Monday, May 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

A Mainstream Love Affair


Joanne Archer discusses the inevitability of cheating in mainstream film.

I’m pretty lucky really. Unlike a lot of lonely souls out there, I have been in a very happy relationship for the last four years. You would think this can only mean Happily Ever After. My life is a Disney film and my days are filled with birdsong and baking apple pies. Reality check. We live in the 21st century and as much the above is fairly accurate, I am very aware that the course of true love never did run smooth. What exactly, I hear you ask, is it that fills me with a perpetual dread for the future? The normalisation and romanticising of cheating in mainstream film.

You only have to look as far as Alan Rickman in Love Actually to see what I mean. Evidently we are supposed to feel bad for Emma Thompson, but his mistress is clearly a much more attractive, younger upgrade. Ingrained into a cult classic film about, well, love… actually, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the inevitability that cheating plays. Should I give up now and buy myself a Joni Mitchell album?

I remember watching another film with a similar theme. It annoyed me so much I can’t even remember its name and, despite various Google searches, it’s evading me. Two couples ended up cheating on each other with each other. The plot was so awful; it even sounds ridiculous in a sentence. Right at the end, when the affairs were discovered, it was written off as the most perfect, ridiculous happy ending. It was true love fulfilled. No tears, no horror, no shock. No objects sent flying at the ‘cheaters’ head. It’s definitely on the list of films I regret watching with my significant other, alongside 500 Days of Summer.

I can understand why people cheat and have affairs, sure. Not everyone is in a good place, and I’m sure it’s not as easy as simply getting a divorce before your feelings for someone else reach their peak. It angers me that with these themes appearing in most mainstream films, Hall Pass to cite another, I should feel lucky that I have never been cheated on. Maybe it’s some kind of irrational fear. I am scared of being stung by a wasp or breaking a bone, despite having never experienced either.

I’m not saying that from this day forward cheating should be eradicated from every film plot. That would be very boring and untrue to life. I just wish it wasn’t put forward as something that is commonplace in every person’s life, as if to say that if they don’t have a mid-life crisis at the age of 40, they are missing one hell of a trophy from the cabinet called life.

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