The first time I watched the classic ’90s film “You’ve Got Mail” with one of my gal pals, I was shocked.
For years, I heard my girlfriends rave about the movie’s picturesque plot, dreamy bookstores, and darling main characters who eventually fall in love. After watching the film, however, I discovered that a movie that was marketed to me as a staple romantic drama was actually a twisted story of broken relationships and unchecked desires.
“You’ve Got Mail” glorifies emotional cheating. From the beginning of the film, characters Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox sneak around behind computer screens to get more online chatting time with each other. As much as I adore a good bookstore rivalry, the characters’ relationship with each other is quite literally built on lies.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, plenty of media outlets are suggesting movies that don’t just document infidelity but laud it. At the top of almost every list is “The Notebook,” a film that, while renowned, is centered on a relationship that characters repeatedly return to despite their commitments to others.
Other fan favorites that excuse disloyalty in the name of “true love” include “Me Before You,” “Titanic,” “Love, Actually,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Letters to Juliet,” and more. Even one of my once-favorite romantic comedies, “While You Were Sleeping,” depicts the beginning of a relationship that was based on falsehoods.
There’s also a long list of TV shows such as “Sex and The City,” “Friends,” and “The Office” that are also guilty of endorsing unfaithful behavior so the characters can supposedly find the love and happiness they think they deserve. But is love true if it’s built on lies?
The message at the end of these films and shows always seems to be the same: It doesn’t matter how you fell in love. It doesn’t matter whom you ditched to be with another person. In these types of stories, the end always seems to justify the means.
But does it? There are plenty of studies indicating that infidelity is not all it is chalked up to be. Cheating in any form, including emotional cheating, is one of the top reasons spouses file for divorce. It is bad for physical and mental health, can cause long-term psychological effects, wreck homes, leave children feeling betrayed and traumatized, and hurt work performance.
Overall, cheating is bad for people and bad for society. It hurts souls, destroys relationships, and leaves people feeling wounded.
A nation already struggling with rampant hookup culture, declining marriages, falling birth rates, and no baby booms in sight doesn’t need to encourage people to violate their relational commitments. It needs to encourage true love based on trust, loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness. It needs people to get married, start families, and raise them with moral values and religion that automatically decrease their chances of cheating in a relationship.
Despite these negative effects, disloyalty in relationships is constantly romanticized by Hollywood and others who have influence in cultural mediums such as movies and TV. Chances are, Hollywood won’t stop pumping out disgusting content that promotes immoral lifestyles. You, however, can stop engaging and endorsing that content by watching it.
When your spouse, boyfriend, or friends suggest a romantic-themed movie night in honor of Valentine’s Day, steer clear of the classic yet problematic films that can affect your thinking and actions in relationships.