In almost every romance, there is a portion where the guy must “win” the girl back after betraying her in some way- either acting like his normal playboy self or just doing something stupid. And just about every time, he does get her back, usually by apologizing or doing something to show that he’s “changed”. But has he really changed? In some instances, the previously reckless male character does actually show a change in attitude or behavior that would warrant a yes. But most often, it’s a big fat no.
In order to examine how the guy hasn’t changed, we must first understand how the typical main guy in a romantic movie starts out. He is most often the reckless playboy, who parties and sleeps around with whoever he wants. He goes to parties, maintains a decent job, and usually an apartment to himself. He doesn’t really care about anyone but himself and his best friend, who always tries to get him to “find a girl”-to which the man always shrugs the suggestion off with a playful scoff.
But then he meets the girl of his dreams. She’s a much more lax person, someone who doesn’t really like to party, or sleep around. She’d rather sit at home and watch a movie marathon, or read a book. She isn’t affected by the guy’s flirtation, which immediately peaks the guy’s attention. He has to find a way to impress her.
After the first time he meets her, they start meeting by chance. After a few times, they finally decide to hang out with each other on purpose. Maybe even date. The guy seems to be settling down. After a few months, he seemed to have changed.
But then he does something stupid. Either indirectly, or just a stupid action he decides to do. Girl finds out, and ditches him, heartbroken. Boy does something to make it back up to her, and they end up getting back together at the end.
Now, this isn’t always how the story goes. In The Big Sick, Kumail wasn’t really a partyer, but a nerdy comedian whose parents were trying to marry him off to a Pakistani girl. This is the point of conflict for his relationship, and he remedies it by sticking up for himself and spilling the truth to his parents. In this situation, he does change. However, in most other situations, the guy doesn’t really have a meaningful change. While he does settle and stop sleeping around, that’s not really giving something up. That’s just getting into a monogamous relationship. Usually the partying also dies down as a result, but that’s usually from finding else to pass the time and satisfy the need to do something. The behavioral changes are not because of an actual effort placed in-just the indirect results of deciding to date someone. There is nothing of real value to it.
The biggest example of this is the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. In this case, Christian Grey starts out as a young billionaire who liked to exercise control in everything, rather than the reckless party guy. Anastasia breaks up with him, upset by his violent urges when it comes to BDSM and domination in her life, and he wins her back by promising to change. I’ve only seen the first two, so I will focus on his portrayal in the second film.
To summarize my argument before it starts, let’s just say this; he doesn’t change. His possessive behavior merely shifts, to be controlling in certain ways, but in aspects that almost don’t seem noticeable, who can claim that she has more “freedom”. He buys the publishing company she works for while arguing it’s a business investment, he happens to be in the right places at the right time, and he has the money and power to get people at her work fired. He is a prime example of the faux change that people fall for.