Lately, some of my colleagues have bemoaned the lack of romance in popular culture and the decline of the beloved romantic comedy, which miraculously managed to capture the essence of love, loss and happily-ever-after in less than two hours.
“After a million movies and a thousand love songs, the romance once abundant in pop culture seems to have just stopped,” Times columnist Chris Erskine wrote.
And my colleague Alexandra Le Tellier wrote about how RomComs “are escapist fantasies full of optimism and hope,” and we need “more love stories and happily-ever-afters to rouse our sense of optimism.”
There’s another, scientific reason for Hollywood to bring back the RomCom: Watching such a movie with your partner and talking about it can actually strengthen your relationship.
In fact, viewing and discussing about five sappy flicks a month can be as effective as more intensive couples therapy, according to Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study.
“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate,” Rogge said. “You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years — that is awesome.”
The couples in the study were given a list of 47 movies with intimate relationships as a major theme, along with some discussion questions to go along with the pictures. (Which might explain why the couples’ post-movie talks were more fruitful than, say, a debate over whether Jennifer Garner is hot.)
So there you have it. Scientific proof that RomComs are good for society. Yet another reason for Hollywood to roll out the next generation of “Roman Holiday,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
(If you and your partner want to give Rogge’s therapy-by-movie research a try, the list of movies and discussion questions are available here.)