Hollywood’s rules of love

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Don’t they look like they’re in love?

Adam Clarke teaches you the secrets of true love, as revealed by rom-com blockbusters!

Within the probing psychological depths of his series, The Love Boat, Gavin MacLeod assured us that love would be exciting and new. Also, it would probably involve a boat and special guest stars like Don Adams and Robert Vaughn. The message of each episode was simple: True Wuv is delivered by external forces and it’s completely out of your hands.

Be it coincidence or bad screenwriting, rom-coms urge viewers not to work for anything. Serendipity takes this to its idiotic extreme, as John Cusack writes his phone number on a dollar bill and, should that bill ever reach Kate Beckinsale, it was fated to be. Yes, fate will provide love without the mess of flirting, dating or any kind of emotional investment.

Don’t believe in fate? Take responsibility for your love life with a magical gimmick. Be it the magical hypnosis of Shallow Hal or the magical fountain of When In Rome, rom-coms are all about straining credibility. My favourite example is You’ve Got Mail.

Yes, if you had an AOL account in 1998, they had the technology to bring you love. I’m sure you could check in to the Flibbertigibbet chat room and hook up with a Tom Hanks-type as soon as all the requisite “A/S/L?” and “do u cyber?” questions are put to bed.

(A follow-up movie with Hanks and Meg Ryan as rivals who fall in love by leaving messages in the guestbooks of each other’s Tripod pages was planned, but never filmed.)

You always meet The One when you’re in another relationship. This plot thread appears in many films, but the most obnoxious case is Sleepless In Seattle where the man standing in the way of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ True Wuv is Ryan’s fiancé. Instead of any conflict, she gives him the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine and Pullman kindly accepts everything, resulting in a consequence-free breakup.

The real lesson here is, if you’re dating Meg Ryan, run away and don’t look back lest you be turned into a pillar of salt. Which brings us to…

Before malevolent troll god Meg Ryan was a star, rom-coms were once home to genuinely charming films like Roman Holiday and Adam’s Rib. Nowadays, we have Bride Wars, in which the two friends sabotage each other’s weddings through a series of sub-Home Alone pranks. Blarf.

Yes, rom-coms are full of deeply unlikeable people, but the Sandra Bullock vehicle All About Steve deserves a special mention for condoning stalking someone cross-country and molesting them in the name of Wuv.

Follow these rules and you can have the pleasure of staying home every night, bitter and alone. Happy Valentine’s everyone!