The problem with romantic comedies

Why they should be the exception, not the rule

Scenes from Serendipity, Love Actually, and The Notebook.
Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

When I was younger, I loved romantic comedies. The idea of that initial spark, the inevitable complications to overcome and the eventual happy ending of falling in love gave me such hope and happiness for what the future could hold in terms of my romantic life. 

But then one day, I came to the realization that romantic comedies are unrealistic and portray the wrong message to every single party involved.

In real life, Allie stays married to that other man and Noah lives alone in his house in The Notebook. Jonathan and Sarah lose each others’ numbers and never see each other again in Serendipity. Jamie and Aurelia never learn each others’ languages and she’s forever known as the foreign girl who cleaned his summer home in Love Actually. 


These are just a few examples of the endless rom-coms out there that overly romanticize certain aspects of relationships and are completely inaccurate in how they play out in real life. 

One of which is the romanticization of the struggle within a relationship. This isn’t to say relationships aren’t hard work at times, of course they are, but these movies make it seem as if rejection or the obstacle of having another person in the picture is going to make the outcome more rewarding in the end. Sometimes such a blatant obstacle just means it’s not meant to be.

The other issue with these movies is the common occurrence of over-the-top, romantic gestures characters perform to successfully sweep their love interest off their feet. 

This aspect of rom-com movies gives a seriously unrealistic portrayal of relationships that raise the expectations of viewers to impossibly high standards. At the end of the day, it’s unlikely the person you’re thinking about or crushing on is going to hold a boombox over their head outside your window or rent out Grand Central Station for a flash mob. And guess what? That’s perfectly okay. 

As a girl who’s had her fair share of complicated relationships, it’s easy to get swept up in the rom-com movie mentality and think that, regardless of the complications of trying to be with a certain person, everything will work out in the end. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t.

I recently had the realization  that this struggle is overrated. A love story can be as simple as this: girl meets boy, boy texts girl to ask her out, boy and girl go out, boy and girl realize mutual admiration for each other and decide to be in a relationship. The end. 

The whole plot of a roadblock that needs to be overcome or a romantic gesture that needs to take place in order for the relationship to work makes for a great movie plotline, but isn’t a great example for real life.

While it can be easy to think about this logically and realize how problematic these standards are, growing up in a world where so many movies are riddled with this plotline can make it easy to turn to them as a model of how we should live our lives. 

Being in love is a wonderful and fortunate experience on its own. There’s really no need for the extra trauma and flourish that comes with unrealistic romantic gestures and obstacles to overcome. We shouldn’t use romantic comedies as the guidepost for any future relationships.

While the upswell of music, multiple roadblocks and the general sentiment that whatever your problems are, you’ll find love are great in any movie, making sure we take our own lives and feelings out of the situation and enjoy them for what they are is imperative.


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