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Keep the Hollywood Out of Your Holidays

By Erika Ettin


It’s that time of year again, when you turn on the TV and you’re inundated with holiday cheer in the form of “The Santa Clause,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” and of course, “A Christmas Story” on 24-hour loop.

This is the season to be jolly, and as all these movies would have you think, it is also the season for unbridled romance. I’d bet every one of the Hanukkah latkes I’ve eaten so far that you can’t name a single holiday movie that doesn’t include at least one romantic subplot or end in blissful family accord.

During this time of year, we are hit square in the face by what I like to call the “Holiday Trifecta”: the near constant presence of friends and family, the abundance of time off to ponder and reflect on our lives, and the jovial spirit of the season. This combination often results in some big relationship revelations, which is evident in the number of engagements we see flashing across social media in the time between Thanksgiving and the Ball Drop in Times Square.

At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, however, the problem with many of these holiday movies is that they can shape our expectation of what love is supposed to look like. I’ll be the first to admit that the impact of these films is mostly benevolent — they inspire us with charitable actions, engender gratitude and love toward others, and cause us to remember what is really important during a period of rampant commercialism. However, it’s not a big leap to watch all these happy endings in film and then determine that this is how our relationships with our loved ones should be, despite the plausibility or implausibility of the scenarios on screen.

A perfect example of this is Bryan Bedford’s proposal to Susan Walker in “Miracle on 34th Street”. After being coldly and rudely rebuffed, Bedford sits on a bench when Kris Kringle happens along and engages him in a consoling chat. Surprisingly, Bedford doesn’t even seem particularly angry or morose, and actually gives Kringle the ring. Then, through the magical power of “Santa Claus,” he and Susan are reunited on Christmas Eve in a church, where the ring magically appears, they’re suddenly reconciled, and they get married on the spot — no questions asked.

I shouldn’t have to tell you how absurd this is… but I’m going to anyway. First of all, who would just give away an engagement ring rather than return it to the store? I wish I had the kind of cash where I could just go tossing away diamonds! Secondly, even after a harsh dismissal and being stepped on essentially the entire length of the film, Bryan has absolutely no qualms about marrying Susan immediately. I might have started with the question, “Umm, can we talk about last night, please?”

hollywood and proposals

Or what about that scene in “When Harry Met Sally”, when Billy Crystal comes running into the New Year’s Eve party and confesses his love to Meg Ryan? Even when she counters that he’s just lonely and that he can’t expect his profession of love to suddenly make it all right, he starts rattling off all the things he loves about her. That’s when he spouts the famous line, “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Of course she caves, they make up, kiss, and get married three months later.

While I don’t think that most viewers would agree that this is really how things go, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this type of scenario inspires us to believe that everything will work out in the end, even if our relationship isn’t particularly healthy or fair. Not to mention that it completely reinforces the construed romanticism of holiday engagements.

I’ll leave you with this: it’s important to remember that holiday movies are just that — movies.

And those love-struck protagonists? They’re paid actors, with their own sets of real-world problems and relationship troubles. While it may be tempting to compare a fictional romance with your own situation, you (and your partner) will be happier if you put your energy into creating your own, unique storyline. One of the best ways you can do this is by accepting that person for who they are, someone with his or her own quirks and idiosyncrasies who isn’t movie-star perfect but just happens to be the perfect fit for you. Keep this in mind and your relationship will be strong enough to endure, no matter the season.

As for me, this year you’ll find me on my couch with a mug of hot cocoa and tuning into “Love Actually,” which is a much more realistic portrayal of love, actually.

Looking for some more dating tips for the holiday season? Have no fear; they’re right here!

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