A traditional Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone. Not every person aspires to be in a relationship, nor does every adult desperately clamour for a date for that special February 14th weekend. Some people like to celebrate their singledom – and why shouldn’t they?
Movies rarely address this underrepresented demographic, though. The standard Hollywood approach is to have characters perpetually seeking their perfect partner, while those that do not are painted as cautionary tales – abnormal people leading sad, empty lives, who watch their paired up friends reach eternal happiness, while they have only their simmering regret to keep them warm at night. The dating world is seen as a tropical shark-infested pool – pleasant of temperature, but not somewhere you want to spend too much time. Uncoupled characters run the gauntlet, eventually dragging themselves – exhausted – onto the pool-side and into the safe, waiting arms of familiarity and commitment.
Where does this cumbersome burden of bias come from? Month in, month out, we pay our hard-earned cash to watch the latest variation of the same story – boy meets girl, they overcome some obstacles, they live happily ever after – as if ‘happily ever after’ is only attainable as a twosome. What is the truth here?
The truth may well be that our usual diversionary tactics are at play – the same tactics that tell us we can find happiness by purchasing the right car, or the right dress, or by losing just the right amount of weight. These tactics tell us that our happily ever after lies outside of ourselves – in things, and purchases, and people. The suggestion that we cannot possibly feel whole unless we have emotionally and legally bound ourselves to another is as manipulative as the suggestion that we will attract a mate if we use the most popular perfume.
Therefore, we make movies that push this aspirational, acquisitive agenda – because movies are a business, after all. Cynical though it may sound, if we were all happy and content in ourselves, would we be so dependent upon diversionary activities such as cinema? Would we seek to escape quite so often to a world where a smitten individual will run the length of Manhattan in the snow – clambering over yellow cab rooftops – just to reach the yin to their yang? Probably not.
These are the stories we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that we shouldn’t be alone. In movies, nothing good comes of being alone. People who are alone in movies get murdered, or pitied, or see monstrous things in the shadows. In movies, it is implied that people who are alone are alone for a terrible, secret reason – they must be damaged, or selfish, or evil. If they could only heal – or better still, be fixed – then they too could find the double pot of gold at the end of the relationship rainbow.
Every once in a while, though, a movie comes along that unabashedly swims against this unrelenting tide of saccharine cinema. Occasionally, a movie will stand resolutely thumbing the very nose under which all other movies tell us we are supposed to find the love of our lives. They celebrate another way. An alternative way. A single way.
They are few and far between, but they are precious gemstones amid the bland, cinematic stonewall of stories about adulthood. They might be about the realization that singledom is preferable to a bad relationship. They might be about the fact that sometimes, the bonds of friendship are far stronger than any romantic entanglement. They might be about the fact that there are many more goals to reach for in life than a relationship status. Whatever the context, these are the movies that demonstrate it’s good to be single, when you are happy with yourself.