THE SCHOOL OF
Time to Love
Romantic comedies and narratives of LOVE – from a
BA thesis Social Anthropology
BA Thesis 30 credits
Social Anthropology BA Programme
Level Ground Level
Supervisor Ruy Blanes
Semester/Year Spring 2022
Examiner Jörgen Hellman
Word count 11240
This study explores the relation between love and romantic comedies, (aka romcoms), among people living in
Sweden. Romcoms, being one of the most popular film genres ever, has often been subject to critique of not being
serious enough and to derange people’s perceptions love. To investigate this, and to find out if there is any relation
between romcoms and how its consumers think about love, I will focus on why we watch romcoms, how we embody
the love displayed in the films, and what effects this might have on our perceptions of love. Four concepts will guide
my analysis: Merleau-Ponty and Toren’s definition of embodiment, Bourdieu’s masculine domination and doxa,
and Young’s restrained intentionality. These analytical tools are employed together with narrative interviews
and digital participant observations. The ethnographic data was retrieved through 10 interviews (6 women and 4
men) with a total of 22 hours. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all interviews were conducting via the digital tool
ZOOM. The study points at three conclusions:
▪ Romcoms has a psychopharmacologic function in the sense of escapism.
▪ The participants embody romcoms in terms of EPIC love, disappointment, resignation, fear, non-realistic,
demands, false happiness or joy.
▪ Romcoms has become a negatively loaded symbol for traditionalism, monogamy, conformity,
stereotypes and ideals.
Placing these conclusions within a larger discourse, the study points at underlying social structures, indicating
romcoms only to be part of larger societal dilemmas. This also indicates a need to move away from ‘easy’ solutions
of Hollywood being the bad guy. The study emphasises a chronology in which love, and romance precedes the
love presented by the film industry, implying our perceptions of love to be a combination of historical, social, and
near-universal elements. Escapism indicates societal problems to which romcoms are portrayed as solution – not
problem. Paradoxically, this solution is presented in a stigmatised, negative tone, causing feelings of shame, blame
and belittleness, contextualising romcoms as a ‘guilty pleasure’ for the female consumer. A consequence of this
paradox is a continuation of society re-writing culture, reproducing the outdated idea of the Other, as in dividing
people into intellectual, serious, and pragmatic consumers and the rest: the naïve and stupid consumer of banal
and superficial portrayals of love. This indicates a dislocation of discourse from near-universal love to pragmatic
rationalism. However, despite findings of love being related to pragmatism, disappointment and love always being
for someone else, the interviews also indicate near-universal takes on love represented by dreams, hopes and
visions for a love reaching beyond social constructions. The fact that romcoms hold such complexity, opens new
horizons for future studies, in which three aspects are of certain interest: 1) the capitalisation of culture consumption
including film, literature, music as well as social media, 2) the continuation of re-writing culture and, 3) the
anthropological lack of discussing love as possible near-universal phenomenon.
Key words: love, romcoms, masculine domination, doxa, embodiment, escapism
Cover photo:” I’m also just a girl” Source: NottingHill Retrieved 2022-03-19
“’For June, who loved this garden, from
Joseph, who always sat beside her.’
Some people do spend their whole lives
(Notting Hill, Michell, 1999)
My Precious, Beautiful, Lovely, Wonderful LOVE
My heart is not one, but two…and I am never alone, because
you are always with me…living and breathing inside of me.
I love you more than all the stars
on the velvet blue summer sky
and I will never Ever leave you
1 Introduction .................................................................................................................................................... 5
1.1 Romcoms – a brief history ...................................................................................................................... 6
2 Previous research .......................................................................................................................................... 9
2.1 My position .............................................................................................................................................. 9
2.2 Conceptual frameworks ........................................................................................................................ 10
3 Field data and methodology ........................................................................................................................ 12
3.1 Operationalisation ................................................................................................................................. 14
3.2 Etchical considerations and reflexivity ................................................................................................ 15
4 Ethnographic discussion ............................................................................................................................. 17
5 Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................. 30
References ....................................................................................................................................................... 34
List of figures
Video 1 Love heroin scene ..................................................................................................................... 5
Video 2 Hollywood versus Britain........................................................................................................... 7
Figure 3 Examples of film posters........................................................................................................... 8
Video 4'Just a girl' .................................................................................................................................. 8
Figure 5 The logic of my conceptual choice (My model) ...................................................................... 11
Figure 6 'Surreal, but nice' Source: NottingHill ................................................................................... 13
Figure 7 Screenshots taken from Zoom. .............................................................................................. 14
Figure 8 From Top-down to equality. .................................................................................................. 15
Figure 9 Screenshots from my PowerPoints included in the interviews. .............................................. 19
…it’s as if I’ve taken love heroin, and I can’t
ever have it again
From Notting Hill (Michell, 1999)
Video 1 Love heroin scene, NottingHill Love heroin. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
I LOVE to watch film …and although romantic comedies are not my first choice on a
Saturday evening, I have thought a lot about this genre lately. What is it about these films that
attracts so many viewers? Why do we love to watch love on film? The more I think about this,
the more curious I get to find out, not only the why, but even more what impact this genre has
on its viewers ? Anthropologically, I find this interesting as it seems anthropology has left
LOVE in the dark, or as Belgian anthropologist Maïte Maskens and Portuguese anthropologist
Ruy Blanes writes: “Are we done with romanticism” (2013:248)? Have we been too absorbed
by audit cultures, and therefore given way to a rationalized conception of humanity and society,
leaving anthropology of love out in the cold? If so, I guess we have a problem as love and
romance still appears to be an important aspect of people’s lives? (ibid.). My take on this is
simply (or complex?) to reach out to people, asking them about love on film and love in real
life. Romcoms (short for romantic comedies) are still holding a fast grip as one of the most
popular film genres worldwide (Thomas, 2022; Bruncati, 2022), but still very ‘under-
represented in anthropological research. Being aware of this lack, I feel very inspired to put the
spotlight on this genre and explore love from a rather unexplored perspective !
From a historical point of view, love is mentioned and highlighted already in the
1st Corinthians 13:13: “[a]nd now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of
these is love . As the British ‘boy band’ Wet Wet Wet sang in the soundtrack to one of the
most famous romcoms Four Wedding and a Funeral: Love is all around (Newell, 1994), we
seem to watch romcoms and talk about love – but we rarely talk about love! The existing
research seems to focus more on aspects like culture consumption, self-identity and self-
perceptions, in which love has almost become a paria ! This might originate from how
society puts romcoms in the box called chick-lit genre, women genre, and something not to
be taken seriously (Banks, 2022). Inspired by a recent American study focusing on the eternal
search for Mr Right (Kretz, 2019), three questions will be central in my attempt to bring love
back to anthropology:
1. Why do people watch romcoms?
2. In what way do people embody love as portrayed in romcoms?
3. How can we relate people’s perceptions of love to the romcom genre?
In this attempt I will delimit my study to only involve people living in Sweden. Furthermore, I
won’t emphasise cultural takes on love per se, but rather just a study genuinely curious of
people’s stories about LOVE and to understand why we consume romcoms, how we
embody love on film, and how this might affect our view on love in real life. By transforming
the ‘familiar’ into something strange and turning love upside down, we can look at love with
new eyes, creating knowledge for a phenomenon we might take for granted (Roberts, 2006).
That is my contribution to the anthropology of love: to bridge people’s stories of love with
the context of romcoms .
1.1 Romcoms – a brief history
The timeline above, shows a history going all the way back to 1598 when Shakespeare wrote
what is considered as the world’s first romcom ever: The Merchant of Venice. During the 1920s
Hollywood began its era as the number one in film history, converting the silent films into what
was called ‘Screwball comedy’ during the 1940s. However, the real boom came during the late
1980s with films like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry met Sally, continuing into the Golden
Era during the 1990s and 2000s with classics like Bridget Jones Diary, Love Actually, Notting
Hill and Pretty Woman (Urena, 2019). In the late 2000s, an ideological shift appeared turning
the audience’s focus into matters like gender politics, diversity and critique against romcoms
as being too ‘white’ (Johnson, 2018). The film-industry now had to re-consider who could fall
in love, who they could fall in love with and how this was portrayed, resulting in LGTBQ
characters increasingly being involved (although often as supporting actors portraying gay
friends giving fashion advice). This ‘new’ romcom re-instated traditional romantic elements
while also introducing an increased diversity to please both audience and critics, but – it was
also a compromise with how society looks today: 2022 looks very different from 1990. Stress,
demands, rationality and multi-tasking society, calls for an increased need to breathe and pause.
Solution: romcoms, combining fantasies with guilty pleasures of forgetting the world for a
while (Jones, 2020). To personify the difference between Hollywood and British take on the
genre, two actors are often mentioned: Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Grant. Their
characters oppose each other as McConaughey embodies the American hustler: confident,
handsome, clever, arrogant, charming and the witty romantic guy-next-door, while Hugh Grant
is the British gentleman: polite, timid, careful, shy, awkward and restrainfully charming:
Video 2 The Wedding Planner; Ghost of Girlfriend’s past; How to Lose a Guy in 10 days; Notting Hill; Love Actually and Music
and Lyrics Retrieved 2022-02-15.
McConaughey later distanced himself from romcoms as they lack the depth and meaning he
wanted to portray (Gurley, 2021). Grant, however, is still ‘open for suggestions, although
realising: “I’m too old […] and too ugly to play the romantic lead,” (Libby, 2021). Although
Hollywood’s firm grip on the genre, an increasing incorporation of cultures other than the white
and straight middle-class has appeared. Countries like India and Nigeria, together with plots
involving LGTBQ-communities make their way into the big block busters (Urena, 2019),
together with growing themes like kinship, friendship and platonic love between colleagues.
This celebrates a greater image of love, however still advocating non-complicated feelings of
happiness, easy to follow and digest while illustrating everyday life without demands of being
realistic. By combining Hollywood magic with reality, the genre is moving towards the
Romcom 2.0. Building on nostalgia, optimism and hope, the audience accepts the unrealistic,
but always, Happy End (Devi, 2022). This overarching theme permeates and imprints
even non-western countries like India and Nigeria with Hollywood magic (Amos, 2015) – all
the way down to film posters :
unexpected love → trouble → a classic reunion scene → declaration of love.
Britain Nollywood Hollywood Bollywood
Figure 3 Examples of film posters. Source:: TheWeddingPlanner; Isoken; FourWeddings; NamasteWahala;
HowToLoseAGuyIn10Days;IHateLuvStorys Retrieved 2022-02-14.
There is also a circularity in this Hollywood magic. Recently Swedish pop-singer Kiddo (Just
a girl, Kiddo & Jæger, 2022) revived the classic line ‘I’m just a girl’-line from Notting Hill,
while British music icons Ed Sheeran and Elton John re-used the cardboard scene from Love
Actually (Curtis, 2003), in their promotion video for their new single in December 2021 (Merry
Christmas, Sheeran, John & McCutcheon, 2021).
Figure 4'Just a girl'; 'Merry Christmas'; Love Actually Retrieved 2022-02-07.
Even I have been inspired by Love Actually
when making music videos to My Love!
Anthropology about Bollywood and Nollywood have focused on cultural, social, and political significance (cf. McCall, 2007;
Jones, 2010; Ganti, 2013; Miller, 2016; Borah et al., 2019). Acknowledging this research, this thesis holds a different focus.
2 Previous research
Mapping the anthropological field of love shows an emphasis on various aspects of love. While
some focus on gender (cf. Behar & Gordon, 1995: Kulick, 1998), others focus on sexuality (cf.
deMunck, 1998; Strong, 2021), or marriage (cf. Constable, 2003; Freeman, 2020). Other themes
are capitalization and love (cf. King Pierce, 2016; Lefkowitz, 2003), love and emotions (cf.
Svašek, 2005; Overing & Passes, 2002; Favret-Saada, 2012), love from a philosophical take
(cf. Biehl & Locke, 2010) and intimacy as in feelings of comfort (cf. Miller, 2008). Love and
romance are discussed by Lindholm (1998; 2006) – both in terms of romance and a more
‘Weberian’ rationalistic take, while another discussion focuses on tourism and aspects like sex,
marriage and romance (cf. Singh, 2019; Simoni, 2018; Junmo, Bum-Seung & Ador, 2014). A
more quantitative take deals with cross-cultural perspectives on love (cf. Fischer & Jankowiak,
1992; Kanthor & Xie, 2014; Karandashev, 2021). Outside the anthropological field the
discussions mainly focus on critiquing the Hollywood ideal: Why is the term 'romcom' used so
negatively? (Khan, 2014); Does Movie Viewing Cultivate Young People's Unrealistic
Expectations About Love and Marriage? (Galloway et al., 2015); Depressiv kärlek. En social
patologi [Depressive love. A social pathology. My translation] (Engdahl, 2016); Romcoms kan
framkalla skadliga idéer om kärlek [Romcoms might provoke damaging ideas about love. My
translation] (Askerfjord Sundeby, 2017); Explained: Here's Why Romantic Comedies Are So
Popular (Banks, 2022).
Although being varied in themes, there is a shared inbalance on love being cultural
conditioned. The only research that focuses on bringing forth alternative ideas are Lindholm’s
Romantic Love and Anthropology (2006) and Cultural Diversity of Romantic Love Experience
(Karandashev, 2021), and to some extent A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love
(Fischer & Jankowiak, 1992) – all three discussing the possibilities of love being a universal
(or near-universal) constant, instead of always being a cultural conditioned phenomenon.
2.1 My position
Previous research has approached love from an extensive point of view: intimacy, gender,
sexuality, friendship, kinship, marriage etc. However, none of the anthropological studies
emphasise the specific relation between romcoms and people’s perceptions of love. This calls
for concerns. However, the lack of relating romcoms to love is not the only flaw in previous
research. Fischer and Jankowiak’s (1992) study, for example, doesn’t include Northern Europe
and Scandinavia, which proves a significant gap in data, as well as Kanthor and Xie’s (2014)
outdated ideas that Asian/Eastern women don’t experience love because of social structures
preventing passion and infatuation (almost touching upon orientalism)! Although I find myself
closer to e.g., the idea of contextualising love as a near-universal phenomenon (Lindholm,
2006; Karandashev, 2021; Fischer & Jankowiak, 1992), the attempts to carve out ‘spaces’
connected with love still leave much to wish for.
To explain my critique, I will turn to Norwegian anthropologist Signe Howell,
when doing research about adoption and kinship simply asked the question: “Why did you want
to have children? To which the adoptive parents answered that they just wished to become a
‘normal family’ (Howell, 2003:469). This is a good representation of my take on love and
romcoms: the need for reflecting on the why and how it might affect us. Bringing back romance
to anthropology (cf. Maskens & Blanes, 2013), I emphasise the value in listening to people’s
stories without the context of critiquing, shaming, condemning or politicizing. My desire to
understand people’s relation to love on film and real life is also a heuristic contribution to bring
back the individual’s autonomous own voice.
2.2 Conceptual frameworks
To help me analyse the field data, I will use four concepts that both separately and combined
correspond to love and romcoms in general and my study in particular:
• Body to embodiment
• Male domination
• Restrained intentionality
The logic behind this choice is that all four can be found within the context of love. To put love
and romcoms as historical and spatial elements, I will employ French
philosopher/phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty and British anthropologist Christina
Toren’s definition of body to embodiment. We are always spatial and ‘bodily:’ always in and
part of the world. The only way to gain knowledge of who we are is through this world – but
besides being about being in time, embodiment is even more about to embody the time we live
in. This prerequisite a rationality of intentions, and intersubjectivity,
which in connection to
romcoms, might indicate that an increased consumption of films would lead to being ‘born’
into certain perceptions of love, embodied through reproduction of shared ideas (McDonald,
2018:189). One example of such embodiment is the idea of ‘Mr Right’ as in rescuing, shining
A large group of individuals share a subjective perception and understanding of a certain phenomenon
knights. Interpreting French sociologist and social anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu concept
masculine domination, I claim it to be implicitly significant in previous research when
describing the relation between men and women. However, it’s also a way to discuss the
eventuality of women ‘freely’ allowing themselves to be dominated – which correspond to
some of the critique brought forward in previous research. Bourdieu claims social production
and reproduction to often work in favour of men, constituting a fundamental part of everyone’s
and a matrix of perceptions, thoughts and actions. Closely connected is what Bourdieu
calls doxa (unspoken, evident beliefs and rules, taken for granted and never question). As seen
in previous research, romcoms generally seem to have a strong doxa, to which, especially
women accept and subordinate. This ‘doxic’ consensus are often embodied by female viewers,
involving how they themselves make them part of their own subordinance (Bourdieu, 2001:33-
4). American political theorist and socialist feminist Iris Marion Young extend this consensus
by discussing restrained intentionality, which I will employ in the context of agency: how
individuals express and embody their experiences and perceptions of love. In connection with
romcoms, women are exposed to restrained intentionality being stigmatised as naïve, easy to
deceive, enjoying this ‘chick-lit’ only resulting in low self-esteem. This falls in line with women
, only being able to act within their own sphere, while men, being transcendent,
can act beyond their own sphere. To Yong, women, to a greater extent than men, experience
objectification, only to please other people, resulting in a dislocation from can into cannot.
Women don’t allow themselves to live out their passionate love other than when consuming
romcoms, embodying fictive emotions and being someone, they cannot be in real life. Holding
back, awaiting Mr Right to come to their rescue, will provide the HAPPY END they’re
always dreaming of (Khantor & Xie, 2014; King Pierce, 2016; Engdahl, 2009).
As shown in fig.3, all four concepts are
interrelated enabling a communication
between previous research, chosen concepts
and method. As such, they contribute to the
analysis of my field data by exploring to
what extent my ethnography corresponds to
Figure 5 The logic of my conceptual choice (My model)
A system of lasting, transposable dispositions, integrating past experiences, functioning as a matrix of
perceptions and actions – as in socialisation and reproduction (McDonald, 2018:186).
Imprinted by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir
3 Field data and method
Table 1 Description of the participant (Names, age and occupation are fictive to secure anonymity for the participants).
name & age
lives with her mother in a flat in a
middle-class socio-economic area
in a large city. Her father is absent.
Mother a native Swede and father
from a so called third-world
prefers dating instead of stable
relations as she prefers a sexual
relation rather than to commit
herself into romantic
lives with her boyfriend in a flat in
a middle-class socio-economic
area in a large city. Her father is
absent. Born in Sweden of Swedish
prefers stable long-terms
relations, built on mutual desire
to create unity and security, plans
to have children and move to a
house. Builds her relations on
romance rather than plain sexual
lives with her boyfriend in a flat in
a middle-class socio-economic
area in a large city. Born in an
eastern-European country but has
lived her adult life in Sweden.
Her earlier relationships have
been brief, often built on sex, but
now she wants to build a family
and stable future with her
lives with his girlfriend in a flat in a
middle-class socio-economic area
in a large city. Originating from a
small town, born in Sweden of
this is his first stable long-term
relation- He prefers romance
before sexual encounters and
supports his girlfriend’s plans of
them having children and moving
into a house.
sector in a large
on-and-off relation with a woman.
Lives alone in a flat in a middle-
class socio-economic area in a
large city. Born in an eastern-
European country but has lived
over 20 years in Sweden.
prefers casual encounters built on
sex as he is afraid of commitment
and stability. The perfect
relationship for him is being
Friends with Benefits.
sector large city.
lives with her husband and two
children in a house in a middle
-class socio- economic area
outside a large city. Originating
from a small town, born in
Sweden of Swedish parents
believes in traditional
relationship, raising her family.
lives alone in a flat in a middle-
class socio-economic area in a
large city but is in love with a man
who does not love her. Born in
Sweden of Swedish parents.
dreams of the amazingly romantic
relationship with a man who loves
her to pieces.
sector large city.
lives alone in a flat in a middle-
class socio-economic area in a
large city, both loving and hating
her ex-boyfriend. Born in Sweden
of Swedish parents.
disillusioned about love, but
still dreams of finding
someone who will love her
without hurting her.
lives with his wife in a house in
a small village. Has two children
with his ex-wife, (both married
with one respective two children).
Born in Sweden of Swedish
Is satisfied with his recent wife.
Has a traditional view on family
roles. Used to cheat on his ex-
wife, but now prefers to be
faithful as it is difficult to find
sexual partners in his age, and to
‘hide’ in a small community.
lives with his girlfriend (also
retired) in a house in a
smaller town, and they have ‘
no children. Born in
Sweden of Swedish parents.
Believes in love that builds on
Trust, faith and commitment.
Sees no point in getting married
as that is just a contract
without substance He and his
girlfriend share the households’
* All participants view themselves as either woman or man and considers themselves to be straight.
As seen above (table 1), my field data consists of 10 interviews (six women and four men), with
a total of 22 hours conducted between January to April 2022. Being primary data, these
interviews will communicate with my secondary data: previous research. Using gatekeepers
and snowball strategy (Göransson, 2019:67-78), I found my participants
by contacting people
on my Messenger who I briefly have been acquainted to through various situations in life or
through my occupation as yoga instructor. After presenting myself and my study, we agreed on
a date, and I sent a ZOOM-link. (Due to Covid-19, all interviews were conducted via the digital
tool ZOOM ). My first intention to find people from different cultural-, socio-economic
background, and different ages, didn’t worked out as intended. However, I still managed to
gather people within an age-spread from 22 to 65, with a variety of status, occupation,
background, and thoughts about love. Although the age factor might imply differences in terms
of ‘love trajectories’ due to a generation context, in this specific study, it holds no influence on
my analysis as all of the participants have been (or are) involved in relationships, as well as
having (to various extent) watched romcoms.
Being in our own, private home (yet behind
a laptop-screen), enhanced the relaxed
atmosphere of hanging with a friend, with a
cup of tea and snacks - to quote Notting Hill
(Michell, 1999), it felt almost surreal, but
Figure 6 'Surreal, but nice' Source: NottingHill Retrieved
The strategy was to conduct one round of interview sessions between 1-2 hrs, however during
these sessions I felt a need to conduct a second round of shorter sessions (30 minutes to 1 hour)
focusing on some themes I wanted to discuss further. ZOOM initially functioning as an
‘emergency exit’ because of Covid-19, in hindsight it turned out to be a very useful tool. Using
my eyes as a lens, zooming in and out during the interviews (Göransson, 2019:108), I could see
the surroundings while simultaneously focus on the participant’s expressions and gestures.
As I recorded the interview sessions (after asking for consent), I could watch and
re-watch as much as I felt necessary, giving me opportunities to focus on different aspects and
I consequently use the word participant instead of informant to avoid hierarchic relationships between myself
and those I interview (Fluehr-Lobhan, 2008).
details. Having become more accustomed with digital conversations because of Covid-19, it
facilitated providing a seamless and relaxed conversation, transforming the laptop into a digital
extension of thoughts, bodies and voices. As such, the difference between talking through
technology versus real life became increasingly blurred.
Figure 7 Screenshots taken from Zoom. Left: Myself. Middle: An excerpt of ‘Falling in love’ shared on ZOOM. Right: the
My method when conducting the interviews was narrative interview (combined with
participant observation) based on the idea of stories being the easiest way to be part of another
person’s experiences. When we tell stories, we also create possibilities of reaching a deeper
knowledge about ourselves through experiencing deeper dimensions of the stories we tell. As
such, stories are the most basic method of coming close to what it means to be human. We think
and talk through stories making them a fundamental part of our communication, helping us to
create meaning (Atkinson, 1998:2). This is one of the cornerstones to why I chose this method:
it deliberately stimulates the telling of stories (Bryman, 2021:542) as keystone for the relation
between lived experiences and meaning (Allen, 2017:1073). However, the most essential part
is how the interviewer contributes to the storytelling by simply ask the question “Tell me what
happened?” followed by “And then, what happened?” (Bryman, 2021: 542).
Narrative interviews also involve stepping away from strict schemes or guides,
instead emphasising conversations on equal terms, instead of a top-down strategy (fig.6).
Alike American anthropologist Paul Stoller, I want to observe how the participants act
(Göransson, 2019:106), by becoming an active listener (de Walt & de Walt, 2002:125). Here
ZOOM became useful, enabling me to identify whether there was harmony or conflict between
the body and spoken words.
Figure 8 From Top-down to equality. (My model).
Stepping back and listening to the narratives from the participant’s positions, thoughts and
boundaries, created an emphasis on the ethnography – not my role, nor the participant’s (Van
Maanen, 2011:102). Despite not having any physical data, I still consider my study in terms of
thick descriptions due to both spoken words and their embodiment (Geertz, 1973). Every
gesture, tone, eye movement, voice, silence, pausing etc. give me an entry into the participant’s
how and why – but without going native as in becoming the participant. This strategy was
helpful as I was floating between bodies and perspectives, between emic (inside) and etic
(outside). By writing jottings of both verbal and non-verbal expressions I could structure the
data into categories based upon an open coding involving single words or short phrases.
Although being time consuming, it gave me a rich and useful data to work with . When
coding the data, I focused on what was going on, and what can I learn from my notes, how
do people talk about what’s going on – and how do they characterise it? And what is the
broader significance here? (Emerson et al., 2011:177).
3.2 Ethical considerations and reflexivity
When following the Swedish Research Council’s (2017) ethical advice, I paid special attention
to keeping the participants safe from harm. Although I cannot predict everyone’s vulnerability,
I’m still obliged to do my best to be careful of how I phrase my questions and be prepared for
eventual emotional reactions (Iphofen, 2021:50). Being aware that LOVE might stir up
emotions, I was also prepared to accept if anyone didn’t want to talk about love from a personal
perspective. At the same time, by accepting to be interviewed, they also, accepted the terms of
the situation (ibid.) Thus, I emphasised voluntariness, making sure the participants could stop
talk whenever they felt like. I also assured every participant that they could contact me anytime
they wanted, acknowledging the risk of someone might experiencing old traumas. However, I
claim to have acted as professional as possible during the circumstances: I checked their
emotional status before we said goodbye, assuring them I would be available whenever they
might need to talk, and because of their often ‘cheerful’ goodbye, I felt no immediate concern
for any of them. Finally, as I never consider the participants as ‘tools’ for information, but
instead saw them as storytellers, it helped me to avoid hierarchical situations. Together we
learned something about ourselves and society by inspiring each another to reflect upon love,
life and romcoms !
4 Ethnographic discussion
Take 1 Scene 1 – the Escape
A central question in my interviews was to find out why people watch romcoms (or not), as I
thought it to be a relevant question to start with. Less surprisingly, the majority quickly
responded: to escape. To give examples of thoughts that came up in connection to that question,
we can look at the cinema screens below:
From the quotes above I identify two common denominators: 1) escape reality and 2) feeling
good. Beginning with the escape, my ethnography points at two directions: either we escape
reality because of a necessity to escape a reality that is too difficult to handle – meaning:
we need a break. This is nicely framed by Erik who said: “the films create a window…a chance
to breathe in order to survive out there”. Ami also touches upon that topic by saying: “reality is
not flawless; it can be quite heavy”. This shows similarities with Lindholm’s (2006) ideas about
‘Weberian’ rationality – being rational (to survive maybe?), we consume romcoms as tools for
helping us escape into Elias’ “soft and cute world”. Although previous research address this
escaping reality, I find a gap in the important discussion, not so much about the why, but rather
the what – as in what are we escaping from? The participants touch this topic in terms of relax,
empty the mind, breathe, pretend to be happy, to be loved or to escape anxiety and strong
emotions. But what are the underlying elements causing this escape. After my interviews, I’m
still left with no good answer. However, I can conclude two things: 1) reality is difficult in the
sense of making us feel stressed, causing constant demands and To-Do lists in our heads,
causing anxiety and mental meltdown. From that perspective, any film would do, but we often
still mention romcoms when it comes to feeling good and relaxed. To me, this is anthropology
at its very core, and still anthropology seems to be ‘done’ with romance and love (Blanes &
Maskens, 248), which is why I need to return to Howell (2003) in exploring love’s role in our
search for normality.
The feeling good aspect is also prominent, but from a different perspective: it’s
more like a craving – the need to feel good, at least for 90 minutes. As we see in the quotes,
feeling good is not only about having a laugh or feel a bit relaxed, but also about cheating
oneself into “pretend to be loved” expressed by Lena, Agnes and Erik. To swap place with the
protagonist, we can ‘live’ out emotions real life deprives us, which is quite depressing.
Observing the body language of my participants, Agnes had an obvious language as she almost
shrunk and physically belittled herself when she told me “I just want to be loved…but he
doesn’t understand that.” With a cracked voice she sighed heavily, pulling her shoulders
forward as to hide (or maybe protect) her chest…from what, I could not tell. Lena demonstrated
with her body to have lost all belief in happiness: “I watch romcoms, not because I want to, but
it’s cheaper than therapy sessions…and it’s like a comfort to be loved in fantasy…but also
torture…F**k it…why do I watch this s**t anyway…Am I an idiot or what?” (with a dry,
‘empty’ and disappointed voice). Jovan, on the other hand, showed happiness through his
reluctance to romcoms – the less he watches them, the happier he feels:
Jovan: They give me nothing, just reminding me on fantasy worlds girls try to
force on me. I’m not their saviour, I’ll never be the love of their life…I don’t
have such feelings…I like sex, but I won’t ever allow myself to be trapped in the
VVV [Swedish abbreviation for house, dog and Volvo. My annotation.] I’m an
artist, I express myself freely without restraints…I’m a free spirit no one’s gonna
trap…why can’t they just accept that?
Me: Are you not afraid to end up lonely in the end?
Jovan: No, I’m good looking…I’m a dancer…I’m fit…I can always find
someone to sleep with in my business…women that understand what I prefer.
Interestingly though, when observing their bodies, I don’t find any evident gestures or
movements telling me they are happy, rather I observe a dichotomy as they say one thing with
the mouth, and another thing with the body. Take Dan, for example, when he talked of having
a laugh and look at films that are meaningless to him, just a 90-minute window on a weekend-
evening to relax and have some time with his wife…his body did not show happiness. In fact,
it was the opposite: his body, his face expressed only tiredness, resignation, and a sort of
emptiness in his gaze. No joy there . Ami and Amanda also had an interesting body language
when talking about feeling good – it was not like they really appreciated the films, but rather
used them as a tool to kill time, it’s easy to just put on a film on Netflix or DVD or
whatever…quick fix to not genuine happiness, but rather a moment to breath and forget the
world. Jenny was the only one that really expressed happiness both with words and body, she
really loves romcoms, and has watched every film on the market, genuinely happy about it. Her
eyes sparkled, she laughed and moved her body in a ‘happy’ way which transformed to me as
well, which ended up in us both laughed when talking about our favourite romcoms, making
her the exception from the rest. Recapitulating previous research, this dichotomy is clear in
terms of disappointment, false images of love, conflicts between reality and fantasy and
unhealthy relationships (cf. Galloway et al, 2015; King Pierce, 2016; Askerfjord Sundeby,
The Holidate (2020) Notting Hill (1999) Falling in love (1984)
Figure 9 Screenshots from my PowerPoints included in the interviews.
To find some shared denominators in the quotes above, two concepts seem pervading: doxa
and embodiment – however not necessarily in the sense advocated by Bourdieu, Merleau-
Ponty and Toren. Rather the doxa was expressed as escapism (as in normality and acceptance
of how society ‘treats’ people). Because of the intensity, tempo and increasingly rationality
demanding multitasking and multi-decisions, watching films to relax rather than achieving new
knowledge, meaning, and understanding of the world, appears to be a medicine the participants
were keen on swallowing. From that perspective, embodiment touches upon doxa
in terms of
how we need to relax – embodying the time we live in (McDonald, 2018:189). At the same
time, there is a huge difference between relax and escape, which is quite telling in this
context. By talking in terms of ‘relax’ and ‘escape’ I’d say we have accepted society as in both
maintaining and reproducing this normalization: if life’s too much to handle, we can always put
on a film and “numb our minds” as Erik was saying. From another perspective, the reluctant
attitude towards romcoms is quite telling. All the male participants show a low interest in
consuming this genre, only watching it to maintain the ‘domestic peace’ so to say ! But under
this humoristic saying, lies a more complex attitude. Jovan’s claiming the necessity to avoid
romcoms as they provoke feelings and pressure – which is a type of embodiment. Elias, being
reluctant as well, explains that “I endure the films as a compromise, but don’t like the fluffiness
and pink dreams displayed in the films” – as in embodying resignation and lack of hope, visions
or beautiful images of the future. Erik, on the other hand was not equally resigned, but still did
not believe romcoms “having any substantial substance that might help us cope with a complex
and difficult life.” However, reluctance is not only a male phenomenon – Jolanda, for instance,
said she rarely watches romcoms as “they are too shallow for me. I like to watch European,
serious films that gives me something,” – as well as Amanda, who said “I used to watch
romcoms when I was a teenager, now I prefer films like Lord of the Rings or similar.” Thinking
of doxa and Embodiment, also makes me think of circularity – or what Nietzsche would have
called Circulus Vitiosus Deus – the evil return (cf. Kaufmann, 2000). Through doxa we create
embodiment and continues to do so forever and ever.
This is not per se a bad thing, but in the context of
the participants it doesn’t appear as something they
appreciate – on the contrary they get increasingly
stuck in this circle. Ok, next scene.
DOXA: unquestioned truth leading to a ‘normalisation ‘of ideas and behaviours (Bourdieu, 2001), which is
here put in the dogma that the stressed modern individual needs to relax – as in escape reality.
Take 2 Scene 2 The Epic Love
Inspired by Jolanda’s story, I call this take the epic love. She used the specific term epic to
explain to me her once-in-a-lifetime LOVE ! The initial question to enter take 2 was if they
felt comfortable with telling me their stories of their first experience of love:
What stroke me was how the majority had such a negatively-oriented experiences of love, as
well as lacking the belief in love being something special – it’s just something they connect
with a naïve youth. However, some stories were quite dramatic: Jolanda, Agnes and Lena had
all experienced love that hasn’t treated them kindly, rather the opposite. Jolanda’s first
encounter with the love of her life was extremely painful, and yet she loved this man SO MUCH
- to the extent that she calls this romance EPIC. Although the sad context, Jolanda uses ‘happy’
codes involving smiles, laughs and warmth while talking. I too laughed and these laughs made
a bond between us. During the second interview I asked if she had seen him again (she had been
back to her hometown recently), curious about the continuation of this Epic story ! She told
me that Yes! she had seen him and everything went back to crazy again:
Jolanda: I was convinced he was the love of my life […] of all my ex’s
he is the only one I have on Facebook and I’m surprised he hasn’t removed
me […] it’s almost 10 years ago but my feelings are still so strong, if I see
him again…my heart pumps…it won’t just go away…despite how many
years…it’s just that kind of love.
Me: Would you everything to be with him again if he’d ask you?
Jolanda: YES! Without doubt […] I enjoy my current boyfriend and the
life we’ve built, but I don’t love him. I’m not in love.
Me: But how can we avoid getting hurt?
Jolanda: I love with my brain, not with my heart…I guess I’m a bot cold-hearted
[laughing out loud]. I just disconnect my emotions…to protect my heart…or else I will
get hurt [smiling].
Here we see EPIC LOVE coexisting with the pragmatic need to avoid break completely.
The word Epic really captures the essence of some of the stories I was told (in which I can
recognise myself and my own love story, although being less pragmatic and more emotional).
Me: What did you feel when you met him?
Agnes: He just entered my life like a hurricane…a volcano outburst…and
completely invaded me…captured me…took power over my heart…but
he is constantly disappearing from me…like he’s going in and out of
me…as if I was a door or something…I write to him…phone him…but he
always only replies when he feels for it…Everything is always on his
terms…and to not lose him for ever…I have to play along…not being
needy…wearying him to pieces….I just LOVE him SO much…but I don’t
have a normal life.
This is also a story about Epic love, but with other words and other body language, far from
being pragmatic. Agnes was SO sad . She only wanted him to LOVE her back! To me, this
resembled a LOT with romcoms and how the couple always end up passionate head-over-heels
in love ! But Agnes story was also very far from the ‘meetcute’ articulated in romcoms:
Me: Why do you stay with him? He’s clearly breaking your heart!
Agnes: Because…we’re destined for each other. He is my night and I’m
his day…and I’ll wait for him. I know he has other women beside me…and
that hurts like…a f**king meltdown. But I can’t live without him, so I
grasp every bedding straw. He’d driving me mad. […] I’d like to protect
me, but I CAN’T…I let him in you know…and know he’s stuck like glue
on the walls to my soul.
Lena’s story is like Agnes, although expressed differently, with a body showing less signs of
sadness, but instead resignation, disappointment and the loss of faith in love :
Me: Would it be possible for you to love again? I mean…after what
Lena: You know…I don’t think so. I became empty when he broke my
heart. Before him I had never loved and then he came and just played my
heart into pieces. He knew my feelings, but still he f**ked around with
other women as if I was ok with that – but I wasn’t! I wanted to be THE
ONE… finally…for once in my f**king LIFE!!
Another take on EPIC love is addressed by Jovan, but from a completely different point: to
him EPIC love is dangerous and something he never wants to experience as that would destroy
the lifestyle, he has built during all his adult life:
Me: Is it ok for you to tell me a bit about why you don’t want this, like,
overwhelming love that really blows your mind?
Jovan: Yeah, it’s just like women are sooo needy you know, life is short,
why should I commit my life to just one girl? I like sex, I like to f**k and
it’s better to be free and able to do that than to be stuck in a relationship
with some needy person who wants kids and everything…she would kill
All this about Epic love is something previous research does not address, but which could easily
be related to both masculine domination and restrained intentionality. Interesting enough,
this domination is not only a male activity, rather my ethnography shows how women
themselves subordinate to a destructive behaviour, involving both parties – what I call doxa.
Looking at the other male participants, they are not as blunt as Jovan, but still talk about love
in quite ‘cold’ manners: either they just want to have sex or just do not pay much attention to
love other than having a girlfriend is nice. To me that is not evidence for masculine domination
but instead how the difference between men and women concerning love has been so
normalised and institutionalised that it lies in our DNA. Romcoms per se do not support this
normalisation, they just go with the flow to earn some more dollars. Without entirely
drawing back the responsibility from the film industry, we need to acknowledge that this
behaviour holds deeper structures. Notting Hill (Michell, 1999), for example, turns the men-
women role up-side-down as it is the male actor that feels this Epic love, it’s his heart that is
broken, it’s he who is desperate to win back the female actress’ heart (which of course happens
at the End ).
From that perspective, the participant’s stories of love point at a mixture of
domination and restrain. Adapting to normalisation, whether it’s domination, pragmatism or
restrained intentionality is also to adapt and sanction what Bourdieu (2001), Young (Engdahl,
2009), Merleau-Ponty and Toren (McDonald, 2018) discuss. It’s not only the male participants
who are stiff, avoiding eye contact, seeming genuinely not giving love any seriously thought.
Not only the men talked with monotonous voices while having a sort of questioning attitude to
why I even bother to investigate this topic as it’s so NOT interesting! Ok, look at Dan: he made
a girl pregnant – solution? Tell her to get rid of it, end of story . Erik and Elias lacked big
gestures, except for a little laugh now and then, they just sat there quite still, with bodies telling
me that love is not their first thought – but nor did some of the women. Ami was quite ‘still’
and pragmatic, both in words, voice and gestures: “I prefer to break up a date if I don’t like him
[voice restrained and careful]. I don’t believe in butterflies in the stomach [neutral voice as in
stating a fact].”
In opposition, Amanda and Jenny were extremely vivid in their gestures and
voices: lots of laughing, giggling and smiles, but also a sort of deep and calm ‘he is my forever-
Jenny: When you are freshly in love…and this person becomes the centre
around everything is evolving and he takes up all your thoughts and
waking hours [a steady, calm voice and eyes expressing a warm feeling of
(what I interpret) certainty].
However, despite her ‘happy’ expressions, Amanda also showed a different side:
Me: I remember being sad when the love never happened… I was waiting
but nothing happened.
Amanda: yeah…there and then you get sad and think maybe well, I guess
I wasn’t worth it then! [rolling her eyes, chaining the voice into a belittling
tone, pulling down the corners of her mouth and shrugging the shoulders,
and then laughing a laugh that never reached the eyes, but instead
enhanced the feelings of shame and belittleness].
This actually made me a bit uncomfortable. Why does she automatically feel it is her fault the
love never happened? Why did she feel to excuse herself? According to earlier research (Banks,
2022; Kretz, 2019), romcoms are good example of this ‘shaming’ as they contribute to make
women look like naïve idiots – which I can to a certain extent agree with, if putting it in the
context of immanence (Engdahl, 2009). Turning to Fischer & Jankowiak (1992) or Kanthor and
Xie (2014) and love being dangerous, maybe romcoms are necessary to feel ‘safe’ love in a
‘safe’ environment – like when daydreaming, and then returning to reality. About masculine
domination, I think it is a little too complex than just put the four male participants into that
conceptual box. I mean, look at Dan, when telling me about his first serious relationship:
Me: Why did she break up with you?
Dan: We we’re engaged to be married, but then I did this really stupid
thing…I had an affair with a girl at work…just a brief one, but you
know…living in small-town words come around fast…so she found out
[his fiancée, my annotation]. I didn’t want to hurt her, I was just young and
stupid…and I really liked her…but I understand why she left [lower his
eyes and voice, pauses, and takes a deep breath].
Dan genuinely seemed to regret his behaviour, and to me he didn’t present the same idea of
relationship, compared to for example Jovan. Jovan never expressed any strong feelings for
any of the women he is involved with. To him, the primary thing was to enjoy life without
commitment or being trapped. In that sense, Dan, Erik, and Elias are similar as they had never
cheated (as far as I know) on any of their girlfriends, quite the opposite, they always tried to
make them feel good, putting them first. To Erik, a relationship built on lies and deceit is not a
good one: “I have always been open about my feelings, as everything else would have been
disrespectful to my girlfriends. Love must be built on mutual respect.” This is repeated in Elias
as “respect is built on deep friendship, which is necessary in a relationship.” Respect is also
visible in what Jenny calls ‘love language:’ how people articulate love differently. This stuck
with me throughout the whole study, how we often condemn men for being executing
masculine domination, while it sometimes just comes down to how we express love. Jenny’s
husband doesn’t buy flowers but instead he cooks dinner, washes up the dishes, or helps with
the children if he notices Jenny being tired. Elias tries to really listen to his girlfriend and
supporting her. In this context, Lena, however expressed a different take on love language:
Me: Did your partner do anything nice for you?
Lena:…I guess not, he wasn’t a very good talker…or listener. I mean, he
rarely bought me things or helped in the household. He often said women
are so needy. I don’t know it was because he was from the
Mediterranean…he just expected me to provide him with full-
service…which I did because I loved him…but he killed everything inside
me…we never talked…I guess one gets used to be a lesser being when you
love someone as much as I love him…how can I ever love another man?
[looking me in my eyes, with her eyes wide open. Her voice cracked a
little, then a long silent pause].
Take 3 Scene 3 – the Not Happy End
So, what impact does romcoms have on the participant’s perception of love? That’s both easy
and complex to answer. One common denominator is stereotypes, but in the sense of being
aware of the stereotypes, not being one of those. All participants were united in the idea that
what happens on film has got nothing to do with reality, while at the same time many of them
said that romcoms do shape our views on love. Confusing …Still, Agnes and Lena, to some
extent seems to agree with the films, although for them the End wasn’t very happy . In
connection to doxa, we might locate romcoms in the box labelled stereotype and non-realistic.
As such, romcoms are just the outcome for a social structure telling us what love is and is not.
On one hand, romcoms function as conforming us into a monogamous life (something Jovan
can’t subordinate to), manifesting a historical take on love. On the other hand, romcoms
function as the antithesis to reality. In connection to this, Amanda brings up the idea of another
take on love that doesn’t show in romcoms; the ‘begging-for-sex.’ Younger men often use this
phenomenon to force them on women, without violating them: “They beg until you just can’t
resist…it’s so tiring.” Looking at previous research, this is likely to be found in contexts like
intimacy and sexuality, and evidence of how romcoms don’t influence men’s attitude to love.
It's also proof of both masculine domination and restrained intentionality. But we don’t find
this in romcoms, nor the ideal articulated in Hollywood-productions.
Another common denominator is the realistic take on romcoms – they just don’t
correspond to real life! Almost every participant agreed on that the End in romcoms is not the
real End. Mr Right in real life is less shiny, less stereotyped and less overwhelming. Although
Agnes, Lena and Jolanda did experience EPIC love from different perspectives, it didn’t end
Me: How does it feel…this love?
Agnes: He’s invaded my soul. I’m obsessed. I collect everything I
find about him in my diary, the only place I can tell about my
misfortune, my disappointment…how he disappears…how we sit
next to each other…and yet he never lets me in…we can talk about
everything…except love…at least not our love…I don’t think he
This really affects me, as I can recall myself in this, and how angry I become when finding how
this restrained intentionality sometimes grow so strong, but whether this originates from
romcoms is not easy to conclude, although Lena makes a short connection to romcoms:
Me: How was your love compared to the films?
Lena: At first..he just blew my mind, I saw only HIM…and commuting
to Stockholm was never an issue…but the way he cheated on me…would
never had happened in romcoms…no-one cheats on film…if so, it’s only
by mistake…but he, he broke me on purpose [restrained but angry voice,
breathing heavily, grimacing and flickering eyes]. He really hurt me…and
never said sorry. How can you ever rise again? [steady eyes on me, neutral
What about the men then? None of them told me about the End, at least not explicitly. They
used more pragmatic expressions like Dan: “it’s better to leave if the love has gone”, Erik:
“we both felt it was time to go separate ways,” or Elias: “when I was younger I might have felt
a bit sad, but I guess you always do that when you’re a teenager.” Jovan’s pragmatism however
never reached the End as he has decided never to commit himself to a relationship. To him,
being friends with benefits doesn’t cause him any problems: if they sex has become boring, he
just stops calling the woman and disappear. That behaviour is not very prominent in romcoms.
Jenny was the only one who couldn’t recall any bad endings, and she is still very
much in love with her husband – and I believed her as her whole body was a big smile when
talking of him . Ami had never felt any EPIC love and she seemed quite content with only
dating different men, never taking their relations any further than that, which implies neither
good nor bad End. It seemed as none of the participants never connected romcoms with
Endings, rather just as a tool for escaping and feeling good…
Dan: If she’s happy [His wife. My annotation], I’m happy. You don’t
need to complicate things.
…except for Agnes, whose whole narrative was about Ending – in fact a very bad one:
Me: Has it really ended?
Agnes: You know, everything is about HIM…and what scares me
is that I don’t think he’s understood that…EVERYTHING is on HIS
terms…he disappears and then comes back…like a f**king yo-
yo…and I’m always there…patiently waiting for him to stay this
time…but if I say I love him, he will never come back [looking
down, lowering her voice and then becomes silent].
…or Lena’s simple question:
Lena: Why can’t I find someone who wants to stay with me?
Ten love stories from people living in Sweden, but who watch (voluntarily or non-voluntarily)
romcoms mainly produced in Hollywood. Still, these stories really don’t have any geographic
context…or do they? Have we all been Hollywoodized ?
Recapitulating the research questions, I focused on why we consume romcoms, how we
embody them, and what effects they have on our perceptions of love. In connection to this, I
will emphasise three conclusions:
▪ Romcoms has a psychopharmacologic function in the sense of escapism.
▪ The participants embody romcoms in terms of EPIC love, disappointment, resignation,
fear, non-realistic, demands, false happiness or joy.
▪ Romcoms has become a negatively loaded symbol for traditionalism, monogamy,
conformity, stereotypes, and ideals.
However, to properly discuss these conclusions, we need to put them in a larger, societal
context, moving away from Hollywood being the ‘bad guy’ and instead look at deeper social
structures. From a chronological perspective, love and romance precedes love presented on
film, indicating that we shaped Hollywood– not the other way around. Although anthropological
attempts to discuss love, they lack a deeper discussion involving the chronology of first, then
- as well as discussing what role romcoms play in relation to intimacy, sexuality, kinship,
One essential finding is how the interviews show the almost unison idea of
relating romcoms with escapism, to which my response is: escape from what, and why? As a
main function of consuming romcoms is therapeutical, being a cheaper and simpler substitute
to psychopharmacological treatment (without negative side-effects), indicates a larger social
problem, which cannot be solved by escaping reality for 90 minutes – and then what? Go back
to NDSS (New Day Same Shit)? This points at a paradox as the solution also becomes the
problem. We need prozac
and numb ourselves with 90 minutes of escape and eating
snacksbut never change. In connection to doxa, romcoms being consumed as medicine,
might in fact function to, not only maintain an on-going doxa, but also to fortify it by re-
producing it. Expressed for Jovan, all participants, independently of each other, expressed
implicitly genuine feelings of wanting to be loved, to be special for someone, to be respected,
acknowledged, to be close, to find friendship, and to be someone worth staying for. All these
facts indicate a problematic situation to which romcoms become the emergency exit ! If
taking a Weberian perspective, we are society. Everything that happens in society, boils down
to us and the principles guiding our actions. Society is nothing else but the sum of all single
Influenced by Lucía Etxebarria. Amor, Curiosidad, Prozac y Dudas. Barcelona: Debolsillo, 2002.
individuals and their actions (Gilje & Grimen, 2007:222) – and if society is FUBAR
no-one else’s fault by ours. However, evident in the field data is not actually the participants
blaming anyone, except for some of the women implicitly blaming themselves for having fallen
in love. A clear illustration of restrained intentionality, showing romcoms to be a valve for
hopes and dreams of a situation that is always for someone else, but not for my participants –
also an illustration of eventually upholding doxa as well as masculine domination, in the sense
of dislocating can into cannot (without making any distinctions between the female and male
participants). If returning to Lindholm’s (1998) take on Weber and rationality, the interviews
to some extent correspond to another doxa: the emphasis on pragmatic love in favour of the
passionate EPIC head-over-heels love! In line with rationality and utility maximisation it’s
better to love with the brain, not the heart. This pragmatic takes on love however illustrates
another aspect as well: the embodiment of disappointment, sadness, resignation, and fear, as in
being afraid of getting involved in unwanted situations…better safe than sorry.
As having an interest in self-deception, I would like to contextualise this
pragmatism and paradoxical take on solutions simultaneously being problems, within life-lies
Although we can see indications of love might being a near-universal phenomenon (Lindholm,
2006; Fischer & Jankowiak, 1992), this is rarely discussed or appreciated, it seems like such
love doesn’t fit the modern society, so we lie (Khan, 2014). Despite the 88,5 % perceiving
romantic love (Fischer & Jankowiak, 1992), we lie – or rather restrain ourselves, despite being
female or male, as I believe love doesn’t have a gender. Love is just…LOVE! Also, from
this life-life approach, we can consider the blaming of West and Hollywood magic as a paradox:
we blame the West for a deranged love ideal, while simultaneously keeping consuming these
same ideals. We criticise Hollywood for being outdated, a critique in line with the Woke and
, while simultaneously allowing it (in hegemonic forms) to profit on our dreams
of being loved and to find someone who wants to stay . Even more strange, in this critique,
we seem to flush love somewhere down the drain, ridiculing it as a women-genre, shaming half
the globes population. However, the same goes for action being a ‘men-genre’ – ridiculing and
stereotyping the same way, but still, in my opinion, more ‘accepted’ and less shaming than
romcoms. Why is that? Maybe because of the paradox in blaming an industry we keep
supporting. Back to the idea of us being society, and the problematic in us originally allowing
F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition, taken from the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Inspired from the drama the Wild Duck (1884) by Norwegian play writer Henrik Ibsen.
The practice or tendency of engaging in mass cancelling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social
pressure (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cancel%20culture Retrieved 2022-05-17).
Hollywood’s imperialism to profit on love. If love might be a near-universal phenomenon and
a fundamental element in our life, and we simultaneously belittle this force to the extent as
shaming half to globe’s population by ridicule their dreams of love – solution? we must turn to
lying. Allow me to quote dear old Shakespeare
, to contextualise the strategy used in relation
to romcoms: we cause so ‘much ado about nothing.’ Love is so strong that we need either to
ridicule it, fear it – or just avoid talking about it scientifically and anthropologically. To me,
this is in a way a reversed writing of culture: ridiculing romcoms, shaming the West (while
simultaneously being part of it), orientalising and maintaining outdated ideas of Asians not
being able to feel love etc. – when doing all of that, we re-write culture (cf. Clifford & Marcus,
1986) to fit the modern society, encouraging the pragmatic embodiment expressed by Jovan,
Jolanda and Ami’s pragmatic approach to love.
To enhance this eventual re-writing culture practice, I will borrow what French
sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1981) calls hyperreality and simulacra, meaning artificial signs
of reality functioning as simulating a world within a world. This holds a large anthropological
relevance as we strive for pending between emic and etic. Obviously, there is still a LARGE
audience appreciating romcoms, but from society – and to some extent anthropology – they are
considered as the Other. Old colonial ideas are still present, if yet dressed differently. This
indicates a dislocation of discourse:
Near-universal LOVE → pragmatic rationalism
Still, despite this dislocation, this study also indicates another aspect to reconsider: the still vivid
near-universal love represented and embodied by dreams, hopes and visions about love.
Although these dreams are being overshadowed by four essential words, representing the ‘new’
love, the one that is better and more authentic than what is portrayed in romcoms:
Colonialism Hegemony Life-lies Re-writing culture
This might be why Amanda belittles herself of not being worthy of her EPIC love’s love, or
why Agnes patiently awaits a love that won’t come, or why men like Jovan still attracts women,
or why Dan doesn’t want to complicate things.
Play from 1599.
The fact that romcoms hold such complexity, opens new horizons for future studies, in which
three aspects are of certain interest: 1) the capitalisation of culture consumption including film,
literature, music as well as social media, 2) the continuation of re-writing culture and, 3) the
anthropological lack of discussing love as possible near-universal phenomenon. My
contribution to the field anthropology of love, is not only to involve a Swedish context, but also
to discuss love as primarily a non-gender phenomenon. To illustrate the near-universal power
of love, allow me to end with yet another quote from Notting Hill (Michell, 1999):
Journalist: “Anna, how long are you intending to stay here in Britain?”
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