The Problem with the Grand Gesture: How Hollywood fools us into wanting a crappy relationship.2comments
Romantic movies often end with the leading man, who spent the entire movie being a jackass, showing up at the last moment to win the leading woman back by making the Grand Gesture. Often this Grand Gesture involves an 11th hour appearance on a plane a la The Wedding Singer (Why is it always a plane? I love to travel but the plane ride is, in my opinion, the least romantic part of travel) or (even worse) a bus a la Love, And Other Drugs. The guy makes a big speech about how he’s been an idiot and how he can’t live without her. This makes for a dramatic end to a dramatic love story and since movies show us an idealized view of the world – actors with ideal bodies living in ideal houses wearing ideal clothes – it is easy to get fooled into thinking that the relationships portrayed in the movies are also ideal. And who doesn’t want what’s ideal, right? But here’s the thing about the movie Grand Gesture… you don’t see what happens next. You don’t see if anything changes for good. In real life, it usually doesn’t.
I have a number of problems with the Grand Gesture. The first problem is that in order to necessitate the Grand Gesture, the guy first has to have been a Zero; he doesn’t appreciate the woman in his life, he doesn’t prioritize her, he doesn’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated. So the Grand Gesture is the promise to start acting the way a proper love interest should act all along.
The second problem with the cinematic Grand Gesture is that is fools us into thinking that we are living the movie version of our own lives verses the actual version of our lives, and that when we date someone who doesn’t treat us well, eventually he will have the movie-worthy epiphany, perform the Grand Gesture and we’ll live happily ever after. This means that we put up with crappy behavior in subpar relationships waiting for the Grand Gesture, which may or may not come.
But let’s say it does come. Let’s say in your real life, your leading man finally realizes how fantastic you are, and ‘gets on the plane’. Perfect, right? Sadly, no.
Our lives don’t fade out at the kiss after the Grand Gesture… The final problem with the Grand Gesture is that, in real life, the type of guy who needs to make a Grand Gesture is also the type of guy who will continue to need to make Grand Gestures. He might behave like the best guy in the world immediately following a Grand Gesture but sooner or later (and usually sooner) he will slide back into his old ways. Chances are he’ll start behaving selfishly, and once again start to take you for granted. Once again things will get to the point that he’ll be just about to lose you, and then he’ll make another Grand Gesture to lure you back in again. And again and again.
The movies make us think that we want the guy who rushes out to the airport at the last minute, publically admitting his past failures and declaring his intentions to do better in the future. It plays into the whole ‘you make me want to be a better man’ crap. It makes us think that the true test of our worth is in our ability to help a man reach his potential, as though a real woman makes a guy become a real man. If we actually recognized our true worth, we would demand that we be treated well to begin with. This would make men be better men all on their own.
In reality, you shouldn’t fantasize about the guy who rushes to the airport at the last minute and forks over twelve credit cards to buy a plane ticket so that he can declare his love in front of a bunch of strangers. You should fantasize about the guy who was on the plane with you the whole time; the guy who was forward thinking enough to buy the ticket early, who let you pack a few things in his suitcase because you didn’t have enough room in yours… the guy who holds your coffee while you pee before getting on the plane because who wants to have to use those disgusting airplane toilets.
That guy might not make a good leading man in a romantic movie, but that’s the guy you really want to be your leading man real life.