Love. Ah, Love.
It’s a truth (sort of) universally acknowledged that love – romantic love – is an over saturated market. We all know this, you know this, your bff who helps you stream movies on your laptop knows this – h and I, fervent consumer of anything kind of cute, knows this. Many movies have dealt us the same cards, we’ve seen many similar plot points play out over time, played by many different faces, even though they can often look similar (pretty, white). We know the drill – whether it be meet cutes, sexy hook ups, an indie slice of life, devastating dramas or the simple of act just liking someone – romantic love is something that dominates our popular culture narrative.
I don’t necessarily see anything intrinsically wrong with this. I, in fact, probably perpetuate it, perhaps to a fault. I will read the blurb of a book and wonder if there is romance in it. When a friend recommends me a book, I will shamelessly ask if there is some kind of romance in it. When I start a new TV show, I will often find that it is, at the very least to some extent, that will keep me watching, sometimes to all the extent, and sometimes, seeing GIFs and hearing them being talked about is the reason I tune in in the first place (2009, Chuck and Blair, Gossip Girl*, 2014, Jim and Pam, The Office). This is definitely not always the case – sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes, something completely different is cathartic, or sometimes you just don’t need it. But, more often than not, an interesting, non-clichéd (or clichéd and cute, no judgement here) will make things infinitely more interesting.
I think, sometimes, with my complete assimilation of romance through books and TV shows and movies, it’s always good to watch/read/listen to something that brings something new to the table, or something that feels authentic and true. Not that at all invalidate anything anyone has done before, and of course, this will be completely subjective, but, since it’s Valentine’s Day Eve Eve (as I write this), and Galentine’s day (for all you Parks and Recreation fans), I thought I’d be completely original and tell you all my favourite cute things that you can consume around this period.
It is also recommended that you consume these with discount valentine’s chocolates.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL THINGS TALKED ABOUT!!
*Though I love them, I recognise they were kind of problematic
- If you want to watch a couple of episodes of an oldie but a goodie
The Office, Season 6,Episode 4&5, Niagara, or Season 7, Episode 19, Garage Sale
In the former episode, Jim and Pam tie the knot, and it is sweet and funny and good TV and all around nice, which pretty much sums up Jim and Pam’s arc. It’s a lovely culmination of their romance, which had a wonderful (though often painful and heartbreaking to watch, particularly when they couldn’t just admit their feelings towards each other), platform in their incredibly sweet friendship.
Of all the couples in The Office, Jim and Pam are definitely the favourite, but Michael and Holly are, at least for me, a close second. Michael, as annoying and brash and self-centred and ignorant and arrogant as he could be, as much as he displayed a grating, though hilarious, lack of self-awareness, he always radiated loneliness and desire for companionship (which is testament to Steve Carrell’s nuanced performance year on year) and Holly Flaxx, a HR rep brought in to replace his arch nemesis Toby, was a perfect match for his dorkiness. His proposal to her in this episode was beyond sweet.
- If you want to watch a couple of episodes of a (sort of) newbie and a goodie
The Mindy Project, Season 2 Episode 15, French Me You Idiot, or Season 2 Episode 22
Anything with Mindy and Danny is a pleasure to watch because of the potent chemistry between Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling, but both these episodes show them at their sweetest, as well as hilarious one liner after one liner. The former showing the aftermaths of their aeroplane kiss and the latter, curmudgeon Danny’s attempts to best Nora Ephron to romance Mindy and woo her back to him.
- Have time for a full season? My Mad Fat Diary Season 1
You are doing yourself a disservice by not watching My Mad Fat Diary. The show (based on the real diaries of Rae Earl, who is a hoot and a half on twitter) chronicles the recovery, and the trials and tribulations this entails, of 16 year old, 16 stone Rae after she is discharged from a psychiatric hospital. It is incredibly well written and beautifully acted and directed (the show has three BAFTA nominations to date), and there is a lovely, long anticipated romance in this show, so suitable for Valentine’s Day. There are only six episodes, so it won’t take you long AT ALL.
- If you want to read something
Rainbow Rowell and all of her books
But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Rainbow Rowell is formidable at what she does. She takes familiar threads- love stories – and spins them into something new and authentic. My favourite, Eleanor and Park, is a wonderful young adult love story that has a number of accolades. It is as heartbreaking and tense as it is sweet, as you often fear for one of the characters throughout the entirety of the story, but its blend of gritty social realism and romance really struck me and left it as one of my favourite young adult novels
Jojo Moyes, like Rowell, has a tendency to blend social commentary with sweet stories about love, friendships and family. To have a book make you cry and laugh almost simultaneously is a rare feat, but Jojo Moyes manages to do so in all her books, and I think it is a big part of her commercial appeal. Her books and characters are always compassionately written. My favourite of hers is Me Before You, but The One Plus One is a close second.
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
This young adult Romeo and Juliet type love story of a two Brooklyn teens who are blocks apart, one a black boy, the other a Hasidic Jewish girl, wasn’t my favourite at the time, but has a lot of staying power, and with its racial and religious diversity and heart and sweetness, (I’m not a Hasidic Jewish girl, so I can’t speak on how well researched it is), but it comes across as well researched.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is ostentatiously a love story about two Nigerian childhood sweethearts, but it is also a book that delves into the intricacies of race relations in Western society, particularly that of the Unites States and the UK. It was a revelation for me to read a book about black experiences, from the black hair salon, to casual racism and passages full of candour about being invisible in popular culture, to interactions and expectations that shape racial identities, good and bad. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie goes straight to the heart of deep, uncomfortable conversations and writes from within them, and writes wonderfully about race issues no one ever talks about unless drink is involved. Many times it was like reading into an echo chanber, but sometimes she clarified things that bothered me about discussions about race (or lack thereof). It’s such a wonderful book, melancholy and heartbreaking at many points, but also sweet and romantic and funny.
- If you’re a YouTube person, you need to watch Yulin Kuang’s YouTube channel
Yulin is a brilliant and clever filmmaker, who, as ascertained from her interviews, is passionate about the romcom genre. Her channel is a conglomerate of short films, the series ‘I didn’t Write This,’ clever adaptations of poems and scenes from books (there is even a Rainbow Rowell in there! (Check out her Fangirl adaptation) vlogs and think pieces (the thinking out loud). My favourite is actually the first one I watched, ‘The Perils of Growing Up Flat chested,’ although the ‘Dark Sonnet’ by Neil Gaiman adaptation is a close second.
- And something for Galentine’s Day
Call Your Girlfriend Podcast
Friendship isn’t celebrated enough in popular culture, which is damn shame, because it is, in my opinion, at least just as important as romance and, in different times in a person’s life, can probably be much more important than romance. The Call Your Girlfriend podcast, hosted by long distance besties Gina Delvac, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow. The description readsEvery other week, tune in as we discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the beauty of caftans, menstruation news, Kimye, Pitbull, Hillary Rodham Clinton, casual racism, emoji, straight people, California, rom-coms, Lorde lipstick, and so much more.