Does Romantic Comedies make women expectations “unrealistic” ?




Women, have you ever found yourself at a point where you sit and think, “Why aren’t all guys caring, romantic, falling in love with me, deliciously attractive, and willing to do anything for my love?” We have all been there. Personally, I am obsessed with romantic movies for how the girl gets the dream guy in the end. I feel that women can relate with me. However, are these movies messing with our perception of love and making our standards impossible for guys? I quickly started researching to see what I could find.

Dr. Holmes Study Summary

Researchers believe that the influence of Hollywood films is implanting a sense of “perfect” relationship within society and providing unrealistic expectations about romance. A team at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh studied the top 40 box office films released between 1995 and 2005, to establish common themes. The team produced a study in 2008. They asked hundreds of people to fill out a questionnaire to describe their beliefs and expectations when it came to relationships. The results showed that the fans of films such as You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner, and While You Were Sleeping, frequently fail to communicate with their partners effectively. Many of them held the view that “if someone is meant for you, then they should know what you want without you needing to tell them.” Dr. Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist who led the research, told that Marriage counselor’s often meet with these people that have this mindset and also believe that sex should always be perfect. The team drew conclusions from the studying suggesting that the popular media plays a role in putting these ideas in women minds.


Dr. Holmes spoke that the team spent a year “thoroughly analyzing” and discovered a number of common themes that were unrealistic. The idea of “the one” soul mate that we all are predestined to meet and know us well instinctively was included. Dr. Holmes expressed, “People feel like if their relationships are not like a Hollywood film, then it is not any good. Time and energy needs to be invested for it to work.” I found that others (both male and female) felt this way also by expressing their viewpoints though posts. Several people showed that they too felt like women’s view on relationships are fictional and intangible. However, others wrote about how they do not believe in such thing and how it can actually benefit the relationships. Ph.D. assistant professor of Communication studies at Chapman University, Veronica Hefner, led a study that believed showed that Romantic Comedies do not cause “unrealistic expectations.”



Veronica Hefner Study Summary

Hefner surveyed 335 students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign in 2013. The results found that there was not a strong relationship between believing in “soul mates” and “love at first sight” and the idea that “love conquers all” from watching romantic comedies encourages these “unrealistic expectations.” Hefner told ScienceDaily that and I quote, “These findings discredit the popular assumption that exposure to romantic comedies is a major source leading to unrealistic relation expectations among young people.” Her study contradicted Dr. Holmes’ team study conclusions drawn.

Studies Analysis

Dr. Holmes’ team study needed perfecting all around. The study could have been stronger in specification. Listing that hundreds of people participated is not accurate data. The number of participants is missing and it did not tell the gender or age of those who completed it. The number of participants could help in showing statistics in making a decision whether or not Rom-Coms affect these women.  Including the gender in this study is crucial for you do not want male point of views mixed in with female point of views in a study that is testing what females think. The study conclusions are showing to be less accurate because of these vital pieces of information missing. Additionally, the age of the participants is essential for the study because younger females do not have the same mindset as matured women do. The study did not tell if the group of respondents were controlled or randomized in any way. I believe after all of this, the study shows to be false positive. Dr. Holmes’ team believed that they are onto giving insight in how women are having “unrealistic expectations” when really they are the ones with the unrealistic precise study. The team was onto a good start until they consequently left out vital information that made it hard to believe.


Veronica Hefner’s team study was stronger than Dr. Holmes’ team study but still had shaky parts to it. Hefner’s team also left out gender in the study. As stating before, it is very important to a study that needs only female responses to leave of male answers. Hefner very briefly mentioned in her statement about “young people’s expectations” so I took that she surveyed young students. However, since we do not know, I cannot fully assume this so I can say that Hefner should have reassured by stating that young people were the ones responding to the survey. I find that both studies are less reliable than an observational study because they are questionnaires. I consider that more studies are needed to prove one study fully right and the other wrong.


After all that was researched and told, there is no complete answer to the question. Dr. Holmes’ team suggested through their findings that Rom-Com is to blame for this reoccurring “high standards” in women. He was years later thought to be proven wrong be Hefner’s team findings in suggesting that Rom-Com actually is good and not linked to “high standards.” We all love a good sappy Romance Comedy here and there. The take away message here, said best by Huffington Post journalist, Emma Gray: “Feel free to continue your Rom-Com binge-watching without guilt. Do not actively look for realistic lessons on love from fictional accounts of romance. If you like to indulge in a little on the weekends–and why wouldn’t you?–you’ll be just fine” This quote best fits both studies conclusion in the sense that they want you to take life lessons from life and enjoy entertainment as entertainment.


9 thoughts on “Does Romantic Comedies make women expectations “unrealistic” ?

  1. Pingback: Unrealistic Fantasies – Lisa's blog

  2. Michael Fan

    I think an interesting point about romantic comedies is their misrepresentation of how real relationships are. Because we watch movies for memorable moments, often small, subtle moments that matter most to the people involved in the relationships are not shown, because we as the audience cannot directly relate to those small moments. As a result, if anyone follows what they see in these movies, they will have a skewed perception of what a relationship will really be like.

  3. sjb5895

    I feel like this is a thing a lot of men believe, but I am surprised someone actually did a blog on it. I do agree with Dr. Holme’s thought that rom-com’s create these high standards for women. I believe there could be a lot of emotion involved with this theory, because maybe some women would want the null hypothesis to work, and maybe some men might want the alternative hypothesis to be true. To answer this question, we need a randomized control study where the scientists have no bias towards either possible answer.

  4. Erin Ann Alessandroni

    Chane, I love this post! I am a huge fan of romantic comedies and find it very interesting that there are scientific studies done surrounding the topic. I really enjoy the organized manner in which you presented this information by using headings. I also think that you did a fantastic job relating the studies to concepts we go over in class. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a huge fan of disney movies with “happily ever afters”. Did my interest in these movies as a child affect the way I look at relationships now? I feel as though we should have high expectations for our lives. Believing in true love and hoping that you find something in your life worth making a movie over is not silly in my opinion; rather, it is optimistic. If we start saying that romantic comedies have a negative impact on our mental health because they “set our expectations to high”, we could also argue that telling children that “the dreams that you wish will come true” is silly and unrealistic. If you believe that, then no great people would ever be compelled to do great things. I agree with the Albert Einstein quote, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Here is a research paper from Pacific University’s college of arts and sciences on gender expectations in the European fairy tail.

  5. Emily M Hernberg

    Very interesting blog post! I love Romantic Comedies and I can definitely say that I feel they have given me a somewhat unrealistic perception on love. Holmes study which questioned people on famous movies like While You Were Sleeping and You’ve Got Mail, indicates that movies like these create unrealistic expectations for love an marriage.

  6. Robert I Jenkins

    Great Topic… The first thing that comes to mind while I read this post is a similar idea that” Porn is creating a unrealistic expectation of sex for men.”

    Complex Magazine breaks down this social science into 10 ways porn can be bad for your sex life. Its really strange the effects of watching adult films can have on reality even though people go into the viewing knowing that like any other movie the interruptions a simply for show.

  7. clh5719

    In many factors of society we are subconsciously/ consciously influenced. These do not seem like Texas Sharp Shooter trials. From the top 40 films in the box to the Illnois University study of students. If you added information about the females who watch other movies.. Then that would be able to cover a stronger correlation of whether or not there is truthfully an influence given by these movies. It could be possible due to women innate nurture and intimate senses, maybe these movies correlate with their natural exceptions instead of creating this mold of their expectations? Great Post!

  8. Jensen T Sneeringer

    I think that while being exposed constantly to sappy and unrealistic love stories may create an image in a persons mind as to what being in love can be like, it is nothing more than that. I think people can realize that Hollywood portrays the most exciting and crazy love stories because it is what people aren’t really exposed to in real life and thus what people want to watch. I will admit that I have my days where I just want to watch a good and sappy romance movie, but I’m not expecting my boyfriend to come to my dorm with a boombox on his shoulder and throw rocks at my window or whatever. So yes, people can watch these movies and maybe even daydream, but in the end we all should have a firm grasp on the reality of relationships and limitations of a normal couple.

  9. Desiree Nicole Enriquez

    A Big issue with Rom Coms and all other movies that display a straight romantic relationship is the large age gap between costars. Women are taught to find distinguished older men, and men to find hot young things. This results in quite a creepy relationship

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