Published November 21, 2011
Fat, bumbling husband plus sexually frustrated wife equals the typical trope of television monogamy these days. Friends with benefits and no strings pepper romantic comedies in the movie theaters.
Except for a certain vampire romance that opened last weekend there is a serious dearth of happy, healthy, monogamous couples who love one another on the big and small screens.
So is Hollywood killing monogamy, or just pandering to a society of commitment-phobes?
“Hollywood loves drama so it makes sense that films and TV shows would focus on the beginning of a relationship because that’s where most of the angst is," explains dating and relationship expert Tracey Steinberg."Let’s face it: watching a hot young guy and girl try to navigate a no-strings-attached sexual fling– when all those pesky feelings can get in the way – is far more interesting to watch than a longtime married couple decide between Chinese food or pizza for dinner."
Television abounds with teenage fare like “Glee,” “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries” spotlighting with steamy hook-ups over serious long term relationships. This year gave also brought both “Friends With Benefits” and “No Strings Attached,” both romcoms about couples that want relationships based solely on sex that are meant to appeal to a 20 and 30 something audience with commitment issues. Even on adult dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” and “Revenge” (all on the Disney owned ABC), characters are always hopping in and out of someone else’s marital bed.
“To some extent Hollywood may be promoting the hook up mentality because that is much more exciting and sexy than promoting monogamy and stable relationships,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere. “Today’s younger culture is about the hook up and fun instead of settling down, so certainly Hollywood will play to that audience. I also believe there is a tendency to promote that lifestyle as being more easy to achieve than it actually is. There are not enough stories about the emotional and even physical repercussions to the hook-up mentality.”
Jessica Wakeman, who blogs about women’s issues and pop culture for TheFrisky.com, thinks that the lack of monogamy in American culture is something Hollywood actually gets right. She says it’s a case of art mirroring life, and not the other way around.
“Hollywood is not accurate about a lot of things regarding sexuality, but I do think it portrays "hook-up culture" somewhat accurately. Teenagers and young adults today are a lot more comfortable hooking up with each other without further commitment than at any other point in history," Wakeman told Fox411. "A lot of us have friends with benefits to meet our needs for sexuality and companionship."
Horizon Media analyst Brad Adgate agrees that Hollywood is simply trying to capitalize on what they think people want to see as their escapist entertainment.
“I really think there are other factors more important than Hollywood movies and TV shows that are promoting the hookup culture such as how you were raised Many times movies and films are following trends not creating them. Following a trend helps ticket sales and gets viewers.,” Adgate told Fox411.
According to Dr. Marianne Brandon, author of “Monogamy: The Untold Story,” no matter how they make their way into television shows and movies, these messages in the media that monogamy simply isn’t cool have a profound affect on shaping young people’s future relationships.
“Any message promoted by the media likely have a stronger impact on younger, less experienced, and less educated individuals, as these populations are more vulnerable to influence,” Dr. Brandon told Fox411. We do know that the media is a business, driven by money, and thus the bottom line for them will be what sells as opposed to what messages are healthy and/or reality-based.”
Dr. Brandon adds that the promotion of hook-up culture in Hollywood will have a dangerous affect on our teenage and young adult population.
“We know that hooking up does not offer experience in how to develop an intimate relationship over time, or how to negotiate emotional or sexual intimacy. We know hooking up teaches people how to have sex as opposed to how to make love," Dr. Brandon said. "And without these skills, we can imagine that they will be less prepared to cultivate a long-term intimate relationship in the future."
She says the best defense for parents against this media onslaught of casual sex is a good offense.
“As individuals, we cannot control the media’s messages. But we can manage our relationships with our children so that they are optimally suited to metabolize these messages in a healthy way as they mature,” Dr. Brandon said. “Do your best to educate your children first, before the media has a chance to do it for you. Also, children and adolescents with a healthy self-esteem will be more apt to respond responsibly and with good self-care in sexual situations.”
But there is hope on the Hollywood horizon. Some of the top rated comedies on television today are indeed trying to make healthy monogamy look cool, among them "Modern Family" and "How I Met Your Mother."
"There are some married TV couples that make monogamy look cool, hip and sexy. Marshall and Lilly on "How I Met Your Mother" have a deep, fulfilling relationship that also manages to look fun and sometimes a little naughty," Steinberg told Fox411. "Hollywood will never truly be able to kill monogamy, because eventually, most people think it's cool to have someone to grow old with."