Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where Did All The Rom-Coms Go?

Similar to studios releasing horrow movies into theaters at New Years or summer instead of autumn, romantic comedies aren’t limited to February. But it’s strange for Cupid’s month to shine to roll around, and there isn’t the bundle of swoony-worthy films to have a girls’ weekend or single’s dalliance at the theaters. In fact, looking at 2017, only a handful of romance-centered movies are coming out either in theaters or a streaming service like Netflix all year around let alone the month where love and companionship is on full-display. Which makes me ask: where did all the rom-coms go?

While pondering and researching about recent releases at home and theaters, I reasoned my inability to find this genre to my own personal tastes around this particular genre. I like to be swept off of my feet, but prefer rom-coms where the characters and stories are not just about filling a 'swooning' quota, but are genuinely well-rounded stories. My favorites run the lines between You've Got Mail and  Bridget Jones’s Diary to sweeping epics like Titanic and Pride and Prejudice - basically picks where I don't have to add "Yes I know it's just a romance movie".

In looking back on newer films in 2016, I realized the grand sum of what I saw was two films: How To Be Single, a hot mess about three women learning to be single by not being single, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which pits Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy against the zombie apocalypse where there is as much brain-splatter as there is sultry chemistry. But neither of these typically fit the usual tropes of chick flicks – women being saved by men, women traveling the world to get away from men only to fall in love, women balancing men versus work, or motherhood, or staving off against other women, and I was hard-pressed to think of more recent, similar movies that fell in line with the genre’s stereotypes.

This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with movies where women are swept off of their feet. We escape from real life in many ways, and surely, one of them is to have an amazing designer wardrobe, high-profile job, and Mr. or Mrs. Right, especially in the form of our celebrity crushes. The genre isn’t limited to women only wanting to fall in love and has strongly transformed into lifestyle movies for women. Over the past several years, the amount of these movies released during any time of the year has decreased whether released online or theaters, and also how much they bank at the box office, is quite surprising. Considering some of the biggest money makers or influential actresses over the past few years, women flocked to theaters to see many different types of movies:

The Devil Wears Prada put Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt on the map as assistants to a powerful fashion magazine editor played by Meryl Streep. The movie focuses on the duo getting ahead in their careers and the double standards of female bosses versus men.

Magic Mike flipped the tables on women as the typical eye-candy by turning Hollywood’s hottest ab-actors like Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey into strippers.

Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Bryne, and, was the female answer to The Hangover, where competition between a maid-of-honor and a bridesmaid causes chaos before a friend’s wedding.

Thanks to the likes of comedians like Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, and Kristen Wiig, women have slightly moved into the comedy genre in movies where their characters purely bring on the laughs instead of the love. Other actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts have grown out of the  'American Sweethearts' image to take on more mature, complicated roles.

More subtly, other types of movies focusing on relationships, love or singledom were independent movies, focused on heartbreak more than the swooning phase, or took on topical social issues: A broken marriage was torn to pieces with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s characters in Blue Valentine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt went through the complicated seasons of love to co-star Zooey Deschanel in the indie 500 Days of Summer. If there are movies about single women, they might take on more topical issues like Obvious Child, where a comedian faces having an abortion after a one-night stand.

The face of romantic comedies has gradually changed into dramedies or dramas.

Just as moviegoers want to see more dynamic women in science-fiction, fantasy, and action, women in romance have to closely resemble real women living next-to-normal lives. Including, characters who just don’t want to be completed by someone else (usually of different genders), but characters who befriend other women without being enemies or fighting over the same guy, feature LGBTQ couples and minorities, like Imagine Me And You, Blue is the Warmest ColorCarol and Moonlight.

The romance genre hasn’t necessarily gone anywhere – just that the ones we're used to are on a break. To have any sort of comeback at all, the genre has to become smarter, well-rounded, and inclusive.

What do you guys think? Do you miss rom-coms? Let me know in the comments below!

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