When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against doing so — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.
It’s a rare, wonderful thing to fall in love. We should all be so lucky as to find someone we care about and walk off into the sunset together, in slow motion, the music of Josh Groban hanging softly in the breeze. For most of us, that would be enough to constitute a happy ending. Not for Hollywood, though. Hollywood is very, very greedy — which is why the friends of the two leads tend to get some action by the end of the movie as well, forming a multiplicity of happy endings. “Why should just two people fall in love,” Hollywood is always asking, “when four people could fall in love instead? It’s called mathematics, and it’s the language of the universe.” According to movie logic, if your friend embarks on an unusual courtship of some kind, you had better start hitting the gym because someone’s about to start seeing you naked a lot.
It all goes back to Shakespeare, who liked to end his plays with two weddings, even if at least one of those weddings made zero sense whatsoever. Romantic chemistry under wacky circumstances seems to hold some kind of infectious neurotoxin, burrowing through the immune system of everyone around to attack celibacy where it lives. If you’re along for the ride when one of your friends meets and woos a girl in some prolonged, bizarre situation, then some of that chemistry is bound to rub off on you too. Congratulations! (Tip: This highly contagious sex-germ is known to spread more efficiently among those who make pithy wiseass remarks, sidekick-style. So if you’re looking for love, you’d better start polishing up that Tight Five.)
Sometimes the sidekick of the male lead hooks up with the sidekick of the female lead. This scenario is plausible, although it’s unlikely to end well. Cross-coupling attempts like these have an inherent pressure to succeed built in that can feel like a junior high homecoming dance all over again, complete with sexual tension so awkward you want to give it two for flinching and a purple nurple.
Other times, the sidekick will land a partner who is a secondary character with no relation to the female lead, and it will be random as all get-out. At the end of The Secret of My Success, is there any reason why Michael J. Fox’s rich aunt would take one look at his scruffy, sarcastic mailroom worker friend, Melrose, and become instantly smitten? No. It’s completely arbitrary. But in the grand tradition of Shakespeare’s dual-wedding finales, there are two happy couples in attendance at the fancypants party in the final scene. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. Shakespeare has built up enough goodwill over the centuries with that whole “greatest writer in the English language” thing to get away with a random love connection or two, but everyone else is officially on notice.
Here are some movies that featured best friends getting paired off arbitrarily: Failure to Launch, One Crazy Summer, Back to School, The Secret of My Success, What Happens in Vegas, Never Been Kissed, Yes Man, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Doc Hollywood, Tin Cup, Just One of the Guys, Keeping the Faith, 10 Things I Hate About You, Cemetery Junction, Mean Girls, Down to You, Get Over It.