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Romantic Comedies: What they Say About Our Culture

Over the past century, the genre of romantic comedies has rapidly evolved to challenge even the famous action and horror genres. The popularity of the genre may be attributed to the manner in which it depicts our culture as human beings. Although the central theme of romantic comedies-love-has withstood some influential modifying forces such as modernism, post modernism and feminism, these forces have altered the overall depiction of culture portrayed by the genre. The paper explores the genre with an aim of establishing exactly what it says about our culture today. This will be achieved by contrasting modern day romantic comedies with the tradition genre and identifying elements that suggest varying and significant cultural impacts, either positive or negative.

What have romantic comedies managed to achieve so far? Critics argue that the genre has succeeded in immersing viewer in a superficial environment. Such an environment is, of course, characterized by fantasies and illusions that blind individuals from the reality of life, love and relationships. Just as action movies are believed to contribute to aggressive behaviors among viewers, romantic comedies are believed to contribute to unrealistic fantasies that are not applicable in real life. Similarly, their doctrines of fate and destiny as the primary determinants of a successful relationship have been well-adopted. Interestingly, the audience greatly affected by these notions is the female gender.

From a relationship perspective, the idea that through fate and destiny, two individuals can come together and overcome every repulsive force has had a negative impact on the success of relationships. Communication between people in a relationship is pivotal to the success of the relationship. Studies conducted by Heriot Watt University's Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh revealed that romantic comedies blind most viewer from realizing that there is a need for duplex communication between two people in relationship (Harrell). That way, feelings, needs, concerns and general issues can be transmitted both ways encouraging collective responsibility and participation in making the relationship successful. In reality, relationships’ success is dependent on hard work, endurance and patience.

The age of New Romance-a term used to define modern-day romantic comedies-has seen society’s perceptions of the role of sex in a relationship significantly altered (McDowell). Traditionally, romantic comedies have portrayed heterosexual relations between couples as the ultimate demonstration of undying love between them. 21st century romance has trivialized sexual relations to the extent that it is difficult to derive meaning from sex in relationships (McDonald, 38, 39, 40). In Friends with Benefits, a 2011 romantic comedy film, Dylan and Jamie re-define the role of sex in a relationship. They freely talk about sex and engage in it-like any ordinary game-when they are friends. However, everything changes when they realize they are in love. Sex becomes a no-go-zone.  In fact, it almost becomes the basis of the termination of their friendship ‘contract’.

Such perceptions have fuelled the spread of post-modernism. Thanks to modern romantic comedies, sex has become the awkwardness in a relationship based on love. Today, our culture has evolved to accept the idea ‘friends with benefits’ as an evasive tactic against the idea of love (Degli-Esposti, 83). Maybe this is a result of the fact that facing the idea of love in reality is independent of fantasy. From a postmodern perspective, romantic comedies suggest a brand new way of reaching one’s ultimate goal; true love. In Bad Teacher, a 2011 romantic comedy film is a perfect example. Halsey, a middle school teacher, will go to the extremes-such as breast enlargement surgery-to win the attention of another colleague, Delacorte. Interestingly, it is difficult to establish whether love is the real motivating factor to her actions.

The same idea is evident in post-feminism. Recent trends indicate that feminists have evolved to become post-feminists. The idea behind post-feminism is that despite most women having achieved the independence they have always desired, they feel they have not fully achieved without having experienced true romantic love. The irony in such a scenario is the fact that women fleetingly reject romantic love only to fall prey to a marriage proposal. This was the case in the 2008 film, Definitely Maybe (McDowell).  April enacts a typical marriage proposal response before Hayes, the guy who wants to propose to her best friend. April demeans the institution terming it as unsuccessful and confining.

Every social perception is rapidly changing with the advent of influential factor such as post-modernism and post-feminism. So far, they have managed to alter people’s perception of true love and the mechanisms through which it can be achieved. What is evident is that despite the central nerve of romantic comedies remaining impartial, it is rapidly being re-defined. Evidently, the contents and characterization of most romantic comedies are demonstration of culture’s diverse perspectives about love and relationships, which are mostly dynamic.


Work cited

Degli-Esposti, Cristina. Postmodernism in the Cinema . Berghahn Series. Illustrated ed. New York: Berghahn Books, 1998. Print.

Harrell, Eben. Are Romantic Movies Bad For You? Time Magazine. 23 December, 2008. web. 22 Sept. 2011 <http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1868389,00.html>

McDonald, Tamar. Romantic Comedy: boy meets girl meets genre. Illustrated ed. London: Wallflower Press, 2007. Print.

McDowell, James. Romantic Comedy: Love, Nervousness & Intertextuality. Alternate Takes. 2009. web. 22 Sept. 2011 <http://www.alternatetakes.co.uk/?2009,2,222>