Why those shitty Rom-Coms do so well

17 Jan

And why there will be more of them to come.

Ayn, swampmusic, RetroVixen and I have been lamenting the state of movies targeted to adult women – specifically the supercraptasticespialitrocious romantic comedies that Hollywood has been churning out in record numbers lately. It’s like Hollywood went out for dinner, got food-poisoning and has been sitting on the crapper for 48 months, crapping out little “unflushables”. Aside from the corset-busting period pieces, or something inspired by Jane Austen, we are bombarded with uber-contrived, poorly written and over-acted romantic comedies.

They all seem to have the same shrill, angry, materialistic, self-absorbed, entitled nutjob that no one in their right minds would want to be friends with as their lead character. They take Oscar-caliber actresses, like Anne Hathaway, Diane Keaton, Annette Bening, Hilary Swank and Scarlett Johanssen, and turn them into cardboard cut-outs that have as much intelligence and likability as Ann Coulter. Yes, I said it. We, and by that I mean women between the ages of 20 and 45, are apparently supposed to identify with these women, rather than avoid them and laugh about them with our friends behind their backs like we would do in real life.

The last good romantic comedy I watched was Definitely Maybe. Prior to that it was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and, like Definitely Maybe, it was written from the guy’s perspective. Prior to that it was Knocked Up. Maybe the success of the Apatow crew is due to the fact that they seem more interested in writing stuff that’s funny than catering to a specific demographic that no one will ever truly understand. Dudes, you will never truly understand us. Repeat that out loud for full effect.

It is so rare for these films to get the female voice right, that I would rather watch films written from the male perspective than subject myself to the utter insult these films represent. I would rather rewatch Superbad for 14 hours straight than spend 90+ minutes watching Bride Wars, in which both lead female characters look like they could have used a dose of McLovin.

Also, Hollywood needs to realize that there are women out there who like to see shit blown up and poop jokes. 120 minutes of mindless violence makes me … er … pliable. The list of my favourite 5 movies of 2008 does not include a single romantic comedy. It includes a list of films with explosions, martial arts, male bravado and potty humour. In fact, if you check both men’s and women’s top 5 lists, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single romantic comedy in there.

I watched the Sex and the City movie and while I liked it and was excited about it, I’ve had better Sex from the TBS reruns. The highlight of that movie for me was when Charlotte pooped her pants. A poop joke, ladies and gents, in a romantic comedy targeted to women actually paid off. The moments that worked for me in that film were when the women were being friends to each other – when they were acting like real women. The moments I hated were when they acted like … they were acting.

So, why do those shitty Rom-Coms do so well at the box office? It’s pretty simple. We’re not offered better alternatives. The release dates for these rom-coms are usually chosen so that they don’t run head to head with anything that women like us would prefer watching. They’re usually matched up against some testosterone-fueled blow-slice-and-shoot’em-upper or some really nasty sophomoric gross-out comedy (see the unimaginatively titled College). You’ll rarely see one of these shit-sculptures going up against the likes of Elizabeth: The Golden Age or Pride and Prejudice.

So what can I do about it? Well, for one, I can refuse to shell out my hard earned money at the cinema or their DVD releases. I just checked my DVD collection and the only recent (released within the last 4 years) romantic comedy I could find in there was Music & Lyrics (which I highly recommend since Drew Barrymore’s character isn’t a shrill, angry, materialistic, self-absorbed, entitled nutjob like Catherine Zeta Jone’s character was in No Reservations).

The second thing I can do is shell out my money for the really good romantic comedies – the ones featuring female leads that I would actually like to get to know. I can pretty much tell by the trailer whether or not a romantic comedy will work for me. If the trailer relies too heavily on female stereotypes, I am immediately turned off (see He’s Not That Into You which I have no intention of seeing unless it features Alexander Skarsgaard naked for 40 minutes).  If I watch the trailer and the lead character is down to earth (i.e. not screaming, shrieking  or conveniently getting her underwear caught in a car door) and actually likes men (i.e. doesn’t spend 30 seconds of the trailer bashing them) I might actually give it a try.

See, I like romantic comedies. For me, romantic comedy isn’t a bad word. The fact that I’ve seen romantic movie magic combined with side-splitting comedy done to perfection means that I’m not willing to settle for the latest piss-poor offerings. Here are the five things I want in a romantic comedy:

1. A sympathetic, normal, realistic female lead character: she can be accomplished, opinionated, socially-challenged, artistic – whatever. I just want to see a friend up there.

2. A 3-dimensional male lead: he’s got to have more than six-pack abs, white teeth and great hair. If he’s witty, funny and self-deprecating all the better (see Hugh Grant, George Clooney).

3. A plot without holes that I could drive a truck through and without loops and zig-zags. No need to rely heavily on gimmicks, bets, competitions and coincidence to create intrigue and tension (see How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days).

4. Real relationships with friends and family and underwear that doesn’t match. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

5. The predictable ending is unavoidable in most genres. Romantic comedies are no exception. However, it would be nice to see a little more of the “happily ever after”.

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