The Real Reason We Love Romance Films Like “The Notebook”
There's a scientific reason why we always tune in.
It’s been 15 years since audiences were introduced to Allie and Duke (a.k.a. Noah) in Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. It’s been 15 years since the younger versions of Allie and Duke made kissing in a downpour look good, and 15 years since the older versions showed us what lasting love really looks like as Duke reads to Allie the story of their love from the titular notebook. Basically, it’s been 15 years since we all fell in love with The Notebook.
But what is it about The Notebook and romance films that people love so much? Why do we love meet-cutes that lead to awkward-but-sweet encounters? Or when the boy and the girl realize their hate is actually love? And when couples run into each others’ arms and kiss in the rain?
First, love stories give us hope of finding love of our own. “We all need hope in our lives. And Hollywood trades on hope,” Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, told TIME when asked about our love of romantic comedies. “We need to live by stories that help us deal with tough realities. Idealism has a role to play—it can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us. And you know what? There is!”
While hope is certainly important, there’s another scientific reason that people fall for a good love story—oxytocin, a.k.a. the love hormone. A group of neuroscientists at Princeton University found that when we’re told stories, the characters are brought to life, and their story really resonates with us, our levels of that hormone increase. According to The Startup, as oxytocin releases into our bloodstream upon hearing a well-told story (or watching a Nicholas Sparks movie), our brains react as if we are experiencing it ourselves. When it comes to romance movies, it can feel a bit like you’re falling in love with the characters on screen and connecting with the film on a deeper level.
There are also psychological reasons that we love rom-coms, especially for younger women who may not have experienced the real thing. “Younger folks may be drawn to these movies because they can emotionally relate to them—even if they haven’t fully experienced the full emotional turmoil of romance, they can still relate to the two main figures and what could happen down the road,” clinical psychologist Dr. Bart Rossi told Complex, when asked about the appeal of romance movies. “When you see something dramatic, where one of the major figures dies or has a terrible illness, it brings us into reality and brings us a lot of emotion, and the psychology of that has an impact on us [...]. It brings up a lot of emotion and depth—what is the meaning of life? What are we all about?” Basically, romantic movies, especially ones like The Notebook that show the reality of love in old age, are educational for young minds.
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This is all to say that the next time you see The Notebook airing on TV, go ahead and watch it. If someone tries to change the channel, calmly tell them that you should watch, according to science.