When it comes to romance, few modern screen couples have shared the successful chemistry of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In You’ve Got Mail they square off as rival professionals (he owns a bookstore mega-chain that threatens to put her quaint little shop out of business). All the while, they’re carrying on an addictively intimate e-mail relationship without knowing they’re actually talking to each other. Ultimately, the film romanticizes anonymous online relationships, sending a potentially dangerous message to young viewers.
“The Internet affords you great candor and intimacy,” says producer Lauren Shuler Doner. “One may expose oneself further and faster . . . than one would normally in a face-to-face situation.” Very true. But people can be anyone they want to be when the sum total of what they reveal are words on a screen. And lecherous adults have been known to pose as teens, luring young romantics into private meetings.
Besides ignoring the dangers of online dating, You’ve Got Mail jokes about cybersex and lesbianism, includes more than a dozen profanities, and gives both Hanks’ and Ryan’s characters live-in lovers. Clearly, a PG rating shouldn’t be perceived as a seal of approval any more than romantic comedies should be embraced as the lesser of cinematic evils. As an alternative, fans of this genre may enjoy rediscovering moral, engaging films from the ’40s and ’50s.