Romantic comedies just aren’t the same as they used to be. They’re just not that funny, and rarely all that romantic. At this point they’re substituted real life problems and uncomfortable situations that the filmmakers hope will be awkward enough make for comedy. What we have is the hollow skeleton of what romantic comedies used to be. Sure we have plenty of weak wrist romantic films that will help middle-aged women escape from the turmoils of their day-to-day lives, but we long for the romantic comedies that make us laugh and sigh with hope that maybe just one day we’ll find that prince charming/princess with some wit packed into him/her. So in honor of another romantic comedy coming out this weekend, The Big Wedding, we would like to point out what went wrong.
Romantic comedies have been around since the early 20s and from that point on have served as a worthy alternative to the more heavy-hitting genres. The likes of Cary Grant and Clark Gable filled women’s hearts with joy as they helped sculpt the perfect dream guy in the screwball romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, The Shop Around The Corner). In some ways the genre probably continues to struggle on the male front as of recent because we have no singular man to pin as the ideal man for these films. Then we dealt with our fair share of bubble gum pop-like romantic comedies in the 50s (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Pillow Talk), the serious nature of relationships pertaining to an ever-changing generation in the 60s/70s (The Apartment, Annie Hall, The Graduate) and then the dreamy, heart fluttering state of these films in the 80s and 90s (When Harry Met Sally, Moonstruck, Sleepless In Seattle).
Suddenly we had a bit of a hiccup when it came to the genre when we hit the new millennium, and that could be due to a number of reasons. The sex comedy was a breath of fresh air for the latest generation as we continue to become a desensitized audience, but afterwards half of the rom coms released from that point forward began reverting back to the old ways, excluding the sex as much as possible or saving it for the end like a prize. It was as if romantic comedies were desperate to lose their virginity, but once they did they immediately regretted it and decided to abstain from that point forward. That and the fluctuation of good leading ladies (sorry Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Katherine Heigl), romantic comedies have been in a weird position that they can’t really get out of at the moment.
Since we’re still in the midst of the decline of romantic comedies, there comes the question of how we can improve it. One could argue that maybe the casting choices, particularly of our leading ladies in recent years, has something to do with it. But really, romantic comedies are all about the writing, and it seems the best rom-com writers are on television these days. Then there’s the material in general which has been leaning more in the dramatic rather than the lighthearted, lovey-dovey aspect of this genre. There’s a reason why it’s called romantic comedies, and that’s because it’s a cute escape that makes us believe for those couple of hours that maybe life in some ways is comical and that true love is always around the corner.
Speaking of romance, we should probably tap upon sex in the movies. It’s like the films haven’t forgotten that they can include a little bit of sex into the equation without turning it into this sacred thing. For instance, The Ugly Truth handled it poorly by showing both sides of the spectrum, the overtly sexual and the conservative, but the film never took the opportunity to find the middle ground that so many of these comedies desperately desire. Since we’re such a desensitized generation we shouldn’t be afraid to flaunt sexuality here, there and everywhere. Look at what they did with For A Good Time, Call…. It centers on two girls working on a phone sex line, which is a very candid way to deal with sexuality in a romantic comedy fashion but because it decided to face the topic head-on rather than dance away from it like The Ugly Truth and other films of that nature, it worked perfectly. Folks should stop being such cowards about this topic, man/woman up and just deal with it. Sex is a part of relationships and shouldn’t be shied away from when it comes to this genre.
There’s a reason why your stereotypical male audience detests going to “chick flicks.” Why not give them a legit excuse to go ahead and watch the latest romantic comedy with their girlfriend than by say writing a likable male character or making the topic matter a bit more male-centric without coming off as overly obnoxious. All because the movie falls into the genre of the romantic comedy doesn’t mean that it automatically excludes all people with protruding genitalia. There’s so many men who are directing these movies nowadays, we’re surprised they haven’t tried to inject a bit of testosterone in the story line that way both sexes would be more inclined to check out the latest rom com.
Over time we’ll surely see some changes in romantic comedies once again. There was a slight change when Judd Apatow and company came on the scene, maybe another strong-minded person will take romantic comedies and shake it up a bit more. But right now, Hiegl, Amanda Seyfried and Nicholas Sparks are diminishing returns.
How would you fix romantic comedies?