the almost-kisses, the 2000s or earlier outfits, the mistimed backward glances, the irritated eye-roll that was most definitely an ‘I’m interested’ eye roll. There was a lot of fun to be had watching these films; I’d laugh and (eventually, as I got older) cried with the characters; got butterflies at the first kiss and when the love interest performed his essentially over-the-top declaration of love- boombox over the shoulder time!

Bella and Edward, Danny and Sandy, Marius and Cosette, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Rocky and Adrian… the westernised list of heteronormative romantic couples goes on until the end of time. 

In the years since being a teenager, I’ve had multiple experiences, relationships, and epiphanies that have moved me further and further away from the romance genre. I’m not saying that I never watch anything romantic – anyone who knows me personally will know my adoration of k-dramas. That said, having the opportunity to study the genre itself through different theoretical frameworks in uni has been a definite eye-opener. Now, I can still enjoy those kinds of films and series, without using them as a blueprint for my romantic relationship goals… and I’d really recommend you do the same!

There is plenty to be gained from these films; relationship goals, unfortunately, are not one of the things to be gained and the reasons are:

The necessary f**k up/ make up storyline

They meet, get closer, things look amazing, and then BAM a detrimental, trust-breaking error, usually committed by the guy. Maybe he cheats, freaks out and leaves, says something cruel, writes a defamatory article about his love interest, gets violent, or is super possessive. Whatever he does, it just has to happen; because without the colossal break-up how can we have the monumental make-up?

People make mistakes in real-life relationships, but they aren’t a rite of passage.

Applying this model to real-life relationships could have you anxiously awaiting a giant mistake to come from your partner, dramatising small issues to fit the mold and villainizing them without cause. What if your partner is healthy? What if they value you and are dedicated to building trust and healthy communication? You could be hindering a potentially positive relationship!

On the other hand, you could be romanticising a sh*thead.

If you meet someone and see their red flags as IOU make ups- you’re going to be disappointed. I can tell you from experience that no amount of flowers or gifts is worth it. Their cruel/ neglectful/ abusive act is not a necessary hiccup. It’s an unintentional gift – an opportunity to see a pattern of behaviour. Don’t wait for the ‘I’m sorry, let’s go to Bali’ part- see their actions for what they are, talk to people you trust, and keep yourself safe.

Calvin says you deserve the best, and she means it!

There’s one type of relationship

A serious issue with Hollywood Romance that I’ve become increasingly aware of is their tunnel-vision representation of relationships. Young, white, able-bodied, professional heterosexuals meet and fall in love. No one else. You see that enough times and you’d forget that there is an absolute ocean of partners and love stories out there.

Getting out there, meeting, and speaking with people from all walks of life will help to break the ideologies that come from subjecting yourself to a shallow narrative. Besides ladies, in the wise words of Florence Given, ‘maybe it’s a girl crush, or maybe you’re queer.’ Exploring different types of romance might help you to navigate your own sexuality and even if not, it can be nice to see a love story without putting on the ‘male gaze’ glasses.

Finding your missing piece

‘You complete me.’

‘I was lost before I met you.’

‘You are my better half.’

These are some of the brooding declarations of love you might hear whispered through smouldering lips and furrowed brows. Again, it sounds lovely, but the meaning is a big ol’ problem.

First things first, you don’t want to get into a relationship with someone who views themself as incomplete. Someone who is self-aware and consistently working on themselves, bloody lovely. But incomplete? No. You don’t need that kind of pressure and workload.

Secondly- you are missing absolutely nothing. Who you are is fantastic, even when it doesn’t feel it. You are entirely whole- full of your experiences, relationships, aspirations and fears. Viewing yourself as incomplete can lead to some pretty co-dependent relationships and a lot of validation needed from the other person.

The fantastic Shana Begum says, ‘you enter a relationship to give, not to take. You are both your own individual person, with your own dreams, likes, dislikes and desires’. A succesful relationship is only possible in a state of excess, not lack.

You are completely whole and are everything you need to have a fulfilling life – anything else is a bonus

Emotional labour as an unappreciated norm

Going back to our Hollywood Romance film, specifically the scene where they first meet. The guy’s likely to be rough around the edges, just waiting for that special lady to sort him out. My intelligent, wholesome, beautiful lady – you are not a sanding machine nor are you a pumice stone. You do not exist on this earth to smooth someone else’s rough edges.

When you do choose to lend emotional labour to your loved one, be sure that you’re doing it when you have the capacity, to a person who understands what emotional labour is and how much of a burden it can be for women. Be sure you are giving your emotional labour to someone who appreciates it, doesn’t take it as a given, and returns it to you equally.

If you don’t know much about emotional labour worry not- there are some resources at the end of this post to help you out!

When she says no – try harder

If you try hard enough, anything is possible, right? Wrong-o! At least, not when it comes to controlling other people.

Women are intelligent. They more than exceed the capacity to make their own choices and do not need to be convinced to give attention/ validation/ affection/ go on a date/ boost ego/ continue a relationship. I’m talking to you Rocky Balboa!

There is nothing more uncomfortable than seeing Sylvester Stallone barricade in and then press himself up against a visibly uncomfortable woman. What’s even more problematic is that the film shows it to be a success! Adrian loses the glasses (hurray for ridiculous beauty standards where vision comes second to appearance) and is cheering him on at his big fight!

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about relationships where both partners accept and believe the other person’s beliefs and respect their capability to decide what’s best for them.

You choose them over everyone else

Friends? Parents? A scholarship to go to a prestigious university? Your dream job in a big city? Individuality?


The man of your dreams!?

For your silver screen relationship to work, you have to be prepared to drop absolutely everything, including your sense of self, to be with your dream guy/gal. Load of sh*te. Nurture yourself, your friendships, and support systems, follow your career paths, and if your partner is meant to be they will support that if you’re willing to do the same for them.

If there are difficult relationships or decisions in your life, please don’t use your partner as a reason or excuse to avoid them. Remember the importance of accountability.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who is going to live with the decisions you make and the opportunities you do/don’t take. If you want to do something, if it’s going to grow you as a person, then do it- your partner will understand. If you don’t want to do something, that’s completely fine aswell, just be sure that it’s your own decision and if it is, don’t be throwing it at your partner down the line!

And they lived happily ever after or until death do us part

Hollywood Romance usually ends in a kiss – be it a teen, face-holding kiss in the rain, or a kiss at the altar followed by waving excessively from the back of a ‘Just Married’ car.

Or they end with a flying car… anyone else worked out this ending yet?

Call me a massive goth (I’d love it if you did to be honest) but I don’t buy much into the eternal love, one soulmate to rule them all relationship. It sounds morbid but hear me out.

I’ve done the whole ‘I’ll love you forever’ relationship and when those babies end…sheesh. Not only are you then grieving your past, but your hyper-imagined future too. Hollywood doesn’t show us past the happily-ever-after. What happens if The One changes and is no longer The One? How do you grieve someone who you have constructed your entire future around? Someone who you have morphed beyond recognition, over-exposed with rose-tinted filters, blurred with expectations and bleached to hide red flags? All just to try as hard as you can to force them into forever.

Accepting the present alongside an absolute cluelessness about the future is turning out to be the healthiest and most positive view of life I’ve held for a long time. I prefer now to accept the finite nature of life and everything in it, including relationships. I try to enjoy the relationships for what they are when they are a part of my life. And when things go wrong, if they can’t be sorted, instead of trying to change myself or the other person I’m prepared to let them go and align with other people instead. (There’s still a long way to go with this mindset but I’m dedicated to it!)

The most beautiful thing about people is their ability to change and accepting that change – even if it means accepting that your original relationship has gone- is insanely difficult but really rewarding too.

Confession: I still love this scene

As teenagers, we adored the makeup scenes: kissing in the rain after invalidating her feelings, boombox on the shoulders, stones at the window. As adults, we can realise how much deeper this relationship stuff goes and how we should be asking for more in our relationships. I’m pursuing the non-Hollywood relationship; it might be less flashy or fancy, but I know it’s going to be a lot more wholesome and a lot less detrimental.

Romantic love is not a universal thing. It isn’t mindreading obtained from norms and cliches. It’s clear communication, boundaries, honesty, and openness. It’s feeling comfortable enough to be your authentic self, including what that authentic self isn’t comfortable with. It’s cosy snuggles one day and ‘I need to girl-boss today, speak soon’ the next.  It’s opening up about traumas and the parts of yourself that are under renovation (not construction because you’re beautifully whole) – without the expectation of being ‘fixed’ by the other person. 

It’s something that you can tell other people about. If you’re hiding things that they’re saying or doing to you – that isn’t love, lightbulb. I know this from experience. You think you’re protecting them, you don’t want them to be judged on their ‘one mistake’ or to be judged yourself. If you’re protecting their self-image, please ask yourself, why do you need to protect it? Because if they respected and loved you, but more importantly themselves, they wouldn’t need their self-image or ego protecting. 

For me, healthy love is appreciation and independence; it’s finite and consistently restored; it’s something that ebbs and flows; that changes; that may leave, but also may stay.

If your previous relationships were a film, what film would they be?

Stay Positive.


Jess x


What is Emotional Labour? Very Well Mind

What is Emotional Labor? Feminism 101

For those long-term relationships… The Mental Load, Emma

The Male Gaze: What is it, and how does it impact women, A News Education

For more info on the male gaze, I’d recommend going straight to the source and reading Laura Mulvey’s paper!

Feature Image from Unsplash

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