Why we need a return of the romcom

By Sophie Ainsworth

The 90s is an era which is so often glamorised by my generation – despite the fact I was only alive for six months of it. Whilst my personal experience of the time is limited, to say the least, the decade has left its mark on fashion, pop culture and film. As the 20th Century was coming to a close, it was a time of fast-paced change and the world was much different to the one in which we live today. As the millennium approached, the feelings of hope and positivity were shown through the films which graced the cinema screens. The result? The surge of the 90s Rom-Com.

Every year would see the release of a new film showing the likes of Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant in roles they became so well known for, falling in and out of love with a plethora of tears and laughter along the way. The decade ended with the pair taking the lead roles in Notting Hill (1999). With a screenplay penned by Richard Curtis, the film is the epitome of the era’s romantic comedies. The tender love story between the biggest star in the world and an ordinary man took its 1950s equivalent Roman Holiday, and saved Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck from heartbreak and allowed love to win.

It seems that in times of political or social tragedy, we no longer make films that make us happy. Do we make excellent films which explore important issues and critique our society but is there not room for more? Must we feel guilty for wanting to celebrate love and friendship and the things that make us happy at risk of forgetting the many painful realities of the world? Roman Holiday was created in post-war Europe, in which film of all genres saw a great shift. No longer did it seem appropriate to enjoy frivolous adventures and happily ever afters when they didn’t reflect the devastation brought upon the world. In a similar sense, the popularity of the romantic comedy began to dwindle as we entered the 2000s. This time in a post- 9/11 world, in which young people like myself had never known anything but constant conflict, it is questionable about whether the genre has a place.

Personally, I think there is no better time. In an age in which we live in fear of evil, isn’t one of our best countermoves to celebrate love? This isn’t to say that we don’t discuss these serious issues and fight for change, but in the meantime, can we watch a rom-com guilt free? Richard Curtis has been known to say “if you write about two people falling in love… you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental” but in reality, the stories being told in these films represent the millions of people falling in love every day. If we’re highlighting the negative in the world, surely it is only reasonable to show the positive as well, if not for anything but our own sanity.

I want us to go back to a time where romantic comedies graced the big screen and topped the box office. It may sound naive and nostalgic, but I want us to go back to when we watched Heath Ledger serenade Julia Stiles from the bleachers in 10 Things I Hate About You, or when Jane Austen’s humour and wit was given a high-school makeover in Clueless. I want us to be reminded that every day there is good happening in the world. As Vivien says with such admirable certainty in Pretty Woman: ‘I want the fairy tale.’

Photograph: Luli via Flickr

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