Romantic comedies and that thing called love

“The past is prologue”  — Shakespeare

IF you’re a woman who believes in secret in such things as love-at-first sight and happily-ever-afters, TAKE HEART.  Even during this cynical, jaded Age of Information when nothing seems sacred or mysterious any more, there are still countless women (and maybe some men) the world over just like you, who believe in the magic and mystery spun by that ancient, invisible force called LOVE.

It is written in our DNA. So don’t fight it. It’s just that modern women (and some men) probably won’t admit being romantic in public, for fear of ridicule. They will say,  “Bah, humbug!” with a straight face and then watch every romantic comedy on the sly.

That is probably why the Hallmark Channel is at the forefront of this storytelling genre. Some have cheesy, predictable plotlines developed in about an hour and twenty-two minutes viewing time.

Women are a captive audience and these women, in turn, drag their partners, more than likely, kicking and screaming because they would rather watch violent movies oozing with blood and gore. Yeah, yeah. Talk about women coming from Venus and men, from Mars. That’s what makes the chemical attraction between straight genders so compelling and fascinating — repelling and binding at the same time.

Deep within most women, despite all that they’ve seen and been through, some, despite being scarred beyond belief by past toxic liaisons, if they don’t let bitterness and acrimony permeate their hearts, that thing called LOVE, still rules and does so mightily.

Romantic comedies churned out fairly regularly from the Hollywood story factory seem to come from a well-worn template, copy-fitted in about 90 minutes of predictability. After a while, they taste like prepackaged burgers, food enough for the starving romantic soul, but hardly satisfying.

After you have seen a few, you can very well interchange the characters and the plots and subplots like pieces of Lego.  It’s a formula that keeps on giving: girl meets boy; a delicious attraction sizzles; a situation sets up a series of conflicting, seemingly complicated twists and turns made more tenuous by a third opposing character, just like Bluto, in the Popeye, Olive Oyl triangle.

There is always that horrible antagonist that prevents the girl and the guy from coming together. The couple almost gives up trying but then an unexpected twist happens, some deus ex machina, a manipulation by the love god, that resolves the conflict and zaps away all obstacles e.g. a can of spinach that rolls from nowhere, that energizes Popeye to pummel Bluto; guy gets girl or whoever is doing the hot pursuit; and finally, the way is then made clear for the de riguer wedding scene.  Sigh. THE END.

Disney has pretty much scoured the bottom of the barrel in spinning out modern versions of animated stories from ages past. In medieval times, when marriage, the nunnery or spinsterhood were the choices that were available, most young girls dreamt about that rich, dashing knight riding on a horse, that would slay the dragon, overcome overwhelming forces, sweep them off their feet, ride out into the sunset and live happily ever after. For a few centuries, that was how it was.

But we all know, real life tells far different stories. The fairy tales turn out to be more like Gothic novels. Girl and guy don’t always end up happy. The depressing d’s descend on every life: divorce, deceit, despair, discouragement, disillusionment, darkness and death. And we’re left disappointed.

But for all that, hope springs eternal in the human heart and keeps the romcom writers busy. We have this need to believe even if we begin to view with a jaded eye that the concept of happily-ever-after is just a myth, long after the harsh facts of reality beat us into submission in a stare-down. Slowly, warily, we learn to separate fact from fiction.

Our world has changed from the simple to the utterly complicated present times. We now live with ubiquitous social networks available to our fingers where we can engage electronically in our pajamas and unmade beds, engage with one another instead of what used to be face-to-face interpersonal relationships when we need to be right where we need to be to make our case.

We facebook and twitter all day long electronically creating, maintaining or killing off disposable internet relationships, that can defy space and time constraints, that can either bloom and thrive or take shallow roots and die in an instant.  It doesn’t really matter. The next thing is just a click away.

It remains to be seen what will come out of this relatively new phenomenon that is rewriting how this generation and the succeeding ones will find their mates that are right for them. There is no precedent, no formulas, no template, no books to copy from.

The young ones may have to muddle through, make mistakes and come up with a new set of rules to write brand new stories to fire up and light their imaginations while holding steadfast in the belief written in “Desiderata” that despite  “…all aridity, love, is as perennial as the grass …”

Something happened in the middle of the last century to cause some kind of imbalance. Women became liberated from their traditional role after WWII. They joined the work force and learned to be independent. The roles of genders, and those in-between, are no longer as clear-cut as they once were. With post-war prosperity and abundance, came opportunity for women who decided from a wide range of choices that included college, career, family and the chance to be financially independent.

This is not to say that the past was better, only that it was different and maybe, just a tad easier to figure out. The present times pose dilemmas that leave us scratching our heads. The rules of engagement between men and women need to be rewritten.

Romantic comedies often glorify the attraction of opposites. But it must be made clear in the interest of equal time, that the attraction of opposites is only one half of a truism. There’s a serious caveat emptor for all young men and women out there looking for a lifetime mate and seeking guidance from a higher power on how to best proceed. Here it is.

Although opposites do indeed attract, it is the likes that stay together. The possibility of longer, happier lives exists in such a union. In an increasingly unstable, disintegrating world such as ours, such unions of like minds, bodies and spirits make a whole lot of difference.

However, NEVER discount the power of chemistry. It is a real force wired into each one that draws one to the other. Deal with it. But in the end, it is the little things that you may have to look for to muddle through the choices and get past appearances.

If you are a young woman, see how he treats his mother, his sisters and all the women in his family. If he shows kindness and is respectful of them, chances are, he will be kind to you and respect you as well. The same is true of young men. Look at how your intended treats her dad and all the men in the family. Look for kindness and generosity of spirit above all, old-fashioned traits that wear well.

There are clear indicators and there are red flags. Watch for them. Do not let love or the stirrings of lust blind you totally.  If faith and religion, commitment and fidelity are both important to you, the likelihood is there that these core beliefs will be a bond that will hold you in tough times.  It may seem funny to you but the parents of your intended are more than likely a preview of how your fiancé or fiancée will turn out to be 2 or 3 decades from now.

The past, as Shakespeare once said, is prologue.  Take heed.

There will be exceptions of course, but the mango does not fall far from the tree. You can prevent heartache by a balanced mix of heart and mind when choosing the love of your life. Sometimes, the heart is recalcitrant and makes a choice for you but know that a humble, grateful heart who asks for guidance particularly in the all too important decision of choosing a lifetime mate, in sincere, constant prayer that assaults heaven will not be spurned. If this is important to you and it should be, get down on your knees and beg for this grace.

Even the queen of romantic comedies, Sandra Bullock, the smart, sassy one who always made the right choices in her career but had an adventurous streak about her (and a flawed thinking cap when it came to matters of love), thinking she can tame a bad boy or make a tiger change his stripes in the name of love, bought into the “opposites attract” half of a truism and got blindsided by a disastrous marriage with someone who was totally different from her in every way.

Time heals all wounds. But do take heart. Time also wounds all heels.

Since God gave us free will, we are able to write parts of our own stories. If we were all writers, we have in front of us, a tabula rasa, a blank page, a cursor at the ready, steadily flashing, patiently waiting for your stories to spill, the remanufactured, recycled or better yet, the brand new, original stories of romantic comedies that beg to be written.

The world, I am sure, would like to hear about yours.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail

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