romantic comedies

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Healthy Relationships in Romantic Comedies

Romcoms are an incredibly popular genre, and some of the relationships – from the perfect meet-cute to the inevitable dramatic finale – are truly dream-worthy. But a lot of romantic comedies also feature clearly unhealthy relationships. Consider The Wedding Planner, where the male lead is engaged for the majority of the film, or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, where both sides of the couple are trying to trick one another. There are countless other examples.

It would be interesting to explore why this is. Does a relationship need to be unhealthy (or, commonly, founded upon lies) to be "funny"? Why can we set aside critical judgement of blatantly unhealthy behaviours when we’re watching these movies?

  • Add screwball comedies to that and it would improve it greatly. – leitercary 3 years ago
  • The questions you pose here are very interesting. How would we define “unhealthy” in this inquiry? You seem to imply dishonesty or deception as informing that qualifier, which I think is right, but also, what of other problematics like sexist gender roles set as expectations via swoon-worthy rom com get-togethers? Perhaps this is where some of the unhealthy humor of this genre comes into play, where we laugh at the blunders the characters commit as they themselves attempt to fit the expectations of idealized heteronormative relationships— ‘boys will be boys, girls will be girls.’ – duronen 3 years ago
  • This is a great observation, but I think it all depends on the story's climax. Usually stories like these involve some sort of breakdown or revelation in the final act: a moment where he breaks up with his fiancée, she admits that she's catfished him, secrets are revealed, fights are had or silent treatment commences, and perpetrators sufficiently repent and abandon their old ways. In great rom-coms, these unhealthy foundations often serve as a vehicle for character transformation, and such resolutions create that addictive sense of relief just before the final credits that contributes to the enduring appeal of the genre. If you'll allow me to jump on my English-major high horse, I'd say the theme goes back to Shakespearean comedies, in which relationships are fraught with misunderstandings and outright lies until they reach the Act V Breaking Point, when everything is revealed and all the liars and schemers have endured so much drama and strife for their mischief that they renounce it all and promise to behave themselves from that point on (and they live happily ever after, etc). Of course, if these things happened in real life, there would be much bigger issues, but rom-coms are their own breed of modern fantasy that are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, perhaps comparable to popular fairytales with a 'moral' the audience is meant to detect. – Emory Grace 2 years ago
  • This is brilliant, and I agree wholeheartedly. Maybe mention the role that conflict has in any story, and consider how in a romantic comedy, tension between the central protagonists is a requirement to progress the plot, often leading to a relationship which a regular person would consider toxic. – tomgerrans 2 years ago
  • The lack of healthy communication in rom coms makes it very hard to root for the central romance. There is little to no character development in most in this genre (apart from them realising their love for each other) and there is a high chance the romance won't last long after the movie ends. – tarushharris 2 years ago
  • Is there such a thing as a healthy relationship? In any case, abnormalities are preferred in fiction. Normality is usually not worth telling. – T. Palomino 2 years ago

Relationships in romantic comedies

Many of the relationships portrayed in romantic comedies are presented as fun and flirty in the film, but would be considered abusive in reality. Stalking and other abusive behaviours are common to the genre. Power imbalances are also common. Everything is put aside so the female protagonist can be made whole by finding a male partner. Much of what the genre presents as romantic or funny would be good reasons to call the police in reality, so why is it acceptable in the movies?

A good example would be Sweet Home Alabama, in which the female protagonist goes back home to try and get a divorce from her husband who she hasn’t seen in years. He refuses to sign the divorce, forcing her to stay longer and doing everything he can to try and force them back into a relationship. In 27 Dresses, the male lead defaced the protagonist’s planner and lied to her about his intentions. There are almost as many examples as there are rom coms.

  • This is an interesting topic considering what is going on in the film industry right now. It might be worth considering grouping this topic with the #MeToo movement. Another interesting note is Molly Ringwald's interview about The Breakfast Club. I'd also think it is important to discuss more recent romantic comedies (last year or two) since they more accurately depict the film industry we are dealing with now. Obviously, sexism has been a problem but there is a change going on right now so it is very important to consider. – Connor 6 years ago