So I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour (again) and today they discussed romantic comedies. And then things kind of veered off into romance, or romantic elements, but less comedy. So when they asked one another what romantic comedies were, I dunno, personally key to them, some of the answers were . . . not really rom-com?
I feel like romantic comedy is a very definite subset of romance (which can be dramatic, or can be a secondary element to a comedy—look at Bridesmaids or The Hangover, which are buddy comedies predicated on romance). One PCHH panelist mentioned she didn't think anyone made rom-coms any more, at least not of the kind that were so common in the 90s and early 00s. And I think that's true. I don't know why, but someone somewhere decided rom-coms don't make money. That only women go to see them and it's better to make a movie men will see and women will go with them to see. Because women, I guess, are more flexible, more willing to go see an action movie than a guy is to go see a rom-com.
Then I tried to think what rom-coms ever had an impact on me. And while I've liked a lot of romantic comedies, I have to say few have actually left any kind of impression. My Best Friend's Wedding was a big one for me, and that one is interesting because [SPOILER, but God are you late to this party if you need that warning] the leads don't end up together. That probably says something about me and my outlook on the world, or at least on romance, but . . . Anyway, the other one I came up with was Enchanted. Because I am a romantic at heart, and I believe in a kind of magic that occurs when two people meet and are "meant to be." Sure, it's all just chemistry and pheromones, but a girl can dream.
Maybe I'm really just a sucker for movies in which people sing? Hmm.
These days there doesn't seem to be a call for movies about people getting together. I don't know what in our society has shifted, but there you have it. The joy of watching two people fumble awkwardly toward each other and a meaningful relationship . . . Maybe we're too cynical for that now. Instead of funny, we want people to go through real hell—diseases or wars or something.
A year or so ago, I co-wrote a romantic comedy script that was very well received. It received great studio coverage, was likened to Silver Linings Playbook (which is more like a romantic dramedy, I guess) and even briefly optioned. But no one wanted to put any money on the line for it. Because there's this idea that these movies don't sell, SLP notwithstanding. I guess if we could have gotten Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to sign on?
The bottom line is, though, that no one seems to be asking for rom-coms. There's no clamor for more of them. No one misses them, I guess. The PCHH team made an interesting comment that they preferred to watch relationships unspool on television series because one could go deeper and further with the characters. Instead of stopping at the point where two people get together, viewers get to see the aftermath and find out if Happily Ever After really happens.
So maybe we're done with idealizing relationships. Maybe, as a society, we've come to the point where we're seeking something deeper and more meaningful than what a traditional rom-com offers.