We all know that romantic comedies perpetuate relationship myths—not the least of which that if the leading men in our own lives were a little more like dreamy, big-gesture-making movie characters, we’d be much happier. Studies even show that movies like Love Actually and Friends with Benefits give us unrealistic expectations of romantic grandeur that can hurt our relatively mundane real-life relationships. Though male leads in most rom-coms are undeniably charming and perfectly suited for the escapist female fantasies Hollywood has created, some of the characters would be less than desirable in real life—in fact, you might even break up with them! I, for one, will never stop snuggling up with When Harry Met Sally on rainy Saturdays or shelling out $11.50 to see the latest Jen Aniston disaster. Still, there are certain romantic leading men I’m glad can’t sweep me off my feet.
Mark Darcy from “Bridget Jones’s Diary”
In rom-com world, the more you yell at a person and insult them, the more romantic you are. Mark Darcy has this convention down pat. After spending the movie being a stuffy, “prematurely middle-aged prick,” he redeems himself by expressing lukewarm feelings for Bridget after listing her faults in a bumbling, stereotypically British sort of way: “You really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever’s in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences… But the thing is, um, what I’m trying to say, very inarticulately, is that…I like you, very much. Just as you are.” Sure it made us smile and maybe even fight back a tear at the oh-so-outrageous thought that a man as good looking as Colin Firth could accept the woman he loves just as she is, but imagine the day-to-day life of being married to Mr. Darcy. He would probably correct your grammar, heaven forbid he crack a smile at something he deemed “low-brow,” and don’t even get me started on those Christmas sweaters!
Eddie Thomas from “America’s Sweethearts”
John Cusack plays an unstable, self-absorbed actor who was driven to the edges of insanity when he was dumped by his love-interest’s sister. What a catch! No potential heartache here! If you envied Julia Roberts at any point during this movie, just imagine spending future Thanksgivings and family reunions as part of that blended family.
The Prime Minister from “Love Actually”
What is it with Hollywood’s obsession with awkward, blundering Hugh Grant? He plays the same inarticulate character in every movie—a trait that translates as charming onscreen but would be rather draining if you had to live with someone who took five minutes to ask you to pass the milk every morning. But aside from annoying verbal tics, the reality of a relationship with the Prime Minister (who, by the way, is also your boss), is so wrought with strife, it may be enough to make you appreciate your actual boyfriend’s relatively unglamorous career. If only because it means you can keep yours too.
Jonathan Trager from “Serendipity”
Fate, destiny, serendipity—what fun words to say! Even more fun was watching adorable John Cusack say them constantly throughout this movie. Maybe as you drooled over Cusack’s characteristic Say Anything-charm, you thought, This man is fighting for his destiny, professing his love the moment he feels it, whereas my boyfriend won’t even say “love” and “you” in the same sentence. That’s it. I’m dumping him right after they roll the credits. If so, it’s worth remembering that Trager called off his wedding moments before his fiancé walked down the aisle because of one night that occurred years before. Never mind the loving relationship he had forged with this woman; he had a hunch that there might be something better. This flighty, fickle behavior sure does make for a magical couple of hours, but it should send you running in the opposite direction in real life.
Edward Lewis from “Pretty Woman”
Watching Pretty Woman is an exercise in suspending disbelief. Deemed a modern-day Cinderella story, the plotline is in some ways even less believable than the original fairytale, which featured magical pumpkins and forest animals who did housework. But let’s pretend for a moment Richard Gere’s character, billionaire corporate raider Edward Lewis, really exists. How appealing would it be to date a cold, ruthless businessman who has to hire escorts in order to fit in with other cold, ruthless businessmen and their own arm-candy?