From rom com classics such as ‘10 things I hate about you,’ ‘27 dresses,’ ‘When Harry met Sally,’ ‘Jab we met,’ ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ to new favourites such as ‘The kissing booth,’ ‘To all the boys I’ve loved before,’ etc. rom coms have played a huge part in determining how all of us see love.
Every time the season of love draws near, you’ll see your feed pop up with love stories and Netflix recommendations on what rom com to watch with your partner.
Your social circles start discussing their romantic plans and then suddenly you realise you don’t have a grand gesture or a well condensed plan ready for your valentine. The expectation around romance is still heavily influenced by that Sharukh Khan movie you watched as a child.
While rom coms remain an ever so popular source of entertainment, people often have a way of tying their lives to a movie. The way love is condensed into a two-hour film often shapes the way we perceive a relationship.
A dramatic gesture can’t change everything
If you recall almost every popular rom com movie, you’ll recall the common usage of grand gestures. In every scene where two partners are fighting or on the verge of breaking up, there’s a big romantic public gesture done to make the audience awe.
As evident in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ when Patrick serenades Kat in front of the entire soccer team or in the flash mob scene in ‘Friends with benefits. While these scenes are entertaining and wholesome in their own way, they often send a message that a grand gesture is all you need to get someone back.
In reality, you can’t breakdance in the streets of Dhaka and expect your partner to forgive you. Not just because of the logistical nightmare but also because relationships are complex and gestures are only short term consolations.
Real life struggles missing?
Rom coms often have a way of diluting down reality to make it palatable to the audience. That’s why you’ll notice a focus on ‘happy endings’ and ‘meet cutes’ and deprioritisation of realistic portrayals.
Most of them dismiss socioeconomic struggles that any middle class individual may face in a movie. Yet in almost every rom com, the biggest plight in the protagonist's life is romance but not debt or university applications.
As evident in ‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ where Lara Jean seems to prioritise her relationship when making college plans, a privilege that most people don’t have in reality. While the movie concludes with a happy ending with the couple still together, many relationships don’t actually opt in for the long distance option for valid reasons.
Nayara Noor, a student from BRAC University noted, “An overemphasis on ‘just knowing when you meet the one’ like in Serendipity and then subsequently cheating on your respective partners to be with you ‘one’. Relationships aren’t butterflies or instincts or fate - they’re a choice, they take work and effort, and there are challenges.”
“While rom coms are good for escapism, they paint an unbelievable picture of what relationships actually look like and they rarely ever portray healthy relationships.”
Love can solve every problem!
While sugarcoating the difficulties of relationships of people, especially within non-privileged circles, rom com scenes also have a way of ingraining specific gender roles.
The famous ending scene from ‘Friends’ where Rachel gets off the plane and turns down her dream job in Paris for Ross is perhaps at best idealistic in reality.
In reality, finding love shouldn’t come at the compromise of losing your dream job. Even if it does, often rom coms heavily focus on women being the ones to give something up for the man.
While relationships evolve around compromise, rom coms often set undertones where women are expected to be more compromising. Since most women won’t be able to pull off a Rachel Green, perhaps relationships in rom com scenes can be shown in more realistic settings.
Rom coms are often packaged with a ‘Love conquers all’ narrative. By blurring the protagonist's background and placing love at the centre, it’s shown that all of life’s problems can be dissuaded by the ‘one’.
Although relationships are just one aspect of your life and won’t erase all of your other life problems, people channel such expectations onto their partners. This then causes people to create unrealistic expectations about love despite the uncertainty that lies around most relationships.
Rom coms have an ever growing influence on the way we interact within relationships and who we choose to date. While rom coms are massive sources of delight during rainy days, they still remain distant from the visceral reality we live in.