RomCom Plot Devices vs. Real Life
Last evening before our film screening, Mrs. Frothy and I were subjected to a promotional trailer for Jennifer Lopez’ most recent contribution to the Romantic Comedy genre, Some Such Nonsense, I’m Pregnant…Whatever. JESUSGOD.* It looks like pretty much every other romantic comedy film that has ever been made and to make matters worse, it looks especially terrible at that. (I should disclose here that I can’t stand romantic comedies, they make me stabby.)
Oddly enough, seeing the preview did get me thinking. You see, I am 36 years old, married and a mother of two - technically speaking, I am this kind of film’s target audience – in theory, this movie was made for me! But of course, it isn’t for me, not really. Romantic comedies tend to fail in blowing my skirt up as I am not fond of elaborate, attention-attracting Big Gestures Of Love or surprises of any kind. There is a formula to the romantic comedy and I can’t relate to a single element of it’s edict. For fun, let us examine at a list of things that are the stock and trade of the RomCom and compare and contrast how they differ with my own life experience:
RC: Girl meets boy. Girl HATES boy (for no apparent reason). There are petty arguments. There is incessant bickering. HATE. HATE. HATE. Wait…girl really loves boy. Aw.
JP: Jane meets boy. Jane hates boy. Jane manages to successfully avoid boy that she hates. If Jane hates you, she will NEVER fall in love with you. Because she hates you. Jane’s hate is reliable and steadfast – a constant, unwavering certainty.
2. I’m Clumsy, It’s Adorable!
RC: Generally speaking, your RC gal is an anal-retentive, uptight, insufferable, career-focused shrew. She wears her hair in a bun to visually convey this about her personality and she is clumsy to the point of being physically challenged. This is meant to be charming and endear her to the audience as well as the boy she hates.
JP: You can manage to have a clean home and work space and be passionate about your vocation without becoming a total, humorless asshole. Also, clumsiness isn’t the same thing as a character trait. Neither is a bun.
RC: How do you get two people who loathe each other to get close enough to one another that they may discover that They Are Meant To Be? Utilizing a hugely orchestrated and predictable plot device, that’s how! Reliable RomCom stratagem includes – but is not limited to - being forced to work together, pretending to be an actual couple to acquire something desirable (green card, hotel room, job position/work contract etc.) and the wildly popular road trip. Both parties begin their venture together with anger and resentment towards one another, but ultimately are able to see past their differences and fall in love.
JP: My experience has been such that when I have had to work or travel with someone for whom I suspect has cooties, the unwanted closeness usually results in both parties leaving the scenario with a greater sense of conviction about their feelings of disdain for the other person. To wit, I once made the acquaintance of a boy who I thought was a repellent jackass when I first met him. We took an unfortunate 4 hour car trip across the state of Colorado which served only to confirm and support my initial feelings of yuckiness. We found each other mutually revolting.
4. Let Your Hair Down ( And Have Some Deeply Satisfying Sex)
RC: The lead actress’ hair can be viewed as a metaphor for her sex life in the RomCom cannon. The tighter the chignon, the more urgently she is in need of a good, old-fashioned ravishing. At some point in the second act of the film, the Boy She Hates will bring out the heretofore unseen adventuresome side of our wound-up heroine. She will dance. She will get drunk. She may crash her car, quit her job or steal something of value. In the event that she is employed in a visual media environment, she will have some sort of on-air mental breakdown. Make no mistake of it, her hair is coming down like a force of nature and once a gal’s hair has been let down, it’s ever so hard to get it back in the bun.
JP: I never wear my hair in a bun.
RC: You simply cannot have an end to the romantic comedy without featuring some sort of grand gesture of love – and by grand gesture of love, I mean a tediously overwrought speech in which affections are publicly declared. For this to work properly, our couple needs to be somewhat on the outs to create an air of tension and suspense and it is especially effective if at least one person has to run through an airport first. Better still if one gets caught in inclement weather and arrives completely disheveled and possibly injured.
JP: This type of thing is actually a nightmare scenario for me. I am terrified of public speaking and I can’t imagine anything worse than drawing a lot of attention to yourself during a vulnerable moment. I do not enjoy.
In review: Hate, Clumsy, Road Trip, Bun and Speech. (Just watch 500 Days of Summer)
*not the film’s actual title. I don’t care about it and just can’t be bothered to look it up.