The Romantic Comedy Renaissance: Why We Still Need Rom-Coms.

When the trailer for Marry Me first dropped, the reaction from many was bewilderment. Not only did the trailer give away the entire plot, but the plot was ludicrous. Marry Me follows Kat Valdez, a music superstar who finds out her fiancé cheated on her right before they are set to be married in front of the entire world. To save face, she decides to marry a stranger from the crowd. Romantic hijinks ensue from there. It’s an outrageous plot that begs to be laughed at for how silly the concept is. But there’s something about Marry Me that makes it hard to laugh at it. It’s too earnest of a movie to hate. Even if you try to, you might just fall under its spell. That’s the magic of romantic comedies.

In recent years, the magic of romantic comedies had seemed to run dry. If you haven’t noticed, the romantic comedy genre has been in a drought for much of the 2010s. What was once a blossoming genre with heavyweight stars like Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant became a genre whose leading star was Katherine Heigl. For every Crazy, Stupid, Love we got, we had seven Noah Centineo movies. The popularity of the romantic comedy genre died as the genre failed to recapture what made it special in the first place: its charm.

Say what you want about romantic comedies, but you cannot deny there’s a certain level of charm to most of them. If you put aside the genre’s many problematic tropes, you’ll discover the reason why they became as popular as they did in the 90s and early 00s. In a romantic comedy, you watch some of your favorite actors and actresses in a way you may have never seen before. Instead of watching them give a dramatic performance for the umpteenth time, you get to see them flex their comedic muscles, develop some on-screen chemistry with their co-star, and most importantly, have fun.

What was missing from the romantic comedy genre for much of the 2010s was simply the movies weren’t fun or funny. The appeal of the romantic comedy genre is that you can turn your mind off watching it and be entertained. Without that appeal, there was no reason for people to want to watch a rom-com. Romantic comedies, no matter how crazy many of them are, are built on the principle that they need to be fun, entertaining, and somewhat charming. Few romantic comedies from the 2010s captured all three of those elements. The ones that did like Crazy, Stupid, Love were greatly appreciated, but they weren’t enough to save the decreasing interest in a steadily declining genre.

Up until a month ago, I considered the romantic comedy genre to be dead. While there have been some gems to pop up every year. Films like Netflix’s Set It Up or Crazy Rich Asians showed the genre still had a beating pulse, but it was faint. It wasn’t until the collective confusion about Marry Me that I took notice of a shift happening. Underneath the bewilderment about Marry Me’s plot, there was also a layer of excitement for it. People wanted to watch Marry Me. Some because they wanted to make fun of it. Then you had people like me, who love romantic comedies and were willing to give Marry Me a chance. It didn’t matter which side you landed on. People were interested in watching a romantic comedy in a way I had not seen in a long time.

If that wasn’t an exciting enough prospect, I soon found out about another romantic comedy, I Want You Back, which was being released the same weekend as Marry Me. I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen two romantic comedies set to be released on the same day, both with varying levels of interest in them. It felt monumental as a romantic comedy fan. So much so I had to ask the question: are romantic comedies having a renaissance? The answer? I have no idea. But this is a step in the right direction for the future of romantic comedies. I have now seen both Marry Me and I Want You Back. Neither of them are perfect movies. Not many rom-coms are. What they are though is fun, entertaining, and so charming they will knock your socks off.

Romantic comedies have never been a genre that is universally loved. They never will be. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay. Romantic comedies are like that passed-down sweater your grandmother made you. You may not like it, and you may not ever wear it, but if you ever need it, it’ll be there for you. Romantic comedies are a comfort for many people, including myself. Sometimes we all need a story that we know will have a happy ending. No matter how predictable or ludicrous they can be, romantic comedies are the safe and charming genre you can always return to if you ever need a laugh or a smile. And after these past two years, I think we could all use something to make us smile. So bring back the rom-coms, and let’s pretend like they never left.


My book Living Rent Free In My Head: Essays On Pop Culture comes out on August 2, 2022. Pre-order it now for only $3.15 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other vendors.

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