Perhaps if the first seminal romantic movie I had watched as a child had been something tame like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, I would have a much sunnier outlook to love and romance. As it is, mine was the domestic violence themed lifetime TV movie ‘The Tracy Thurnam Story’. To this day, I believe that the slight mistrust I project onto romantic partners and people in general has its roots in that film.
Without a doubt, pop culture has a powerful influence on our views of love, sex and romance; and in Africa especially, where healthy conversations between parents and children on the topic is practically taboo, that intersection is even stronger.
We probably all have the story of our parents demonizing love/ sex tucked somewhere in our memories: there was the quick channel change during a kissing scene, the slut shaming of the neighborhood teenage girl who got pregnant, and the resolute way we knew we couldn’t go to our parents for advice on any questions related to the opposite sex.
Without any trusted sources from which we could get this information, most of us turned to movies, books, series, music, poetry and other aspects of pop culture to satisfy our unavoidable curiosities on the subject.
This intersection happens in different ways for different people; as was evidenced when we tasked writers Mildred Apenyo and Dennis Asiimwe, and radio presenter Moses Rudende to answer questions about the impact of pop culture on their ideals of love/romance, and how that earlier pop culture influenced notion compared to the reality of their actual romantic experiences later on:
I would point to Stephen King, mostly because he writes about how humanity reacts under duress (and relationships can be horror stories!) and therefore shows how relationships stand up to extreme strain. Books here include Bag of Bones, IT, and Lisey’s Story.
The reality didn’t change by much; I have always been a creature of observation, tending to base my notions more on what I observe than what is communicated, even as a child. King’s work is grounded in observing human relationships and so in his case, since his outlook often was rather grim, it meant my expectations about love were rather more realistic.
Dennis Asiimwe is a writer and CEO of Jade Incorporated.
The first time I asked a boy out, I was 16. I was in love, in obsessive love. I found his bookishness so beautiful. I loved how large and misshapen his head was. He was so gentle. He seemed to need exactly the kind of loving I felt I could offer. While we were friends, I was super scared about telling him about my feelings. ‘Tell Him’ by Celine Dion gave me the courage that I needed! Sadly, he didn’t like me back. But now eight years later, that is still the principle I operate on. I am not a time waster. If I like you, I tell you.
Mildred Apenyo is a writer, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow, and the founder of FitClique Africa.
Albert: You know, honestly, I never knew I could feel like this…It’s like I want to throw myself off of every building in New York. I see a cab and I just wanna dive in front of it because then I’ll stop thinking about her.
Hitch: Look, you will. Just give it time.
Albert: That’s just it. I don’t want to. I mean, I’ve waited my whole life to feel this miserable…and if this is the only way I can stay connected with her, then… well, this is who I have to be.
Hitch eventually understands exactly what he meant when he goes to tell Sara how he really feels about her and tells her he wants to be miserable. And in that moment, it made sense to me. If you are miserable and still want to be with that person, then that is love. Love in its truest sense.
I was never really influenced by the pop notion. I have always found that the novels and songs were either too angst ridden or were very textbook in their approach which, to be honest, was not grounded in reality. Yes, there the heartbreaks and crushes, but it was never life-ending like it was made out to be. Then again, maybe I have always been a pragmatist.