Rom-Com Revival – Comparing Then and Now

Rom-Com Revival – Comparing Then and Now

After years of watching action-packed blockbusters and twisting dramas, Hollywood decided to bring back an old favourite – the rom-com. The rom-com, or romantic comedy, is known to display love stories in a light, funny way. Although setting the standards for relationships pretty high, these films are relatable in the way that the main characters are typically ordinary people and their stories reflect the society they were made in. By looking at romcoms through the ages, you can tell how society has changed and how it stayed the same. So, let’s stroll down memory lane, and revisit some of the romcoms most tired and true tropes.

Crazy Rich Representation:

2018 was a year of films that made Asians proud. However, Asians have had a history of having infamous characters – characters we would rather forget. In 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s pulled at everyone’s heartstrings. Back then, people seemed to ignore a white man pretending to be a stereotypical Chinese neighbour. Yes, your favourite rom-com has one of the most famous cases of yellow-face in history: Mickey Rooney as I. Y. Yunioshi. In 1984, Sixteen Candles captured the struggles of adolescence almost flawlessly. However, the character Long Duk Dong is very cringe-worthy in modern times. Although a step up from Tiffany’s with an actual Asian actor playing an Asian character, he is still the butt of numerous jokes.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have an all-Asian cast in Crazy Rich Asians, portraying three-dimensional diverse characters. We also have the lovable Lara Jean and her sisters in To All The Boys I Loved Before, where no one bats an eye at interracial relationships at the forefront of the love story. 

Gender Roles are a Loser:

Rom coms have always attempted to break traditional gender roles. If you think about, the biggest archetype in every rom com is the “I’m not like the other guys” / “You’re different than most girls” trope. Yet, it captures our hearts every time. In addition, rom coms are the only genre that actually portray men as emotionally invested and capable of serious relationships. We can go back to 1989 and look at Lloyd in Say Anything, an eternal optimist who would do anything to earn the love of Diane. Girls everywhere learned that you should never forgive a guy unless he stands outside your window with an open heart and a boom box. The ever so dreamy male leads continue to 2018 with everyone’s favourite, Peter Kavinsky. He never gave up on Lara Jean and, like Lloyd, was never afraid of getting hurt in the process of being with the girl he loves. 

Meanwhile, a lot of action-packed have always tried to have non-conventional female leads. Usually, these women who don’t live up to certain beauty standards or etiquette are crowd favourites. In the 1987 classic Some Kind of Wonderful, you end up rooting for Watts, the witty tomboy/best friend, instead of the popular Amanda Jones. Rebellious and unapologetically feminist Kat in 10 Things I Hate About rom-com been an icon since 1999. In 2018, we see even more rom-com leads with Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. Sierra may not be conventionally attractive, the story shows she belongs with the love interest, Jamie.

Don’t stick to the status quo:

There’s nothing more tragic than a pair of star-crossed lovers. Rom coms have a habit of showing two people who are made for each other but society keeps driving them apart. Class struggle was a focus in a lot of older films, including Pretty in rom-com 1986. The rich Blane wanted to be with poor Andie before his rich friends harassed him but (spoiler alert) they both overcame the judgement. More recent films tend to target the middle class who don’t see the big deal about a wealth difference in a relationship so it isn’t as discussed. However, star-crossed Simon and Blue inLove, Simon face similar scrutiny for being gay. This shows that although society has become more tolerant of certain differences such as socioeconomic status, other differences such as sexuality remain criticized. With more films like Love, Simon being made, maybe one day, movies with gay couples will be as mainstream as couples that are of different socioeconomic status.

Movie Musicals, here we go again

Nothing can quite capture love the way a song can. These bubble-gum pop, upbeat movie musicals may be over the top at points, but you can’t help but watch them over and over again. Just look at Singin’ in the Rain which was released in 1952 and is still considered one of the best musicals ever made. The star-studded High Society in 1956 was also a hit. Despite the lack of ABBA and the presence of Sinatra, the film has some similarities to the beloved 2008 Mamma Mia/ 2018 Mamma Mia 2. Both films got attraction due to its combination of high profile stars; High Society had Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Cosby while the Mamma Mia franchise had Meryl Streep, Cher, and Colin Firth. Both films also involve an independent young woman having an affair with three dashing men and ends up with who she considers her true love. However, Mamma Mia is different than other musicals as its songs weren’t originally made for the musical but were just covers of the original ABBA tracks. Still, it follows the playful nature of the other movies mentioned above while others like West Side Story(1961), Footloose(1972), Grease(1978) and Dirty Dancing(1987) use the music over more dramatic situations. No matter the plot, all musicals have two criteria when making a score: the song has to capture the moment in the story, and get stuck in people’s heads for years to come.

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