Are we tired of rom-coms?

Film and TV Editor

As Valentine’s Day comes around, a time-honoured tradition draws nearer: getting together with your significant other or your best friends, and watching a rom-com. The history of the rom-com is filled with numerous reiterations of meet-cutes, airport chases, and happily ever afters; you know what you’re going to get, and the genre’s reliability is what makes it a comfortable indulgence for many.

However, in recent years, film lovers have noticed that the genre which heavily defined the 90s and 2000s, infiltrating people’s DVD players and daily conversation, is now few and far between. Apart from a few Netflix originals and young adult novel adaptations, the Nora Ephrons and Richard Curtis’s of the world have laid their directorial hats down, but is the rom-com really and truly dead?

The Nora Ephrons and Richard Curtis’s of the world have laid their directorial hats down

The early origins of the romantic comedy formula as we know it today can be traced back to the 1989 blockbuster When Harry Met Sally, followed by Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman in 1990; two movies that still hold immense pop cultural significance. These films portrayed the subtleties of falling in love amidst the hectic frenzy of the average adult’s life. People flocked to theatres to see a bit of themselves in Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, eager to buy into the narrative that true love can strike when least expected, and everyone is destined for the adventure of love, heartbreak and convenient reconciliation.

However, as much as this genre retained a fan base that, even today, regularly frequents its feel-good predictability, filmmaking in the genre began to feel uninspired. In the later 2000s, as female-driven comedy gained traction, the rom-com genre grew scarce, with films like Bridesmaids and Trainwreck taking over the silver screens.

In today’s climate of female empowerment, the rom-com formula is obsolete; it is no longer enjoyable to watch a woman throw away her career for a man’s benefit, or selfishly sabotage another woman’s happiness. Additionally, the fantasy of people with perfect hair and interesting jobs began to seem hollow, and the genre ultimately lost its relatability factor. The formula of the rom-com began to suggest to its audiences that if you aren’t conventionally beautiful or successful, these story arcs aren’t for you.

If you aren’t conventionally beautiful or successful, these story arcs aren’t for you

And that’s where the idea of the New Rom-Com comes in. 2019’s Isn’t It Romantic took the tropes of the rom-com to create a perfect glossy alternate reality for its protagonist. Rebel Wilson, as a plus-sized woman, defies the image of the classic rom-com heroine, and the movie ultimately ends with a message of self-love.

These films explore love stories of people who depart from the formulaic image of the rom-com protagonist. In The Sun is Also a Star, the heroine’s family is being deported to Jamaica, and her Korean- American love interest is battling his family’s expectations of becoming a doctor. These cultural issues aren’t relegated to the background in this story – they drive the plot. Five Feet Apart, on the other hand, follows two cystic-fibrosis patients who fall in love but are forbidden to come within six feet of each other because of their condition.

Cultural issues aren’t relegated to the background – they drive the plot

Needless to say, these protagonists are very different from the norm. Today, where the conversation around diversity and representation is louder than ever, the rom-com genre is keeping up by revamping its predictability factor. In the New Rom-Com though, this fantasy isn’t only reserved to those of us who look like a movie star (or to those of us that can’t afford their stylists.)

Image via Unsplash

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