I used to watch romantic comedies now and then. Some, such as When Harry Met Sally, had lines that were so hilarious, I laughed until my side hurt. In the past several years, though, I’ve mostly tried to avoid them.
I think it is tedious that the plots are all the same (boy meets girl, couple faces obstacles, overcomes them, and gets married). They all build up to a wedding.
More troubling than the utter boredom and banality of it all are the values touted by these movies. They place romantic relationships above all others, as if no other people in our lives could ever matter as much as a romantic partner – not our parents, not our siblings or other cherished relatives, not our closest friends or the mentors who believed in us when no one else did.
These films suggest that finding a romantic partner and getting married is a more important life pursuit than any other. It would be easy for single people who watch a whole lot of these rom-coms to come away with the impression that their lives just aren’t as successful or meaningful or worthy of celebration as the lives of people who do marry.
Now I’m wondering if I’ve missed something by staying away from the rom-com genre. In New York magazine, Jen Chaney argues that rom-coms have evolved. The themes that used to be so predictable are now being turned on their heads. For example:
“You want a rom-com about a wedding? Well, you can try Bridesmaids, which is actually about the complex, enduring love between two BFFs, played by Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, instead of two people about to wed.
And about that happy ending:
“The first season of Master of None ends with Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Rachel (Noel Wells) splitting up…Even a pretty conventional Hollywood release like last year’s How to Be Single has a streak of female independence in it; Dakota Johnson’s character finds that she’s ultimately happiest when standing alone, with no guy by her side at all.”
Next to the story about the evolution of the contemporary rom-com was another article making the case that today’s A-list actresses no longer want any part of rom-coms. That’s a big reversal from the days when rom-com leads were played by the likes of Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts.
So to readers who have been watching rom-coms over the past several years, what do you think? Has this genre gotten past its predictable plots and narrow values?
[UPDATE: When Eddie Isom read this blog post, he recommended another article, also in New York magazine: “Why ‘Happily Ever After’ Isn’t Cool Anymore.” He’s right — it is a terrific article. Thanks, Eddie!]