Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Speaking Out: Look behind the happily ever

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • February 9, 2022

Below-zero February temperatures, red roses, sweetheart candies galore and the timely advent of romantically-saturated Hallmark movies are the tell-tale signsof an impending, and often dreaded, culturally memorialized feast: Valentine’s Day.

In the 21st century, there is an entrenched fixation on the romanticism surrounding Feb. 14. A quick browse of TV or radio will indisputably indicate a staggering majority of pop-culture songs and modern-day entertainment fixate on the idea of love. The media continually conjures an image of “ideal” romance, painting pictures which outline an idyllic objective of love that should be emulated by others. Seemingly unquestioned, through recycled and over-played sound bites, the media gets away with defining and molding what constitutes the “true meaning” of love.

Yet among youth, there seems to be an increasing number of critically-thinking, cultural dissidents. They question the status quo and grow weary of the media’s stanch definition of love, manifested in clichéd, often cheesy one-liners. For these objectors, the Hallmark movie romance presents all of media’s misguided views about romance in a 90-minute package.

How could there be such a growing current of distaste for these light-hearted films, which are widely recognized as being the epitome of the classic and innocent romance? While these romantic fictions can certainly be entertaining, the fault is found mainly in the fact that the storytelling is unrealistic and incomplete. 

Let’s set the scene: the couple in question meet in an ever-so-cute way. Maybe the female lead spills her double mocha Frappuccino onto the male protagonist’s new winter coat as he is talking to his friend on the phone about how he can’t find the “one” in a local mom-and-pop. Or perhaps she is a big-city girl returning to her small hometown, and surprise, surprise, she ends up bumping into her high-school sweetheart out of the blue.

After a montage showing the couple thoroughly enjoying one another’s company, the introduction of a minor curveball, namely the misunderstanding surrounding the sudden, unwarranted return of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, the sweethearts end up together, living happily ever after. Then, the film ends. That’s all folks.

Throughout all that, there is one major component lacking: the depiction of hardships. In Hallmark films, there is a continual focus on the good, nay easy, parts of love — the meeting, the courtship — but to show authentic, real love means to show what lies beyond the happily ever after. To love truly is to love selflessly, continually giving of oneself, especially during trying times. 

As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, “Amare est velle alicui bonum,” that to love is to will the good for another. There is a reason why married couples celebrate their wedding anniversaries because each year spent together shows a selfless love that has been tested to endure, each year shows the attainment of a more profound love for one another. It’s almost like mining a diamond. To extract a diamond, you have to hack out layers and layers of rock. It is only once it has been polished and cleaned that the diamond is strikingly beautiful. Similarly, to cultivate a true love, you have to face adversity, the harshness of mining, to arrive at the diamond in the rough. This is a true romance.

So, this Valentine’s Day, seek out a love beyond the heart pillows, chocolates and Hallmark movies. Go and mine your diamond in the rough.

(Vecchiato, 17, attends Grade 12 at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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