I need to start with a confession: I‘ve never liked rom-coms. Like, not even once.
And that comes with a second confession: My distaste for rom-coms goes hand-in-hand with my acceptance that I‘ll die alone because love is a trap designed to imprison me in a false sense of security, unrealistic expectations, and societal ideals concocted by Hollywood, Hallmark, and Big Wedding trying to trick me into believing their lies.
But here‘s the confession that‘s much harder to admit — the confession I wrote down in a love letter of frenzied emotions that threaten to overwhelm me, then put away in a teal fabric box with a bow: That‘s all a big fat lie.
I love love. Or at the very least, I love love from the comfortable, safe distance of how I imagine it in my fantasies. I‘ve kept this dark secret as buried as the novel-length Harry Potter fanfiction I wrote in 9th grade about me dating both Sirius Black and Severus Snape.
Because this secret threatens to ruin tthe meticulously crafted image I‘ve cultivated to protect the soft underbelly hidden beneath my hardened exterior.
I wear my cold, dead heart on my sleeve like armor, leading Mashable‘s Deputy Entertainment Editor Angie Han to describe me as “Mistress Of All That Is Death And Darkness And Despair,” an evolution of the “Satan‘s Girlfriend” moniker given to me years ago by a college professor.
I wear my cold, dead heart on my sleeve like armor.
I don‘t date. I don‘t like rom-coms. My heart belongs to the King of Underworld, so don‘t even try.
So you can imagine my distress when I watched To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before. Because here‘s the confession that‘s hardest to admit of all and, um, can you turn around for it? Please?
…Dear To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before: I need you to know that I like you. And not in a fake way.
And loving you is making me question everything.
I‘m going through the turbulence of having to reconsider swearing off love after watching To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before.
As fellow Mashable entertainment reporter Proma Khosla put it, “This movie made me want to have a crush even though in my experience crushes are 99 percent pure hell.”
It‘s hard to pinpoint exactly what is so different and life-altering about the surprise Netflix hit currently taking over your Twitter timeline. But I‘m finally ready to send every love letter I kept locked away in that teal box in an attempt to understand.
Love is for the gram
On the surface, To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before seems like just another typical rom-com. It‘s got a typically unrealistic premise, and The Reluctant Rom-com Protagonist Who Thought She Didn‘t Need Love trope that proliferates the genre.
But I guess that‘s exactly what makes this one different.
Lara Jean isn‘t a trope. Lara Jean represents the large swath of people who feel disillusioned by love. And actually, what sets To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before apart is how it actively deconstructs the falsehoods of romantic ideals peddled by most rom-coms.
The movie even addresses the temptation of falling only for these conceits of love, in the way Lara Jean closes her heart to the realities of commitment by replacing it with John Hughes movies and romance novels.
But counter to her obsession with those tropes, To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before knows that love is never a string of grand gestures like showing up to a girl‘s house who you barely know with a cake and sixteen candles. Love is the small, everyday gesture of driving all the way across town to the Korean market to buy her her favorite yogurt drink. And then having that gesture backfire.
Love also doesn‘t blossom in the instant of a stolen, wordless kiss in the rain. It blossoms over a series of gruelingly awkward conversations filled with stutters and whatevers, as you anxiously show each other your scars.
The obstacles of love are not solved by holding a boombox outside a girl‘s room, either. They‘re negotiated through the gut-wrenching act of dealing with each other‘s baggage when it‘s wearing your favorite scrunchie.
The scene that made me fall head over heels for To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before like I‘ve never fallen before is when Lara Jean finally admits why she‘s so afraid of commitment.
Love and dating are great, she says, from the safe distance of fantasy. But in reality, “The more people you let into your life, the more they can just walk right out.” Peter, showing an emotional intelligence never seen before in a teen boy, intuits why she feels this was: because of her mom‘s death.
It‘s one of the first rom-coms for a generation that wants to love, but has every reason not to trust it.
It‘s hard to understand how a cataclysmic loss like Lara Jean‘s can permanently impact your ability to trust longterm emotional attachments, whether platonic or otherwise.
But it happens to a lot of people, and not just in the form of a a death. We are the generation who grew up with the reality of a 50 percent divorce rate, and a lot of the half that stayed together probably should‘ve divorced.
The unique sticking power of To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before is that it‘s one of the first rom-coms for a generation that wants to love, but has every reason not to trust it.
When, like Lara Jean, you‘ve grown up with an acute understanding of the horrible cost that comes with loving a person, you have to relearn the ways in which the benefits outweigh the cost.
But it takes work. Your first instinct is to avoid the threat of emotional attachment by keeping the number of people whose death or sudden departure would destroy you to a minimum. You see this in the relationship she has with her sisters, and even in the relationship her sisters have with others.
Lara Jean‘s is terrified of expanding the pool of people she cares about beyond her sisters and best friend.
To All Of The Boys I‘ve Loved Before
So instead of adding more people to the list, she stays home on Saturday nights for Golden Girls marathons with her kid sister. She relegates her emotional needs to fantasies, because they can‘t die or leave. She becomes quiet, hoping nobody sees her for the coward she is.
Even Margot can‘t seem to help but run away from the terror of committing to people outside the family, breaking up with Josh before moving to Scotland and putting an entire ocean between them.
To All The Boys I‘ve Loved Before made me believe in love again because it‘s one of the few depictions of onscreen romance that doesn‘t gloss over every reason we have to not want love. Messy, wounded, petty, neurotic, awkward, full of fits and starts — the love in this rom-com feels closer to home than any of the classics ever did.
Will it last? Or are you going to break my heart, To All the Boys I‘ve Loved Before?
Maybe. The movie leaves room for that eventual possibility, too. Maybe love isn‘t permanent. Maybe it doesn‘t work out between Lara Jean and Peter.
But the important part about To All the Boys I‘ve Loved Before is that it asks us to look beyond the fantasy. Or as Peter Kavinsky puts it, it asks us to trust.