In Defense of Romantic Comedies

romcomhead

It’s June, so get ready to catch bouquets and make your friends wear horrendous dresses! Yep, wedding season is upon us! Statistically speaking, you’ll be getting hitched (will eventually be hitched, have been previously hitched) within the month of June. Merry month of matrimony! Well, one day of matrimony… hopefully.

June weddings actually date back to the dark ages. Some say it lined up with ancient rituals, others believe it was an attempt to birth in non-fatal seasons… but it’s important to note that a person’s annual bath usually fell in June. So a lesson from our ancestors: time your marriage so you don’t smell like excrement. The more you know.

But let’s depart from bathroom speak. This is June! It’s wedding-time! So let’s celebrate the season of love by talking about romantic comedies… and how they’re essentially shit.

Oops.

The toilet is too good for some.

The toilet is too good for some.

I’ll defend them eventually, I swear. But in order to properly defend, I must first destroy (I’d make a great lawyer, huh?). So this week, I will attempt to summarize the prosecution. And I have chosen to rebut the wonderful hilarity of the Cracked After Hours video, Why Romantic Comedies Are Secretly Bad for You. Also known as: “Why Romantic Comedies are Poison.”

“People get their panties in a twist over sex and violence in movies all the time, but the real threat is love.”

That’s a quote from Katie Willert, one of the hosts of After Hours, to give a general sense of her rom com cynicism. She then makes a joke equating rom coms to pornography, which is obviously a huge leap. Pornography is poisonous because it gives people false interpretations of relationships, right? It takes something intimate and special, but makes it cheap and tawdry. Porno is just disgusting. It’s nothing like…

“(The female leads in rom coms) are all gorgeous, and they work these totally kick-ass jobs like events planners, or they own their own bakery or they’re on TV… until one of their friends says, ‘No, your happiness isn’t real. It’s all meaningless until you find love.'”

Okay, so some of the interpretation is false, and it cheapens the experience a bit. But it’s a movie, and movies by nature must simplify. No one could sit through an hour-long ode to true love. Hell, Shakespeare couldn’t do it in three hours. Some of our expectations are already a little warped.

"Oh Juliet, I'm so infatuated with you I WOULD KILL MYSELF!" - healthy relationship

“Oh Juliet, I’m so infatuated with you I WOULD KILL MYSELF!” – healthy relationship

But even if rom com love is oversimplified, it isn’t truly demeaning. It’s still important for people, especially the young women who comprise most of the viewership. Romantic comedies lead to something healthier, right?

“That is not a healthy love in those movies,” says Soren Bowie, another After Hours host. “There’s nothing mutual about it. Those women aren’t in control of anything… The men do all the work in those movies. They pay the compliments, they give the gifts, they do the broad sweeping romantic gestures. The women’s job is just to absorb it all. In those romantic comedies, love is something men do. It’s something that women just fall into. They’re completely passive and they’re powerless to control their fate.”

Um… right, but…

Willert again: “Romantic comedies have taught us that if a woman is looking for love, then she’s either desperate or hopeless. But if she’s blindsided by love when she least expects it, then that’s how you know it’s real. Which is totally the reverse of how it works in real life.”

Because reality is important to these movies.

Because reality is important to these movies.

Daniel O’Brien, a third After Hours host, tries to defend the trademark rom com witty barb trade as proving the couples are on equal footing, to which Michael Swaim, the final host, replies, “farting noise of disbelief!”

They end up accusing romantic comedies of, ahem:

  • Focusing solely on the first part of any relationship
  • Validating lies on the path to “true love”
  • Getting people to say “I love you” or “Let’s get married” is the ultimate goal
  • Saying that falling in love is hard, but relationships are easy
  • Treating “hard” relationships as “bad” relationships
  • Stalking people until they love you

“C’mon,” says O’Brien in a final defending point, “no one’s really taking those to heart. If they were, people would be getting divorced left and…”

“Right!,” asserts Swaim.

… okay… but it’s not as disgusting as pornography!… That may be the best I got.

I don’t really like rom coms. They can be pretty cheap and/or false in both concept and execution. I believe After Hours is convincing on both those points. However, that is only if people confuse infatuation and love, a la Mr. Montague up there.

Whereas infatuation involves caring about people for what they can become and how they can fulfill your needs, I believe love cares about people without the expectation of change. In essence, you want to become what theyneed, and vice-versa. In that kind of relationship, both parties can mature in a truer fashion.

So do all romantic comedies fail in this regard? No, but they are highly susceptible. Just like we are all highly susceptible. It’s not really a problem stemming from rom coms, it’s a problem stemming from us. Our issues have infected our romantic comedies.

This is our fault.

This is our fault.

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I possess a laughably small number of them. However, I can understand where rom com critics are coming from. But it all comes back to us, like some boomerang in the shape of Meg Ryan.

Romantic comedies present a squeaky-clean, easy version of love that’s done in two hours. In real life, it’s hard, difficult, frustrating, weird, enjoyable, scary and frequently quite shitty. Rom coms may not be real or always healthy, but they aren’t supposed to be road maps. In essence, they have one crucial function.

Love is hard. Romantic comedies are not. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the highpoints while we endure the lows.

For medieval example: how you both smell 11 months of the year.

For medieval example: how you both smell 11 months of the year.

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