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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"You Don't Want to Be in Love... You Want to Be in Love in a Movie": Romance and Postfeminism in Contemporary Film and Television

  • Author(s): Schreiber, Michele
  • et al.

In the popular romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle (Ephron, 1993), a pivotal scene in the middle of the film sums up the crux of the dilemma faced by Annie (Meg Ryan), the female protagonist. She is having difficulty making an important decision about her love life and, as she always does, turns to the classic film An Affair to Remember (McCarey, 1957) for guidance. As she watches the film with her best friend Becky (Rosie O’Donnell), she says, “Now those were the days when people knew how to be in love, time, distance, nothing could separate them because they knew.” In response, Becky observes, “That’s your problem, you don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.” This interaction between Annie and Becky is meant to elicit a sense of recognition among Sleepless in Seattle’s audience because the text assumes that by nature of the fact that they are watching the film, its spectators must empathize with, if not share, Annie’s desire to fall in love in a way that is completely removed from the mundane realities of everyday life. However, the text also assumes that the audience will find equally familiar Becky’s pointed critique of Annie’s misguided preoccupation.

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