Defending the Romantic Comedy

Over the past week I have read several articles about how the Romantic Comedy may be a dying breed.  It all started with an article in The Atlantic monthly print magazine by Christopher Orr titled Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?  That was then followed by several critiques including one on NPR by Linda Holmes, and one from Billy Mernit on Living the Romantic Comedy.  All of that was then followed by a critique of the critiques with a second article from Orr- What Went Wrong With Romantic Comedies: Part 2.  Now, I’m not planning to also write a critique here- but I do want to discuss both the pitfalls and the greatness of the Romantic Comedy.  Why?  Quite simply because I love them.

harry sally

I completely agree with Orr that many of the movies in the genre from the past 5 years or so are dreadful.  Romantic comedies today seem to have become completely cliched and full of neurotic women we can’t see the charm in or identify with.  The men are often misogynistic and it’s hard to see how why we are supposed to fall in love with them along with the heroin.  The settings are contrived, the women are sex crazed, and the comedy is often too over the top or raunchy to be really funny.


Mindy Kaling (who I could write an entire post on- let me know if you want to read that) hilariously addresses this when detailing the types of women often seen in Romantic Comedy today in an article she wrote for the New Yorker in 2011.  Kaling also mentions in the article how embarrassing it is these days to admit that you enjoy these films, and talks about how she is able to enjoy the current offerings by detaching them from any kind of reality.  “I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible.”  Now, I will admit that I laughed out loud when I read that because I could relate- but it also made me sad.

I don’t want to watch a romantic comedy to examine another dimension- I want to be able to relate, to see some part of myself in the characters.  I want it to feel real enough because as a single woman, I live vicariously through these characters for the two hours that we spend together.  I can feel the emotions as if I too were experiencing their love.  And this escape- that’s what I look for in a good romantic comedy.

notting hill

 I want it to feel plausibly real.  I want the women and men to have pretty normal lives and regular jobs.  I want there to be moments of truth that I can relate to, such as when Sally (Meg Ryan) is crying to Harry (Billy Crystal) because she found out her ex is getting married in When Harry Met Sally.  Harry asks her if she would take him back now, and Sally says no.  Then why are you upset? Harry wants to know- and Sally responds with “why didn’t he want to marry me?”  That moment hits in the gut because it is so nakedly true.  Other true moments where I have found a moment of pure honesty in Romantic Comedy include Kristen Wiig’s reaction to the announcement that her best friend is getting married in Bridesmaids (simultaneous joy and tears), Bob (David Duchovney) asking Grace (Minnie Driver) if he can hold her hand in Return to Me (I could also write an entire post on the greatness of Bob), and the credit sequence in Bridget Jones’s Diary when Renee Zellweger sings/dances/drinks it out to “All By Myself”.

These moments are what keep bringing me back to my tried and true films.  Nora Ephron nailed it every time, but who is writing Sams and Annies today?  We need a new wave of Romantic Comedies that treat women as smart, rational human beings, and gives them real men to fall in love with- men who are not dragged into love kicking and screaming.  I have hope that these types of quality romances will come around again.  Until then, I’ll keep hanging out in the Shop Around the Corner, masochistically reminding myself that I want to be in love in a movie.



All the Single Ladies- a.k.a. My Valentine’s Playlist

Everyone has heard of the 5 stages of grief.  Well, I believe that there are also 5 stages of emotion that single women go through on Valentine’s Day.  And I truly believe it’s important to deeply feel each emotion, the good and the bad.  Acknowledge it, live it, and move forward.  We can tell ourselves to be strong, or we can live in despair; but I think it’s healthier to feel each deeply as they come and then find the balance somewhere between.

To aid in the process of moving through all 5 stages, I am providing a playlist of songs that I feel exemplify each stage.  OK ladies- here we go….

Stage 1: Wallowing– All by Myself, Celine Dion

Let’s face it- it is Valentine’s, so let’s start with the hard part and just wallow in the feeling of being alone.  There is absolutely no better song to aid a good single lady wallow than All by Myself, and we can all benefit from having our own Bridget Jones moment every now and then to emotionally cleans.  While there are many versions of this song, I have to recommend Celine.  Love her or hate her- there is no denying that the woman can SING.  When she lets loose on that long drawn out anymooooooooooorrrre-oooore…chills.  Whew- can someone please pass the wine?  I have some wallowing to do.

Stage 2: Frustration– Love Song for No One- John Mayer

Now that we’ve wallowed, it’s normal to get just a bit exasperated over our perpetually single state.  I know of no better refrain to express this feeling than- I’m tired of being alone, so hurry up and get here.  Ah yes- a love song for no one indeed.  John Mayer may not be the greatest person to look to when it comes to relationships, but he kind of nails it with his observations on how scary it can be to think that we have already met the person and didn’t know it- letting our chance slip away.  What if we did meet him in the sandbox and then watched him walk away?  Frustration complete.

Stage 3: Acknowledgment- I’ve Got This Friend- The Civil Wars

We’ve been sad, we’ve gotten angry, now we start to think a bit more rationally.  Maybe, just maybe, we have a part to play in this as well.  I know that personally, I’m very guarded with my heart.  I love how in this song they sing as if they are discussing a friend when really they are talking about themselves.  The Lyric about how she hides her heart away like it’s a little secret and it’s all she has to give- yeah, I can maybe relate to that.  They say the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem- I guess I can own up that it takes two so I can be ready if that right one comes along.

Stage 4: Hope- Haven’t Met You Yet, Michael Buble

Now that we are taking a more realistic look at our single status and thinking a bit more rationally, we can start to get a bit excited again.  Yeah, that’s it- I’m just holding out for the good one, the one I can give my heart to.  I just haven’t met him yet!  Also, the blaring trumpets in this song just make me feel better- there is still hope for us singletons!  Sing it, you beautiful Canadian, you!

Stage 5: Celebration- Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), Beyonce

Ironically, now that we have worked ourselves from face down in our gigantic bowl of ice cream to feeling optimistically Mindyish (can someone give a shot out for The Mindy Project?), we can start to see that being single really isn’t all that bad.  In fact, it can be pretty great sometimes.  We don’t need a man- without one we are pretty damn amazing and can do whatever the hell we want to.  So let’s get our Beyonce moves on and feel like the fierce and fabulous ladies that we are!

Honorable Mentions-

Standing Right In Front Of You- Keith Urban: This song is for that person you always see and think, “what if?”

Nothing In My Way- Keane: Just for the line- For a lonely soul, you’re having such a nice time… feels appropriate sometimes.

Caravan- Van Morrison:  You can’t listen to this song and not just want to be happy and hang out with your friends.  All you need is the ladies, no man required!

Thank you for taking this musical journey with me.  Own your singleness, feel the stages, and have a fantastic Valentine’s!