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The Importance and Relevance of Romcoms in Pop Culture.

As a genre of film that is often overlooked as kitsch and predictable, Romantic Comedies are usually at the back end of more serious discussions revolving around the influence film, TV and entertainment have on pop culture.

Romantic Comedies or Rom Coms are better known as comfort films, allowing us to escape our reality for a moment and dive into a world where love is beautiful and bountiful, and there is always a happy ending of some sort. With their incredibly consistent nature, many find them to be formulaic and therefore boring, but it is exactly this consistency that brings us comfort while watching the films. We know it’s going to end up happily, so we stick it out with these characters to see how it does. According to people.com, the happy and hopeful nature of Rom Coms is what “leaves us feeling like anything is possible and believing in serendipity.”

The genre reached its peak in the 90s, especially due to the political and societal relaxation in America. This era brought us films such as Pretty Woman and Four Weddings and A Funeral, which aimed to showcase simple love stories we ourselves could fall in love with. What makes our era different from this one is the emphasis placed on showing a range of diverse love stories that go beyond the white, heteronormative stories that take up the majority of the 90s. Our classics depict cultural and ethnic diversity in films such as Crazy Rich Asians, The Incredible Jessica James and The Lovebirds, queer love in films and shows like I Am Not Okay With This and Love, Simon, and finally shows that raise important issues such as mental health and the pressures of social anxiety, like Sex Education and The Half of It. In just 30 years, romantic comedies have shown how the western world, in particular, shifted from the gradual ease of political stress in America into the upliftment and emphasis of stories that represent and highlight minority groups and dire social and psychological issues.

Romantic comedies have been known to raise up certain Hollywood juggernauts we know today, with brilliant actors and actresses such as Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, and Cameron Diaz consistently gracing the big screen especially during the genre’s peak. The shift in pop culture during our present era has now allowed a diverse cast of celebrities to make names for themselves through the frequent appearances within movies of the genre. Although this can be said for modern films of all genres, showing these diverse actors and actresses in simpler stories adds an extra depth of representation for diverse audiences.

A seemingly timeless characteristic of these films that go beyond the fluctuation of pop culture is the emphasis placed on genuine human connection. Even if the protagonist does not end up with the love interest you had hoped they’d get with at the end of the movie or even if the couple breaks up, these films show us how important it is to have and be close to people, which is an ever-challenging thing to do especially during a pandemic. Rom Coms showcases love stories and strong friendships and familial bonds that are just as important and shouldn’t go unnoticed. No genre does relatable human connection better than romantic comedy.

Although many may argue that these films do not hold as much narrative value as the blockbusters Marvel always put out, it’s important to sit back and enjoy simple feel-good stories occasionally that both ground you and allow you to escape. Because these films are expressions of our present and windows into the past that are valuable in their own way.

Jasmine is a second year student at the University of Cape Town, majoring in English and film studies. Writing and reading are her two greatest passions, next to geeking out about the newest Netflix series and listening to chill lo-fi beats.
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