The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Edited By: Sanjana Hira
So, I have COVID. Bummer, I know. After avoiding the virus for two years, it finally caught up to me, leaving me alone in my room with nothing but ORS-L, Crocin, and my laptop to keep me company. I’ll say this, it’s not so bad to be holed up with a bunch of pillows and no responsibilities, albeit the cough isn’t ideal, but I’m making the best of it. To me, the solution to to breakups, lockdowns, and viruses has always been Romantic Comedies, and I would consider myself something of an aficionado of the genre. In my two days of isolating, I’ve seen one (1) period drama, rewatched one (1) Katherine Heigl classic, seen three (3) fancams of favourite TV couples, and at least five (5) hours of mindless scrolling through IMDB lists of ‘movies where they hate each other and then love each other’, or ‘movies with romantic tension’, or ‘rom-coms you may not have heard of before’. It goes without saying that I’m struggling to find something to watch.
I have a theory about why this is, and while it has something to do with my having seen 38 out of 46 of Buzzfeed’s “If you’ve seen more than 20 of these movies, you’re obsessed with romantic comedies” quiz, I believe there’s a little more to it. In recent years, Netflix has become home to the rom-com, making sure to release an absurd number of by-the-numbers heterosexual love stories set in New York or middle America, starring actors who spark momentary recognition but don’t elicit too much fanfare (think Jesse Metcalfe, or more recently, Vanessa Hudgens). These stories are almost necessarily forgettable so that when you watch more of them, you’re only peripherally aware that you’ve seen this same thing before, not just once but countless times. Of course, it’s not that complicated either; you, me and Netflix are all aware that these movies are terrible, devoid of any real thought or artistic intent. I’ve even seen the official Netflix Youtube channel post cringe compilations of their own movies, and if that isn’t a hugely upsetting comment on the state of art in the world right now, I don’t know what is. But all this really just sets the stage for what my real issue is. Now that Netflix has the job of producing soulless rom-com after soulless rom-com, no one else is foraying into the genre at all.
Every romance movie that isn’t some variation of ‘girl with big ambition sets out to launch her career but she finds love along the way’, is a gritty, or melancholy, or ‘brutally honest’ representation of relationships and the human condition. I truly cannot understand why my options are to watch two people stare at each other sadly in black and white or to sit through 90 minutes of bad quips and shoehorned wokeness, neither of which take my mind off the pandemic in my room. Where are the witty, refreshing, endlessly adorable adaptations of Shakespeare for teen girls? Where are the high stakes, tension-filled, wrong-place-wrong-time misadventures of two adults who are obviously in love but never seem to know it? Where is all the magic that we used to be promised by the likes of Meg Ryan and Alicia Silverstone? As we enter an era of increased political awareness, empathy, and empowerment, I do want to see more queer love stories, romantic comedies featuring people of colour; off-beat, and well-written, and cognisant of the pitfalls of the genre. Of course, I want to see realistically written, strong women and men who don’t fall into that typically toxically masculine frame, but I’m so sick of my options in what’s become the market for the genre. Where the cast is diverse and they won’t let you forget it. Where the characters are queer and always ready to go with the latest buzzwords. Where not one creator on the project has thought to be original, or creative, or in any way conscientious about the craft of telling a story. It’s either that or the A24 brand of story, where they cast a disdainful glance on happy, magical love stories, preferring to subvert the genre at every turn, reminding you that life is bittersweet. Ma’am, I have lived through 2020, I know that life isn’t all peaches and cream, that’s why I’m watching a rom-com, or trying to, anyway.
This rant is going to, of course, lead to me watching 10 Things I Hate About You, again. Arguably the greatest movie in the last 25 years. But this is also really just my plea to the film gods that be to give me a comfort watch that’s actually comforting, not sad or thought-provoking, or a complete disservice to the genre by being nothing more than the shell of a rom-com. And in just as many ways, this is me outsourcing some genuinely good rom-com recommendations, if you’ve got them.