We love Christmas movies as much as the next wide-eyed believer. But boy, do they peddle some dodgy myths about romance.
Even the gritter end of festive flicks (hello, Die Hard and Long Kiss Goodnight) find happiness in a finale kiss, as if Christmas were one long competition with coupledom the prize.
Not only that, but romance often just appears, with zero effort or investment from its protagonists. Blink in a Christmas movie, and you will find yourself on the receiving end of a mistletoe smooch – maybe even a marriage proposal, too.
They’re just a bit of fun, of course, but as author Mandy Len Catron points out in her book, How to Fall in Love with Anyone, such films are problematic and create false expectations. They fuel the fallacy that romance will complete you.
Here we use Catron’s approach to break down four major myths that are endemic in Christmas movies. Enjoy!
Myth no. 1: true love “just happens”
In Christmas movies, love just happens to people – like a joyous gift dropping out of the sky. Often they barely have to exchange a word for sparks to fly.
In Love Actually, Laura Linney uses mostly telepathic means to communicate feelings for the elusive Karl, while Colin Firth doesn’t even speak the same language as his amour of choice. Meanwhile, the one with the crush on Keira Knightley drops no more than a reluctant few nuggets of language her way.
Naturally, this glaring lack of chat doesn’t stop any of our star-crossed lovers from falling heavy and hard.
In real life, true love requires far more nuance. If it happens at all, it occurs on a complex cross-section of happenstance, availability, enthusiasm and mutual desire. And conversation is kinda key.
Sure, this version is more work than simply chasing down a lover in our pants during a gentle snowstorm (thanks, Bridget Jones’ Diary).
But it also gives us agency. Unlike the movies, real-life romance puts us back in the driving seat.
Rather than passively waiting for a meaningful glance to erupt into something more carnal, we can each decide what we want from relationships – and actively seek that out.
Myth no. 2: there’s only kind of true love
According to Christmas movie love, man and woman fall in love, perhaps have some sex and then live happily ever after.
There’s probably some dramatic apex in this story, too. In While You Were Sleeping, it’s Sandra Bullock falling for the wrong brother (spoiler alert). In Miracle on 34th Street, the mum is a bit of a workaholic – and cynical about Father Christmas to boot.
In A Long Kiss Goodnight, the love interest turns into a bloody-thirsty assassin for a while. But even here, love wins out in the end.
The problem is, it’s all a bit limiting. There’s no room in movies for the vast and evolving nature of true love.
In real life, love is diverse in all meanings of the word, but particularly in its essence. It might mean great sex. Or fantastic friendship. Or a shared sense of ambition and purpose. Rarely is it all these things at once.
True love is a shade of grey that’s constantly changing over time: and therein lies its appeal.
Myth no. 3: true love is a done deal
In Christmas movies, the story ends with a couple getting together, or back together (Bruce Willis and his missus in Die Hard).
Fate has intervened, and now the romance is firmly on track – thanks to the greater Forces That Be.
Love then presumably rolls out in a linear and non-problematic way.
We never revisit these couples a few years down the line. Otherwise, we might find a whole riot of issues bubbling beneath the surface.
Sure, we see a glimmer of martial tension emerge in Love Actually, when Alan Rickman does the dirty on Emma Thompson; but even here, it’s implied that they patch things up.
In reality, that magical first kiss or “I do” moment is just the beginning of the story. The real work of love – and the rewards – unfurls beyond that, in a multitude of small choices, heartbreaks, complications and bumps in the road.
Christmas movies provide us with the start-up pack on love, but zero guidance on the hard bit: how to make it last.
Myth no. 4: true love will complete you
The biggest culprit of all when it comes to Christmas movie myths is the notion that true love will, in some way, complete you.
In reality, our life problems don’t just fade away when we meet that perfect person.
As we know by now, the “right” person likely doesn’t exist anyway. Relationships are a never-ending task list of empathy, compromise and hard, hard work.
It’s not a case of finding someone you click with, and then waltzing off into the horizon together.
But even when a relationship is great, it’s no magic elixir. It won’t make you any less in debt, or less hungover or less resentful of your job/relatives/successful friends than you ever were.
Funny though, because Christmas movies would say that it does.
We nearly always see the main character a bit lost (Colin Firth, Love Actually), lacking in personal ambition (Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping), isolated (Edward Scissorhands), or borderline maniac (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) before love comes along and rescues them.
In real life, a partner won’t validate you. They can’t.
True love doesn’t bring growth or self-awareness…. only Hugh Grant as the prime minister can do that.
JOKES. Only you can.
Images: YouTube, Flash Pack, Shutterstock
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