The holidays should be magical — I mean magical. The next two months must be wishing-on-airplanes-as-shooting-stars magical. It will be the adventure-exists-and-your-boyfriend-is-a-prince-and-everything-at-the-mall-is-90-percent-off kind of magical. You know, that magic of something so deliciously unrealistic that it could only have been created by — you guessed it — Hollywood.
Ask any moviegoer: There’s no doubt that films have a way of romanticizing every facet of life — the good, the bad, the awkward, the surprisingly moist and the downright tragic (How could anyone never, ever, ever want to get back together with Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Zooey Deschanel, you Scrooge). Movies transform our milestones and mistakes into meaning-of-life moments, plotting the concise climax of our lives with the simple crescendo of some Oscar-worthy score. They paint our lazy evenings with one of their fancy filters, and before you know it, life seems a little bleak since that fervent sepia-toned fire was snuffed from your heart by that thing we call “reality.”
The movie script has become a model to which audiences — OK, maybe just me — strive to conform: Give me snowfall at dusk, probably on a hill somewhere. Whatever — all that matters is that it’s picturesque, and my piggies haven’t fled all the way home (ahem, hypothermia). Give me coils of Christmas lights, perfectly timed to illuminate the walkway to a wreathed front door just as our numb noses nearly touch (oh, Joseph). Then cut to a scene of my bedridden self scribbling in a journal, chewing the pen cap as, lost in thought, I reflect on every moment that’s contributed to the cozy climax of my past 96 minutes.
The reflection is a must; how else could I frame my mini-movie in a way so that all will understand the gratitude I feel for those early trials and tribulations? How else will I conjure a quote that’ll serve as the inspiration for future generations of Tumblr re-blogs? (You bet your ass we were infinite!)
C’mon, just give me one of those moments. All that I ask is, for Coppola’s sake, bless me with the opportunity to call my man a “bird,” and to offer him a life in mutual avian harmony (“If you’re a bird” … You get it).
The point is that I, as well as you, know that films tend to romanticize life — and who’s complaining? They glorify violence and drunken nights out, and lend themselves easily to the lines of your inner monologue as you make meaning of that morning in your ex’s bed. According to Hollywood, our existence is a wondrous jumble of horizons and heartbreaks, daily routines and all the beauty in between. Oh, and it’s also dangerously unrealistic. But, heck, ain’t that what life’s all about?
Probably not. Yet, I’ve escaped so far into the realm of coming-of-age victories and totally, definitely necessary epilogues — lived vicariously through many a pubescent wizard — that I suffer from Post-Cinematic Romantic Disorder.
It has yet to be considered for inclusion in the American Psychological Association’s DSM-5 (or IMDB, for that matter), so stop asking.
As a devoted cinephile living with the disorder, I must admit that my episodes vary in length — a couple hours at least, but never longer than a James Cameron film (i.e. I fit on to one VHS tape. “Titanic” fans rejoice!). If nothing else, I can assure you that I am entirely attuned to reality: I hate grand romantic gestures, I accept that an Italian popstar will never mistake me for Lizzie McGuire’s brunette doppelganger and the mortality of golden retrievers springs only brief tears from my eyes.
Instead, the effect of PCRD is of another sort, one that causes a film columnist to indulge in long-winded, extravagant sentences that fit better onto the pages of an unpublished memoir, and in moral of the story-esque endings because — helloooo — nothing is better than a perfectly packaged tale of realization. At least, that’s what hours at the movie theater have taught me. Understand where I’m going with this?
Everything needs to have meaning; everything needs a point; everything needs a conclusion, a value and a lesson learned. A walk around the block shouldn’t be a walk around the block; it’s a metaphor for this, an opportunity for that and (Quick, breathe it in! Write it down!) somehow it’s significant. If not, this bit of your life is now flung in to a growing heap on the cutting room floor. But, of course, that’s just what Hollywood tells me.
PCRD victims, we’re the ones wrenching-yanking-ripping our memories and experiences for shreds of significance. We’re going to magnify the meaning of your glances and set them to slow motion. We’ll resent your “crazy” accusations because — Hey! — it’s not our fault that you don’t appreciate life like us!
Or, y’know, something like that.
The magic of movies is no different than the tricks most audiences are accustomed to: It’s alluring and dramatic, but, in reality, just an illusion. Caught between the skeptics and believers are people like me, and we — those crazy romantics with their fanciful ideals — we’re just trying to make a little magic ourselves.