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The Modern Girl and Romantic Comedies

Do young women need rom-coms anymore?…

Last week the highly anticipated trailer dropped for 2019’s biggest rom-com Isn’t it Romantic. The film drops on Valentine’s Day (because of course), and stars Rebel Wilson, who plays a down-on-her-luck New Yorker. Then, one day somebody in the subway hits her on the head, which sends her to the hospital. She wakes up, with a seemingly perfect life. A beautiful apartment, adorable purebred dog, and the ever handsome, Chris Hemsworth loves her unconditionally. Isn’t it Romantic joins the growing list of movies in this rom-com subgenre, which I am now claiming as “average girl fairytales”. The average girl fairytale consists of an average-looking/relatable actress whose lives are spiraling out of control for some reason. Then, something happens in which these women get minor brain injuries (can anybody say I Feel Pretty?), and wake up living the life they’ve always wanted. They have the perfect job, the perfect closet, and the perfect boyfriend.

Aside from the obvious questions I have about why this subgenre seems to be gaining more traction, why do these women need minor brain injuries to realize that they’re the whole package just as they are? Is that the only way people of average appearance are supposed to believe they are worthy of love/a fulfilling life? I then realized that it had been a while since a romantic comedy tugged at my heartstrings, and gave me hope that someday, even I would find somebody to love. Any of the rom-coms that have come out in the past few years have blurred into each other in one lump of disappointing content, probably due to the fact that none of them seem to speak to the trials and tribulations of modern dating.  I couldn’t help but wonder… Do modern woman need romantic comedies anymore?  Since I have strong opinions on romance, and comedy, and my usual response to any of my friends who have relationship problems is “dump him,” I felt I was the best person to investigate further.

Above: Noah Centineo and Lana Condor in Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I have a strong feeling that the first problem is that women aren’t seeing themselves in these movies anymore. Wilson took the liberty of calling Isn’t it Romantic the first romantic comedy that features a plus-size actress in a lead role. Now, well we are all stoked to see some more body diversity in film, we cannot, and will not discredit icons Queen Latifah, and Mo’Nique on playing romantic leads as plus-size women long before this movie came along. Representation matters more than ever right now and as much as movies are supposed to provide some type of escapism, women want something real. That’s why Netflix’s To All the Boys I Loved Before did so well this summer. The film was given high praise from various media outlets, as well as teens on the Internet (that’s how you know you’ve made it, by the way). The protagonist, was fresh, and had flaws that we knew about right from the start of the film. Even if you weren’t a shy high-school student, with a passion for handwritten love letters, you probably still felt like you had a little bit of Lara Jean in you. And even if you know with all of your heart that the high school version of you could have never nabbed a Peter Kavinsky, you probably felt like you could at the end of the movie. To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a beacon of light for modern romantic comedies. It showed us that that they could be smart, and relevant, and inclusive. Women want to see complex, multi-dimensional women, with fulfilling careers. They want to see themselves projected into that story.

The second problem is that all of these movies seem to feature a romantic relationship that start and grow organically. Why do none of these ladies have to sift through hundreds of guys on an iPhone app? I have a job, and a life that leaves little time for single mingling. I don’t have time to go to a bar in hopes of running into my handsome leading man. Does that even happen anymore? Or all we all too scared as women to talk to strangers in bars with the hope of meeting “the one”? Digital dating has revolutionized the way we interact with those we’re romantically interested in, for better or for worse. Has online dating ruined romance for young people? Or has it just made it more efficient for us to date in our fast paced world? The fact is, people don’t want to pay to watch somebody else’s problems when they have their own to solve.  I want a movie about a girl who finds love in her career. I want a movie about a girl who ends up alone, and is ok with it. I want a movie that follows a relationship that doesn’t start with a meet-cute at a neighborhood bar.

So no, I don’t need to watch Rebel Wilson fumble around on screen for two hours, while Chris Hemsworth pines after her, because that isn’t real life. Romantic comedies are an escape, but that’s about it. Young girls spend their lives watching helpless women get everything they’ve ever wanted. Then they grow up and realize a relationship is work.  As real as they may seem sometimes, romantic comedies just aren’t it anymore. The modern woman is smart, and she’s going to need a little bit more than a surface-level storyline. We are living in the age of the independent woman. For the first time, maybe ever, it is totally cool for young women to choose to chase a dream that doesn’t involve a man. Young women don’t need romantic comedies unless they evolve with us, because you don’t always need to end up “together”. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s ok to want to be on your own, and work on yourself. This obviously doesn’t mean that you have to abandon all of your old favourites, because I plan on watching Bridget Jones until I die. The only difference when I watch it now is that I know that Mark Darcy isn’t real, and that’s ok because I know something way better is.

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