Turns out, watching “Pretty Woman” over and over again won’t make you believe that a rich man will fall in love with you over a weekend, show up outside your apartment building in a limo, and climb up your fire escape with a rose in hand. A new study concluded that romantic comedies don’t actually cause people to have unrealistic expectations about love. So feel free to continue your rom-com binge-watching without guilt.
The study, led by Veronica Hefner, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication studies at Chapman University, surveyed 335 students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to ScienceDaily, the researchers found that there was not a strong relationship between believing in “soul mates,” “love at first sight” and the idea that “love conquers all” and watching romantic comedies. “These findings discredit the popular assumption that exposure to romantic comedies is a major source leading to unrealistic relational expectations among young people,” Hefner told ScienceDaily.
The results also contradict the conclusions of a 2008 study out of the University of Edinburgh, which found that fans of classic rom-coms were less effective at communicating their wants and needs to their romantic partners. However, this may have less to do with exposure to the narratives of romantic comedies and more to do with the reason people watch movies in this genre in the first place. Hefner and her team found that there was a correlation between people who viewed rom-coms in order to glean information about relationships and the tendency to idealize romance and one’s romantic partners, reported ScienceDaily.
In other words, don’t actively look for realistic lessons on love from fictional accounts of romance. But if you like to indulge in a little (or a lot) of Nora Ephron on a weekend — and why wouldn’t you? — you’ll be just fine.