So it turns out nobody bothered to notify me when it was decreed that the following is to be considered wildly romantic: between ten and zero days before your wedding, break up with your fiance.|
Oh, not with the hero, of course. The hero's the one you're breaking off your engagement in order to be with. But the guy (or, more rarely, gal) who didn't sweep you off your feet - you know, the one you've actually known for more than a week, the one who hasn't been having awkwardly intimate moments with a complete stranger, the one who doesn't seem to decide on a whim that a relationship you've committed to cementing can be casually disposed of. What, marry him? Like you promised? Like you (presuming you are the intelligent, assertive, cocky protagonist you've been presented as) actually decided to and wanted of your own free will? Don't make me laugh. We're talking about true love here. As opposed to false love, or whatever the hell it was you had with the poor, less-attractive fiance you were with at the beginning of the film.
Almost always, the fiance exists for one reason, and one reason only: to create an obstacle to the romance, which much of the movie will be spent overcoming. The difficulty being that Hollywood relies, to an utterly astounding degree, on the audience's absolute refusal to ask "wait a moment, why should I care whether or not this couple actually gets together?". Or "wait, what's wrong with the guy you're already engaged with?"
There are two typical attempts commonly made to cover up the problem (if the script bothers to address it at all). They are:
1. The Fiance Is A Jerk
2. The Fiance Gets Somebody Else (So That's All Right Then)
Of these, the second tends to be just plain stupid. The fiance is usually a fairly minor character; if we were the least bit vested in his well-being, we wouldn't stand for the engagement being broken up in the first place. This is often reduced to a single line like "Meet my new girlfriend!" or "Hey, can I have your number?"
The first, The Fiance's A Jerk, could actually provide a fair approach. I'm not complaining about a fiance's right to change their minds here; if a protagonist (or a Real Person, too!) sees their fiance as a jerk, then breaking off the engagement is probably a good idea. Or, heaven help us for our reluctance to end engagements, delay the wedding a bit and try to work things out before doing something quite so drastic.
A) All too often, The Fiance's A Jerk not at the beginning, when we need lots of conflict and tension. Then later, out of the blue, he's suddenly portrayed as being a Jerk - just when we need to justify the engaged protagonist casually discarding her matrimonial commitment.
B) It's very rare that there's any explanation why such an amazing person as the protagonist is portrayed to be winded up getting engaged to such a jerk - or why she suffered his jerkness earlier, but not now.
C) The engagement is never broken off for merely for its own sake - it's always breaking up with A in order to be with B. Well, here's a tip, all you movie protagonists out there who are reading my blog. Breaking up with somebody because you're unhappy with the relationship is A-OK. BREAKING UP WITH SOMEBODY IN ORDER TO BE WITH SOMEBODY ELSE IS A SHITTY THING TO DO. It undercuts the attempted implication that the breakup is OK because the original relationship was broken anyway, because the decision to break up is combined with the decision to hook up with the other guy. You can't honestly expect me to respect a "is this relationship healthy/wise/salvageable?" decision when its made with the hot new love interest breathing over your shoulder.
You'll notice this is almost never done with somebody who's already actually married. Cheating on your wife is still bad. Three days earlier, though? Oh, that's fine. Because clearly what differentiates between a still-in-the-air relationship and one that has loving commitment is whether or not the bride has already been filmed wearing a white dress, or has merely picked out the dress and the cameraman.
This drives me absolutely crazy - the thought that people go to these movies, watch these horrible, despicable relationships, and they think to themselves, "Oh! How very romantic!".
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