The unromantic reality of the ‘meet cute’

(Courtesy of Bhabna Banerjee, Creative Director)

The ‘meet cute’ movie trope refers to the funny, awkward, or endearing first meeting of two characters that sparks their romantic journey. From the prime minister meeting his potty-mouthed assistant in Love Actually, to Summer singing The Smiths with her future partner in an elevator in 500 Days of Summer, the ‘meet cute’ introduces us to two characters who are destined to be together in the romantic comedies’ safe and optimistic setting.

But offscreen, it’s clear that these movie meetings just can’t cut it in our modern world. I mean, having a man stare you down in an elevator isn’t always an indication of romance. 

Oftentimes, it’s just plain creepy.

Now I’m not a cynic. I’ll be the first person to promise you that romance is still alive and well! But we’re in the age of heightened awareness when it comes to matters of the heart. It’s about time that we take notice of the unwanted or uncomfortable advances that are constantly professed ‘in the name of love’. 

Netflix’s You, for example, showed us how the ‘meet cute’ can be misconstrued, turning a simple flirty meeting in a bookstore into a voyeuristic obsession. And what’s really scary about these situations is that, much like Joe, the guy often doesn’t see where things are going wrong. 

Pandemic aside, it’s safe to say there is fear that persists in women when it comes to meeting an unknown man, have it be by accident or design. 

For a guy, a simple glance to a stranger can be given as an invitation for an introduction or as a hint that ‘love is in the air’. But for a woman alone on the subway at night, a glance from a strange man realistically means that she could be in danger. 

It’s hard to think of romance while you’re planning a potential escape.

Chivalry isn’t dead, but the cinematic idea of what it once meant is long gone. And unfortunately, the fear of what could happen overrules the hope for love in a modern day ‘meet cute.’

We don’t live in the idyllic cinematic world of romantic comedies that come equipped with a promise that things will turn out okay. Contrary to what these films have taught us, love at first sight isn’t always reciprocated, and bumping into a stranger may really just be an accident rather than a sign from the universe.

In this pandemic — Hollywood heartthrob or not — the time has come to keep our distance and keep our hands to ourselves.

Now, is a cute romantic meeting still possible? Absolutely. But the veil of the romantic movie meetings has ultimately been lifted. Our lives aren’t written like screenplays, so we can’t expect them to turn out as such. We can’t count on every leading man to be dashing and considerate, and every leading lady to be the perfect girl next door. 

Being aware and alert doesn’t make us any less of a hopeless romantic. 

But let’s face it — some meetings are meant for Nancy Meyers films, not the real world.

About the Author

By Sarah Garofalo

Former Editor

Sarah is in her fourth year of Film Studies at York University. She is passionate about using writing as a tool to educate herself and introduce others to hidden stories and new ideas. In the future, she hopes to continue her studies in film and merge it with her love of writing and journalism. You can always find Sarah sketching, painting or endlessly watching films while waiting to get back into movie theatres.


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