Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift pose for the film “Raintree County.”

Pop culture & the perception of love

Let’s admit it. We’ve been had. From the moment the movies flickered to life, we’ve been sold a bill of goods about how love, relationships and romance are supposed to look.

Let’s admit it. We’ve been had. From the moment the movies flickered to life, we’ve been sold a bill of goods about how love, relationships and romance are supposed to look.

From Garbo and Gilbert to the closing scene in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” they set us up to expect the same, wind-swept scenarios in our own lives, when in truth, the look of love probably is much closer to “The Honeymooners” than “The Notebook.”

During the golden age of film, which has helped to shape our popular culture, women often woke up in bedroom scenes with unsmudged makeup and salon-quality hair.

Think Elizabeth Taylor at 23.

Have you ever actually seen a picture of Elizabeth Taylor at 23?

No pressure.

She could have stopped a bar fight.

Movies told us that, even if we were more Katie Morosky than Taylor, we too had a shot at landing someone like Hubbell Gardner from “The Way We Were.”

MANLY MEN

Classic-movie men were barrel-chested and, well, manly. Rough around the edges, no overt effort was made to impress a “dame.” Clark Gable wouldn’t have been caught dead unshaven and wearing skinny jeans, sipping on a smoothie.
Then again, maybe that’s just because he was from Ohio.

As for the kind of woman men in movies pursued, smart girls and back-talkers need not apply.

Sometimes, there was a harlot with a heart of gold, but she rarely got her man.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Our films since have become more world-weary and cynical—our current theater listings suggest that romance is in short supply—but our TV airwaves are filled with reality shows in which people literally compete to be selected to partake in a romantic relationship.

Lured by fame, others offer up their private, real-life relationships for dissection on TV—America’s altar—which never has enough sacrifices.

FRANK AND ADELE

Love songs always have filled our lives. This past year marked the 100th birthday of the late, great Frank Sinatra, whose catalog of love songs was a soundtrack for his own turbulent romances and everyday Americans’ aspirations. Sinatra was that rare artist who mastered the art of being a heel and a heartthrob at the same time.

We still listen, always waiting for the next great love song to come along. In December, after a four-year absence, British chanteuse Adele smashed sales records, confirming that there still is an appetite for a good heart-wrencher.

Unlike in parts of the world where it’s not altogether unusual for people to marry for reasons other than love, we won’t settle for anything less. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day, a concoction unique to Northeast Ohio.

Because when all is said and done, we still love the idea of love, even if we’re not totally sure how to define it.

And yes, we’ll probably keep taking our cues from the silver screen whenever the chance presents itself.  When the lights go down, our hearts still skip a beat.