True Love: Is It Real? [Part 1]

I’m a big fan of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. I just finished watching season 1 yesterday, and I can’t wait for the second season. A recurring theme is the idea that true love can break any curse. From fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to modern adaptations like Shrek and Enchanted, there’s the notion that true love’s kiss is the strongest magic that can loose the bonds of evil.

While that sounds all nice and wonderful, I do want to ask – what is true love? Neurologists might point to spiking hormones while anthropologists like Helen Fisher would cite evolutionary psychology. So is true love just a fantasy? Does all the unhappy marriages and divorce rates tell us that true love and happily-ever-after stories are just fairy tales?

Marketing specialist and theorist Clotaire Rapaille studied the American culture code for love and romance, and he recorded his findings in his book, The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do. Comparatively speaking, American love is fed by false expectations. Consider Rapaille’s illustrations:

  • A woman seeks Mr. Right because she believes the stories from books, TV and movies. She finds someone she believes she can change into an ideal man, and she disappointingly sees her efforts fail.
  • A man wants a woman who excites him, but then he becomes disappointed when motherhood takes her interests elsewhere.
  • Successful diamond ring companies typically use a “eternal love” motif in their advertising, while at the same time emphasizes on the high resale value of the ring, should the marriage fail.

Americans put rather high standards on love, Rapaille says, only to be disappointed by reality. He gives us a psychoanalytic illustration:

  • For a fetus, the womb serves as an all-paid luxury resort – no work, free food and the promise of a mother’s unconditional love.
  • The birthing canal and the realism of detachment from the mother creates a harsh disappointment in the child.
  • Instead of training the child to rise above it, American parenting, educational systems, entertainment and media constantly reinforce the idealism-disillusionment cycle. Perfection is achievable, but people are imperfect. This irony is lived almost everyday.

Is this what my favorite show (Once Upon a Time) is telling me? That true love can even raise the dead?

Consider the typical Japanese contemporary thinking: “Love is a temporary disease. It is foolish to base something as important as the creation of a family on something so temporary.” Their divorce rate is less than 2%, compared to the American 40-60%! While many youngsters in Japan do date, they tend to trust their parents’ decisions for arranging their marriages. I wonder if American romance shows get views over there…

So is the problem in our false expectations? Do we believe in these fairy tales way too easily? This is something worth thinking about while we wait on the next season, coming this September!

How do we love? Is our way wrong? Let’s take a look at what some experts say, here in my next post on realistic love.

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4 thoughts on “True Love: Is It Real? [Part 1]

  1. Thoughtful indeed. I guess as a guy I also bought into the idea of this kind of romance and the fact I’m expected to get some 5k engagement ring. I hope in Part 2 of this series that there is a coupon to get an expensive ring for five bucks…

  2. hmmm interesting observations. i like how you cited different mediums to back your claims. However, the Japan-America comparison somehow intrigued me. Although it is true that they have lower divorce rate than Americans, they also have different lifestylea, values, way of thinking and etc. Of course this does not only apply to Japan. It always boils down to how the society functions…

    • Yeah, the cross cultural study is interesting. Rapaille mentions how Japanese men are actually afraid of approaching and courting women. The prominence of violent eroticism and rape fantasies in Japanese pornography might support this idea. Also, in a lot of anime, such as Elfen Lied and Sekirei, the weak male protagonists are surrounded by a harem of cliche female characters.

  3. Pingback: True Love = Real Decision [Part 2] | Millennial Folklore

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