I’m not a movie person. I attribute this to a short attention span and my arrogant (but so far justifiable) cynicism that I’ll be able to guess the entire plotline within the first half hour of the film. So when my flatmates suggested watching Netflix’s Isn’t It Romantic?, I wasn’t massively keen. However, it sounded more entertaining than studying and I was intrigued by its promise to ridicule every rom-com since the 90s.
In the movie, Rebel Wilson plays an architect disenchanted with romance. Following a head injury, she wakes up inside a vomit-inducing rom com, where strangers break into song on the street and the city is constantly bathed in a soft glow. After a turbulent 90 minutes, she discovers (spoiler alert!) the ultimate modern answer to her romantic desires: she doesn’t need anyone to fall in love with her, except herself. Self-love is the sparkling solution that magically sends her back to her imperfect but preferred real life.
Now, I love satire as much as the next cynic, particularly when it relates to the realm of romance, and wholeheartedly agree that romantic love is often portrayed in an idealistic and ridiculous way: Boy meets girl and after a little bit of trouble, live happily ever after. Isn’t it Romantic? rightly ridicules the rom-coms we have been fed by Hollywood. However, as much as I agree that I don’t need a man to complete me, the idea that a little bit of self-love is the answer doesn’t quite cut it either. There’s something in me, in us all, that longs to be loved, and not purely by learning to love ourselves. There are different ways to go about trying to increase our self-love, which definitely have some good in them. Yet, we will never escape how deeply flawed we are and we know better than anyone else just how much. Self-love can all too easily lead to either inflated self-aggrandisement or scathing self-loathing. And no matter how ‘good’ we may become at it, I think there’s still something in each of us that longs to be loved by something or someone outside of ourselves; loved in spite of all the flaws we see in ourselves.
I didn’t always hate movies. There was a time, when I was a little girl, when I watched Sleeping Beauty nearly every day. Oh, how I dreamed of my own handsome prince! Even at that age, I had an innate longing to be pursued. Today, despite being a little more grown up, and a lot more cynical, I still do. When I feel for someone, I feel strong. When it doesn’t work out, the humiliation and pain I feel are deep and true. Loving myself more doesn’t make that all go away. It still hurts to know that that certain someone doesn’t care about me the way I had hoped they would.
Still, I know that even if they did love me back, they wouldn’t be able to love me as well as I’d like. We’d fight; there’d be pain and hardship, even in a relatively good relationship. That one love wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the longing that I’ve always had. I know, because I’ve spoken to people who even in loving, passionate and secure relationships know that it’s not enough. But there is a love that does satisfy, that allows me to feel loved, not because I am so lovely but because the perfect Lover has decided to love me. This releases me from both self-deprecating mind-sets and unrealistic romantic day-dreams.
The desire we have to be loved is not wrong. It’s not something that just sprung up in the last 50 years in the wake of terrible rom coms, it has been there since the dawn of time. And, I would argue, it was put there by someone, on purpose. Someone who wanted us to know that we were made to be loved; by ourselves and others, yes, but most of all by our Creator, the lover of our very beings. Only someone completely perfect could love us the way we were designed to be loved. The God of the Bible, who made us to be loved and to love. In Him alone can we find that elusive, perfect love we’re looking for.