The Telegraph has an article saying that romantic comedies can ruin relationships. Their proof is a study a team at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh did. They studied 40 top box office films released between 1995 and 2005, looking for patterns & common themes to establish common themes, and then asked hundreds of people to fill out a questionnaire to describe their beliefs and expectations when it came to relationships. The results?
The psychologists found that fans of films such as You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping, often fail to communicate with their partners effectively, with many holding the view that if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you needing to tell them.
In what certainly will not be news to feminists who have long argued that images in & portrayals by the media, the bottom line was, according to Dr Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist who led the research, “We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people’s minds.”
Years a go, a friend of mine in college did a presentation on this subject — but hers focused on even earlier , more formative years. Her project was called Damaged By Disney, and it explored the messages sent to children — especially girls — regarding relationships. She found the following themes:
- Women often have to change themselves to get the attention of a man &/or acquiesce to get him.
- Once a girl gets her guy, the story ends — as if all the work exists in ‘getting’ and there’s no effort needed after that.
- Love is presented as magical, two-dimensional, and unlikely as any of the other animated fantasy creatures used in the film.
I did and still do see her points; but why we’d choose to believe massages delivered by talking mice is beyond me. Similarly with films where humans play fictional characters — where Matthew McConaughey plays a character as real as talking mice — why do we opt to believe fantasy rather than reality, and then claim to be disappointed in the results?
In order to find out more the researchers have launched a much larger, international study on the effects of the media on relationships. At www.attachmentresearch.org, the researchers have a questionnaire about personality, relationships, and media consumption habits called the Media, Personality and Well-Being Study. Perhaps if enough of us participate we’ll get more clues.
And if such lofty altruistic goals do not seduce you, the folks behind the Media, Personality and Well-Being Study have sweetened the pot for you:
Starting in the week following completion of this initial set of questionnaires, you will be asked to complete a shorter set of questionnaires once a week for up to 24 weeks. Each set of these questionnaires takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and assesses your television viewing, mood, and feelings of well-being for that week.
You do not have to participate beyond completing the initial set of questionnaires. However, if you do decide to participate further in completing weekly questionnaires, for each weekly set you complete, you will be entered into a single cash drawing in which you will have the chance to win £500, held exclusively for participants in this study only. For example, if you complete all 24 weekly sets of questionnaires, you will be entered into the £500 draw 24 times.
So that ought to encourage you to participate in the Media, Personality and Well-Being Study.