Students should remember romantic comedies are meant to be enjoyable, not realistic

Jillian Moore

Jillian Moore

Jillian Moore

With Valentine’s Day upon us, we find ourselves bombarded with hearts, roses and countless romantic comedies. Romantic comedies, or rom-coms, are meant to seem lighthearted, charming and funny, but criticism in past years portrays them as clichéd and retrograde. 

In fact, rom-coms have rapidly lost popularity. According to Statista, the box office revenue of rom-coms in North America from 1998 to 2012 never went below $330 million, even reaching $733 million in 2007. But after 2012? No rom-com topped $264 million. 

One of the biggest reasons for this fall from fame is the unrealistic depictions of relationships in these movies. Rom-coms tend to include grand gestures, like stopping someone at an airport or confessions of love in public places. It’s important to remember this just isn’t realistic and this amount of drama isn’t normal in real life and healthy relationships. However, rom-coms don’t need to—and rarely do—represent reality; when writers and directors use a little drama to make a movie glittery and romantic (instead of exhausting or frustrating), it can rise in popularity. 

For example, in 2018, Netflix released “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” which became an instant hit. In the movie, someone mails the main character Lara Jean’s secret love letters to her crushes, throwing her life into havoc. But even though we all knew what would happen after 10 minutes, Netflix has already made one sequel and another is on the way.

No one could describe rom-coms like these as cinematic masterpieces or even remotely realistic. Depending on the acting and plot, they can be gooey, unbearably cheesy and, by any kind of objective criticism, terrible. But this isn’t true for all rom-coms and it doesn’t mean people need to stop enjoying the genre.

Rom-coms in the ’80s and ’90s, for example, have significantly more problems than current movies. Some behaviors considered romantic back then would be called harassment or stalking now. But as feminism became more mainstream, rom-coms had to change with the times and portray, if not healthy relationships, at least modern ones. 

For example, many popular rom-coms with a strong following today, like “Legally Blonde,” “La La Land,” or “The Kissing Booth,” came out in the 21st century, while older movies have fallen into obscurity. And of course, many of us grew up watching Disney Channel rom-coms that are so bad, they’re good. Yes, this is a reference to “High School Musical” and “Teen Beach Movie.”

Whatever your opinion about rom-coms, you have most likely seen one because, well, they’re popular. Hopeless romantics and anyone who loves romantic comedies will keep the genre alive, so check out some of these movies and see why they’re famous. 

Just remember, rom-coms don’t represent attainable relationships; the producers’ goal is to make enjoyable movies, not realistic ones. So this February, take a grain of salt with the genre and don’t find yourself wishing for the grand confession of love that features in every romantic comedy.