Richard Curtis is guilty of feeding our romantic-comedy addictions (the one who told you Love Actually is all around). But why do we love this genre so much?
Romantic-comedies are arguably the best sub-genre known to any person willing to admit they don’t still smirk at Bridget Jones’ massive pants or fall weak at the knees for Matthew McConaughey’s undeniable charm.
From pages to visuals. Most romantic novels later appear as successful films, including: Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), One Day (2011) and Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008). The pages come to life and it’s easier to scoff an entire bag of popcorn when your hands aren’t firmly stuck to your book or your tablet. Despite feeling a little hostile at the fact that the movie version may have missed out a beautiful piece of dialogue, there’s something wonderful about knowing all the fine details whilst watching the movie version. Your film buddy may not know all the thoughts that went on in her head the moment before she kissed him or the exact way he looks into her eyes, but you do.
There’s a huge sense of excitement into a world of love and a lack of realism. 13 Going on 30 – Jennifer Garner had to use magic-wishing-dust in order for her love-life to work out. Can you pop down to Tescos and buy a pouch of this? I don’t think so. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; Matthew McConaughey had to be visited by three ghosts for him to start treating women right. So, if your ex is still treating you badly, don’t count on him changing unless he’s best-friends with Nick Cassavetes (the one who brought you The Notebook and made you hope that there were hundreds of letters for you that got lost somewhere).
But we don’t watch romantic comedies in the hope that these romantic impossibilities become possible, we watch them because of the very fact that they are impossible and that’s what cinematic brilliance is all about. Our own lives fulfil the sense of realism, so there’s no shame in letting romantic-comedies fill in the gaps.
Tragedy can help to fill in these gaps. I’m not talking about the Steps kind of Tragedy but the Aristotle concept. The tragedy element to media can allow an audience to ‘purge’ on emotion. Tragedy is important to us because we want to empathise with others and we also want to understand our own emotions. Watching heartbreaks in romantic comedies allows us to understand the lives of others and ourselves – except movie tears are far more attractive and tend to roll down more chiselled bodies but it’s definitely a step in the desired emotional direction.
The alignment within romantic-comedies can be all too relatable aside from chiselled bodies. The comedic element is where we viewers come in handy; we leave the romance part to Julia Roberts down at Notting Hill. Men can admire men like Tim in About Time (2013); he’s geeky, average-looking and awkward. He’s a bumbling mess and shook a girls hand when 12:00pm hit on New Years Eve. But he did what all men would do if they were offered a time-travelling super-power: reverse all his mistakes and find a nice woman – oh and have sex with Rachael McAdams three times in a row.
Women can look to Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice. She’s an empowering woman, fights for what she believes in and snorts when she laughs. This is achievable. Then when Hugh Grant begins to fall in love with her, he’s falling in love with all of the other clumsy, stubborn and yet motivated women.
Hope for singletons. I know I said they’re unrealistic and they are but there’s no denying it gives you a smidge of hope about love. Whilst you’re watching and your head is tilted and you’re awwwing out loud, the ‘maybe one day’ thought comes across your head. Maybe one day you’ll be in a nice relationship I mean, there won’t be a day where you’ll be serenaded across Grand Central in New York but one day you’ll be able to love and laugh with a real life person and Richard Curtis will have absolutely nothing to do with it.
Time.com revealed that Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy said: “We need to live by stories that help us deal with tough realities. Idealism has a role to play — it can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us. And you know what? There is! Walk through any shopping mall and you see the most extraordinary pairings. We all need hope in our lives. And Hollywood trades on hope.”
It’s just a go-to genre. Whether you are sad, happy or excited a romantic-comedy will employ all of these emotions. This genre will either reflect your feelings at the time or give you aspirations. For instance, the wonderful Reece Witherspoon connected with viewers in Legally Blonde (2001) firstly by showing that blonde women do have brains which is a fact close to my heart and secondly by longing after a relationship. But then also providing aspirations – anyone who did not want to be a lawyer after this film is lying.
Much like a fairy-tale a romantic-comedy will always have a happy ending which makes us equally happy! And when the credits roll and your sobbing face and ugly outfit are very much a prominent reflection, you too will aspire towards your own little happy ending.
Romantic comedies show us love without the washing up, usually with a Scouting for Girls backing track to emphasise this. There are not hours of scenes where couples are sat on the sofa scrolling through their phones nor are there petty arguments about overspending at the supermarket. It is snow in the places that hardly ever snow; it is music when you kiss; and it is love that is always returned.
They create unrealistic perceptions on love and if you don’t know this you may need to revisit your rom-com collection that you often hide. But there’s nothing wrong with that, if you want to watch a mediocre love story play out then just go down to your local pub on a Friday night – mildly entertaining but not so aspirational. Besides, you can’t openly gaup at them in your ice-cream stained pyjamas.
“I wonder by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved? were we not weaned till then?”
I’ll tell you what we did Shakespeare; we watched a romantic-comedy.
P.S I love you really Richard Curtis x
Featured image found via The Telegraph/REX FEATURES