Romantic comedies are very popular these days in the movie theaters. The best ones are usually guaranteed box office smashes, and some even become classics and hits with the critics. It's also a genre that remains popular among vintage film buffs, because so many of the classic Hollywood movies were rom-coms. In modern times they have been roughed up a bit, usually with more sexual content and plot variations that make them attractive to men as well as women, but the basic idea is still the same.
What Is A Rom-Com?
As the comedy part of the label implies, these types of stories are humorous and light – so no heavy drama here. The primary plot device is the separation of lovers or lovers-to-be who are meant to be together, but are prevented from being happy by some barrier, impediment or situation. The love story then takes them through travails and troubles until, most of the time, they are reunited at the end and live happily, maybe even forever after. Sometimes the ending involves a realization that it was true love, but cannot be a practical relationship. People love these stories, but what if they are not good for romance in general – do they give romance a bad name?
Romance Looks Too Easy
In most of these kinds of movies, love at first sight or a variation of it is the norm. Starry-eyed lovers lost in romantic bliss go back to Shakespeare and even before him, but to see the story on the big screen is unforgettable. The problem is that the depiction of love and the romance that follows at some point makes it all look too easy. In real life, people are sometimes in such situations, but real love at first sight is a little rarer than it is in Hollywood scripts. So, actual humans living real lives who only have these stories to draw from for their romantic experience might assume that it should happen that way. And they might assume that if romance doesn't come easy, something is wrong. Romance gets a bad name when it doesn't match these artificial models.
Romance Looks Too Hard
The standard plot device, with variations, of course, is to make the coming together of the lovers require the overcoming of a series of hardships. These obstacles to true love run the gamut from separation due to financial problems, family issues, life events, and many others. But through the many troubles and stormy seas, the destiny-kissed lovers find love and romance in the end. Romance obviously shouldn't be this hard, and in real life it usually isn't, because most people are faced with real obstacles that can't be overcome, and have to move on to the next possible romantic encounter. Making romance look too difficult also gives it a bad reputation when people realize the truth.
As I mentioned, rom-coms often end with the lovers starting a life of romance and expecting to live happily ever after. We all know that this isn't always the case, and that no love relationship is always and forever perfect. But seeing these stories and myths acted out on the silver screen conditions our brains and hearts to think that everything will be perfect, once we find that one true love and overcome all of the barriers put between us. Rom-coms make it seem like the importance of love is only in the beginning, and that it will take care of itself after that – not a good, realistic view of love and romance.
So if life imitates art in the area of romantic comedies, we may be in trouble. These stories tend to make romance either look like a cinch, or like a gauntlet of problems, and they cause viewers to have expectations for love in their own lives that are way too high. As popular as these types of movies are, I have to conclude that for the real romantic, a ration of one a year or so might be a good idea – just to keep up romance's good reputation.