In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post called Love Notes From a Smartphone: Is Technology Ruining Romantic Movies?
It’s not because I think romance is dead (in the movies or in real life, for that matter). But it’s because how we communicate about love has changed significantly with the advent of smartphones and social media. This is especially noticeable in romantic movies, from comedies to dramas and everything in between.
Nowadays, love letters are relegated to period pieces and war movies, unless a writer finds a crafty way to work them into the script (think Big emailing Carrie love letters from famous men in Sex and the City). Our real-life expressions of love are much shorter, crisper, and less poetic (or less schmaltzy, depending on how you look at it) thanks to our cynical 21st-century sensibilities.
In The Huffington Post piece, I looked at four movies from days gone by that would be markedly different if the characters had smartphones and social media at their disposal. This raised some questions/comments about the loads of movies I didn’t chose. So, I thought I’d offer up a Part 2, if you will, where I give the same tech-savvy treatment to a few other classic romantic movies:
1.) Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who’s bored out of her mind and escapes from her guards during a trip to Rome. During her jaunt around the city, she encounters American journalist Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, who shows her the time of her life. They gradually fall in love, and though Joe eventually realizes that his companion is the missing princess, he keeps her secret (and the photographs of their time together) safe. When he briefly encounters her at a royal press conference, they wonder what might have been.
21st century ending: A fake Twitter account about the princess’ romp around Rome immediately springs up, gaining 200,000 followers in under 5 minutes. Joe is offered $5 million for his photos of the princess and he refuses to hand them over. But his email is hacked and the photos are uploaded to the Internet anyway. The princess continues to be hounded by paparazzi and is named one of Barbara Walters’ most fascinating people.
2.) Coming to America (1988)
Eddie Murphy plays an African prince about to be married off to a princess who’s been trained to do whatever he wants. But ever the romantic, he wants to find true love and embarks on a quest to find his future in queen in, well, Queens. He gets a job at a McDonald’s rip-off and lives in the most meager accommodations he can find, in hopes of finding a woman who loves him for who he is. Eventually he finds Lisa, an intelligent and independent woman who steals his heart, much to the chagrin of his parents.
21st century ending: Prince Akeem (Murphy) goes on Match.com to find his bride. But his best friend Semi spills the beans on Twitter that Akeem is a prince. When word gets out, he’s offered his own reality series not unlike The Bachelor called Finding Prince Charming. He offers a rose/proposal to Lisa in the very last episode and she accepts. Their wedding inspires African prints on Pinterest wedding boards that year.
3.) Before Sunrise (1995)
This simple, charming tale takes place over the course of one day, when 20-somethings Jesse and Celine meet on a train in Europe. They’re immediately attracted to one another and spend the day in deep conversation as they roam the streets of Vienna. But as their romantic evening comes to a close, it becomes clear that this will likely be the only night they have to spend together since they have other lives to return to. Just before they bid farewell at the train station, they agree to meet in the same place six months to the day.
21st century ending: There’s no need for the heartbreaking sequels, Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013), because Jesse and Celine exchange email addresses before they go their separate ways. After getting back to their normal lives, they find each other on Facebook and start Skype chatting with each other. A serendipitous Facebook posts reveals that they’ll be in the same city again in a few months, so they decide to meet in person again rather than leaving it up to chance. They live happily ever after.
So there you have it. While technology is an amazing tool for couples separated by great distances, it doesn’t do much for epic romance movies. Just consider You’ve Got Mail, which doesn’t quite make the cut as one of Nora Ephron’s timeless romantic classics. Maybe that’s because the story gets overshadowed in our memories by the now outdated AOL references and dial-up Internet. Be still my beating heart.