So I just got back from Germany last week – a trip home that unfortunately involved about 22 hours in a plane. Most of those hours were spent in an awkward half-sleep fostering a sizeable collection of neck cramps. The rest were spent bingeing on movies.
On flights, I usually find myself watching one of three things: romantic comedies, Bollywood epics, or YA fantasy films… because these are things I enjoy, but also simply because my boyfriend point-blank refuses to watch them with me. Those hours of solitary viewing are a chance for an uninterrupted dose of romance, melodrama, and teenage heartbreak, without any judgemental eyes looking on.
The trouble is, when it comes to romantic comedies, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. Each time a somewhat promising one comes out, I remember good films I’ve seen in the past (e.g. Love Actually, Friends With Benefits, You’ve Got Mail) and feel like maybe I should go see it… but then I also remember the disappointing moment that inevitably plagues most romcoms, and signals the downward spiral to an ending that always leaves me cringing and trying to wipe the whole experience from my mind.
If you’ve ever watched a romantic comedy, you might be familiar with this moment: the film is nearing its conclusion, the guy and gal are about to get together, and there’s a tense, intimate, private scene where they nearly kiss or confess their love. Except they don’t, because they chicken out or somebody interrupts them or some other obstacle is thrown in front of them by the cruel story lord. You feel hard done by, but you don’t mind too much because it is, after all, a romantic comedy, and you know they’re going to get together in the end.
Then finally the love confession scene arrives… except this time it’s not a private tense moment. It’s a big, stagey scene in front of a crowd of people who look on while the confession is made over a score of dramatic music. Then the characters hurl themselves at one another and have a showy smooch while everyone cheers.
And personally, I always feel a bit hard done by. Not just because everything after this usually gets painfully cheesy, but because I wanted a private, romantic moment for the two characters, not a squirmy public declaration in front of every man and his dog.
Obviously not everyone has this response, otherwise the movies wouldn’t all be ending this way. It’s just something I personally can’t stand. To me these scenes are so stagey and fake, and completely devoid of sexual tension. Furthermore, why on earth do all the people watching care?
Paranormal and Fantasy Romance
Anyway, my particular dislike of moments like this got me to thinking about fantasy romance novels and movies, both of the paranormal and epic variety. It struck me that stories in these genres don’t usually involve a public declaration of love. If they do, it’s usually not in front of a crowd of smiling strangers. Instead, it’s in a moment of great mortal peril where the people crowding around are either friends sharing in the dire situation, or enemies trying to tear the lovers apart (e.g. Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone).
So if we all love to see characters declare their love in front of a crowd (except me), why don’t we see this more in fantasy romances?
Well, I thought I’d have a stab at a few possible reasons:
- Love in fantasy novels is often secret and forbidden… you’d hardly want to make your illicit affair with a vampire public knowledge.
- Romances in the fantasy genre tend to do away with the “comedy” element you get in a romantic comedy. They’re dark and brooding and full of tension, and there’s no room for a sugary “nawww” moment where everyone cheers the lovers on. (Perhaps the same could be said for normal non-comedic romances? Though I haven’t read enough of those to make any claims)
- Characters in paranormal romances are often teenagers… and somehow seeing teenagers declare their love in front of a crowd seems even more awkward than seeing adults do it.
- Fantasy romances tend to operate at a life-and-death level where there’s more at stake than just the relationship. Thus your climactic moment is less likely to involve a hero barging into a wedding right before the words “I do”, and more likely to involve a hero rescuing his beloved before she’s torn apart by demons… or maybe just saving everyone from being torn apart by demons.
- Maybe (just maybe!) the authors and readers of fantasy romances find public declaration of love scenes just as disappointing as I do…? Though that is probably just wishful thinking on my part.
Regardless of the reasons, I’m very glad fantasy books generally spare me the squirm-worthy public declarations of love. It means I enjoy them much more, and don’t have to try and erase the ending from my mind and replace it with a better one, like I do with most romantic comedies.
That said, there is one romantic comedy where I enjoyed the public love declaration scene… because it pretty much made fun of public love declaration scenes in general (spoiler alert: this gives away the final scene of the movie Friends With Benefits):
Though I’d say that’s the exception to the rule!
So am I alone? Does anyone else hate these scenes?