By Ruth Cawley

Whether it is date night, Valentine’s Day, or simply an evening with nothing else to do, romantic comedies are a cure-all for boredom and entertainment for many people.

From timeless classics like My Best Friend’s Wedding and When Harry Met Sally to more modern sensations like Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, streaming platforms are stacked with romantic comedies for all manner of occasions. There is a light-hearted meet cute, an angsty teen couple, or a dramatic proposal featured in each one. It begs the question: are romantic comedies becoming diluted in originality? Are there simply too many options out there?

Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime have rows upon rows of rom-coms for all viewers. This includes aforementioned classics as well as newly produced and written seemingly with adolescent or young adult audiences in mind. Back in the nineties and noughties, romantic comedies were more glorified and appreciated for their cheesy one-liners, grand gestures, and climaxes. Overall, they were more fun!

However, the more overtly exciting genres like fantasy, superhero, coming-of-age, and horror were favoured by film studios due to the immense revenue they generated. Rom-coms did not get the same attention after films like The Avengers were released. People got a taste of action-packed blockbusters with some romance arcs included between their favourite characters. People became more invested in and influenced by the adventure of superhero films as well as their unexpected fantasy twists and CGI effects. Audiences’ expectations and tastes change over time, making it difficult to gauge how they might react to a newer take on an old idea. This made it difficult for the typical rom-com formula to compete with and so, studios were less certain about giving them the ‘green light’. They run the risk of overinvesting in films that would be overshadowed by other studio releases or producing remakes of older rom-coms thus reducing their originality.

A book called From Hollywood With Love: The Rise and Fall (And Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy by Scott Meslow offers more insights into how rom-coms survive, thrive, and become revived over time. From a studio perspective, the main motivation appears to be money. Studios will produce the film genres and scripts that they believe will earn higher proceeds and distinctive awards.

It is a shame that the popularity of the romantic comedy genre fluctuates so often and so dramatically. However, recent flicks are experimenting with new combinations of genres and more nuanced storylines to attract more viewer interest. In the past, rom-coms portray more magical versions of life in a realistic backdrop. Thus, they provide a form of escapism to viewers as they put themselves in the shoes of the protagonists and relate to them emotionally. Viewers can differentiate between real love and ‘perfect’ love that is depicted in rom-coms as the plotlines develop. The point is not to completely replicate real-life relationships, but to showcase the meaning and depth of love between people. It seems that the film industry is trying to recapture that magic through a modern lens.

The question remains to be answered: are there too many rom-coms out there? The thing is that everyone has different tastes in genres and subgenres. Some would prefer the ‘perfect’ love in classics while others lean into the more chaotic relationships shown in newer flicks. To each their own! Options are always a good thing.

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