This is as much a query for real life as it is for fiction, but as I'm not a psychiatrist or a life coach, I'll stick with the writing version thereof: why are we so obsessed with the "win her back" trope?
We all know the story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds new boy, boy undertakes a series of wacky/heartwarming/dangerous adventures to "win her back", girl dumps new boy, boy reconciles with girl. Music swells. Everyone says "awww".
The escapades can be anything from serenading under the window with a boom box (cough), to trying to undermine the new relationship, to desperately attempting to catch the new dude doing something sketchy so he can wrangle events and have the girl find out. We feel for the main character, who realized what he'd lost only too late, and just wants to make things right. We know that eventually the girl will realize she had the right one all long.
You know what we call that in real life? We call that stalking. It's illegal.
If you're a regular reader of fmylife, it's not hard to find FMLs from girls whose stalker ex-boyfriends found their phone numbers or their addresses and are now following them, sending them roses, texting them romantic songs, showing up at their workplace, begging for forgiveness. These girls are not touched or moved; they're annoyed, or worse, frightened. Being stalked is a horrifying, helpless-making experience. It is by no means romantic.
Yet in the movies, we seem to forget this. Yes, okay, if fiction matched real life it would be pretty boring most of the time. But people internalize what they read or watch (see: all the girls who think that Edward Cullen is a fabulous boyfriend), so what sort of message are these stories sending?
It doesn't matter how much the girl protests, how much she says she loves the new guy, how much she insists she's moved on. He knows she's lying, and so do we. Often the guy plays what I consider an insidious, emotionally abusive move: "If you can honestly say you don't love me, I'll leave you alone". This is a trump card for him, because if the woman says yes, he'll accuse her of lying. If she says no, this somehow negates her decision to move on with her life — as though no relationship could possibly end without both parties wanting to set the other on fire. As if no relationship could end, for good reason, with unresolved feelings. It's disingenuous and cruel.
Call me old-fashioned, but for me, love is all about respect. Respecting the other person's choices, wishes, and boundaries. If there's a no, that darn well means no! Badgering someone to accept sexual advances is not "love". Convincing someone that their new lover could never love them like you do — based on nothing but your own jealousy — is not "love". Playing on someone's vulnerability to get them into bed is not "love". Never mind that, in many cases, relationships ended for a reason, and those reasons haven't gone away just because one party gets Big Yellow Taxi syndrome.
A few movies avoid this trap, or at least are aware about it: Better off Dead, with John Cusack, shows us the boy who wouldn't let go, and who eventually realized he was much happier without her. Casablanca has Rick put the two lovers on the plane — "we'll always have Paris", indeed. But they aren't the norm.
Perhaps more telling is that if you flip the gender line — a girl who won't give up on her ex-boyfriend, no matter the cost — then suddenly we have Fatal Attraction, Swimfan and or a host of horror tales. The traumatized guy. The crazy woman. The poor family pet. There's no question in these movies that the woman is insane, that the guy has moved on. Even My Best Friend's Wedding, where the insanity is reserved for engineering breakups and accidental betrayals, has her eventually realize that what she's doing is wrong. I don't want to turn this into a feminist rant, so I'll leave it at that, but it is an interesting point.
The whole plotline irritates me to the extreme. Love is about respect, and too few fictional romances acknowledge that.