During one of the many banal conversations of the holiday visiting season, I remarked to an aunt that I wanted to see a five-year moratorium on romance plots in cinema.
“But,” she exclaimed, “romance is such an important part of movies!”
“Exactly,” I replied.
Depending on how well you know me, I may seem an unlikely crusader for the end of romance. I’m happily married, a bit of a romantic at heart. I’ve never had a bad breakup or any other encounter that would have ruined my opinion of the pursuit of love. But I also consume a lot of media, and over the years I’ve gotten extremely tired of the same plot, over and over.
Boy meets girl. Boy can’t date girl for X reason. Then, X reason is resolved, boy dates girl, credits roll. Rinse and repeat.
Despite the rich variety of human experience, we keep returning to this: the moment where two people, usually heterosexual and white, fall for each other. Moana and Rogue One, two recent releases, were praised because they made the unusual choice to not include romance in their storylines. It doesn’t seem like a story about a space rebellion would require romance to make it interesting, and thankfully the writers agreed.
However, so many stories either center on a romance plot, or shoehorn one in, because we’ve grown to expect it. Whether it’s relevant or not, we will see a longing look, a kiss, some hurried discussion of feelings shared or rejected. The romance plot often doesn’t even require buildup or plausibility because we expect it so much.
That’s why I’m proposing a five-year ban on romance in movies.
It’s not permanent. I believe that romance is a beautiful and compelling part of life, but we’ve got to figure out how to tell other stories.
It’s time to explore the complexities of friendship, of family, of group membership and patriotism and individual passions, with the same detail and enthusiasm that we have dedicated to romance. If we keep ourselves from the easy fallback of the romance plot, we challenge ourselves to tell new stories, to create variety, and to understand the emotion and drama of other aspects of human life.
Romance is an important part of my life, but it’s only one part of it. I know we can tell more interesting stories if we give up the crutch of emotional investment we know romance grants us. So let’s do it. Let’s ban romance.
For a few years, anyway.