You know what? The past few weeks have been kind of depressing around here. Let’s look at something positive for a change. I know I should save this until something like Valentines but what the hell, let’s talk about love.
In cinema there’s a bit of an unwritten rule (actually there are a lot of unwritten rules, I’d go so far to say that it’s mostly unwritten rules) about the phrase “I love you.” and how it’s used in film and TV.
For this I won’t look at books, music or games simply because I feel the mediums are so different that they follow their own guidelines in this case.
The infamous phrase “I love you.” is probably known as one of the few sentences you see used the least in it’s intended purpose. There’s exceptions of course but, and this is true especially in romance films, you will maybe hear the phrase used one, if at all.
You don’t believe me? Exhibit A. Titanic. A movie about love. No question right? So how many times do you think our lead actors said the magic phrase? Five times? Ten? I mean, people made fun of this movie for how excessive the drama was and how assured we are of the love between Jack and Rose. So how often was it said?
Once, just once by Rose when she thinks her and Jack are going to die. That’s it. Never again.
Immediately after Jack begins to give her an extended speech about how she has to live, never even reciprocating the line.
I was surprised on this one myself since we all know how much Hollywood loves cliches. I mean, we see them recycle plots often enough. Even plots about love don’t use the sentence a lot. In fact, I see the phrase “I love you” used more often when the character is in a one-sided love trying to hold on to a relationship that’s clearly failing or that person is just straight up looney.
So why would this phrase be like the sniper bullet in the United States vast weapons arsenal? Small and only used for maximum effect?
Well, I can think of a couple of reasons actually.
There’s a lot of marketing that goes into films and occasionally that marketing gets to dictate how film scripts are constructed. In real life people easily say “I love you” to each other and you can imagine writers wanting to reflect that. Marketing executives, however, want the audience to have that great payoff when the phrase is used for the first time, if at all. It’s actually one of the few things marketing executives like to be subtle about as a rule.
Why? Well, if you look at most films not just anyone can always have such stories happen to them. Even the most dark and depressing films about life itself rarely represent the reality of life. But love, anyone can fall in love. Happens all the time. Because of that
The other reason is actually a bit more about how the phrase is perceived by the masses. Sure while we, in relationships say “I love you” an awful lot we understand the importance of the phrase. It’s a lot like the emotional wedding ring for most people and shows a much more intimate level of commitment between two people that transcends every day problems. Ideally that is. And as the saying goes, there is no more powerful series of words then “I love you” so you know the audience would be turned off if it became a commonplace phrase. The more a person in a film says it, the less it means.
So let’s give the silver screen and film executives some credit. There is at least one thing that means something to them.
And so too does this work exist.