From He’s Just Not That Into You to “Flowers”: Different stories with the same ending
A culture-informed analysis of how dating has changed for women in the last decade.
I was walking down St. Catherine Street in Montreal when I heard, from a passing car, a woman singing a loud and highly interactive performance of “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus. Between steering the car and gesturing for pedestrians to sing with her, the woman’s passion made me assume that she was either trying to get over a failed love story or affirm her self-love. I will never know.
A couple of weeks before, I was watching the movie He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), directed by Ken Kwapis. I was in primary school when this film was released, but when I watched it for the first time as a university student, I was astonished by its plot. I thought, how did these women not know that those men were not interested in them? To me, the relationships in the movie felt like something taken for granted.
My generation is the one that religiously repeats the saying, “if he wanted to, he would,”—a mantra from TikTok that encourages women to stray away from men who don’t care. After some more thought, I realized that I was a bit unjust in my reading of the movie.
He’s Just Not That Into You was released at an interesting time. Marked by iconic love songs like “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and rom-coms like She’s the Man (2006), the early to mid-2000’s were a love-obsessed era. Outside of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan at the time, it seemed like there wasn’t a real cultural effort to question the challenges that came with dating. As a result, women in the 2000’s idolized the idea of falling in love—often in unrealistic ways.
With the rise of aesthetics such as the “That Girl” lifestyle, many modern-day women prioritize their wellbeing (financial, emotional, and physical) above all else. But, based on my interpretations of social media trends, I don’t know if the modern-day woman has been more successful in finding love. In my opinion, today’s trending music offers us a snapshot of society’s views on romance—with many “love songs” placing focus on hurt and deceit. The aforementioned “Flowers”—which currently tops the Billboard 100 charts—stresses that self-love is key when navigating through a grieving love story. Standing in second place is “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice. And, since her break-up with Gerard Pique, Shakira has released three songs documenting the split—all were well received.
It seems that women today are not hurting any less. Heart break continues to and will always exist. But if we have all this information on how to find love and the ideal partner, shouldn’t women be doing better? Yes, and no. We live in an age where women can take initiative and scour the internet for dating advice, but research does not substitute for the practical knowledge that you gain only by putting yourself into the dating world. As women, we risk hurting ourselves to realize the true meanings of love. Only then do we distinguish between those who are “just not that into us” and those who are.
Today’s songs and media suggest that many women are at a crossroads. While at face value we know better, it takes time, patience, and heartbreak to develop communication skills and a strong sense of self. Although movies like He’s Just Not That Into You do not present today’s world of dating accurately, one thing has not changed: women are still hurting.