Romantic films tend to fashion our minds to forgo the complexities and nuances of love, in constant anticipation for some formulated version of what life should hold.
I grew up in the golden era of formulated films. And I’d gladly admit, I love most of them.
When recommending such gems from the 80’s and 90’s, let’s say Tom Hank’s Turner & Hooch or Marisa Tomei’s Only You, I tend to get a tad pepped up. So in fair warning - it most certainly won’t reach the level I talk it up to. (Or so I’m told.)
Yet for the formulated film, there is no doubt a leading lady of the genres.
Up until the early 2000’s the nuances and complexities of romance were conveniently overlooked for versions of love most easy to swallow - otherwise known as romantic comedies. The rom com.
Then again, the queens of rom com writing reigned up through my teen years. (Nora Ephron being the queen.) And as much as I’d like to think highly of my taste in film, there may be a handful of painfully formulated romantic comedies I inevitably crave come Fall. (Almost as if an emotional eating issue, only film. With films though, I confess - I’m a glutton.)
In more ways than one, films have a ripple effect on the emotional sense and sensibilities, if you will. Ones that have the ability to kinda screw with your heart, and inevitably your head. At least, I’m quite convinced they've screwed with mine growing up. And particularly for the average single female and the romantic comedy, its lasting effects are certainly two-fold.
Within the grand scheme of romantic comedies from my generation, (with the exception of Nora Ephron - because Nora is always the exception), these films were made exclusively for women, as we women would gladly live vicariously through them.
In most any rom com, this stereotypical female is generally met by viewers moments leading up to meeting the striking male, the brief moments leading up to love. Rarely do we meet this woman three, five, ten years before she meets a man. Rarely is this waiting period, this trifling state of singleness, a stage of life audiences are eager to consume. Unless you’re watching Tracks or Frances Ha, you seldom see a woman just as a woman, exploring and discovering life, without the angst of seeking a destined companion.
In 2009 for the first time in US history, the percentage of single women outnumbered the percentage of married women. Still we’ve somehow accepted this generalized portrayal of a woman, the often dimmed-down, rather uncomplicated, single-dimension version of a female’s relational neediness and irrational expectations. She’s the woman who doesn’t know what she wants in life, and lives constantly at the end of herself. The woman who functions in overriding anxiety over for the opposite sex’s opinion, simultaneously harboring an obvious bitterness towards them. She is the woman eternally desperate for love, who would leave a job, travel across the globe or disown a life-long friend at the drop of the hat, if it meant finding the one. Yet, love inevitably manages to find her. The End; Life is suddenly whole, complete and without need (or intrigue) of any further explanation. It’s such formulated films that have fashioned this preconceived notion that lead us to believe a woman’s sole desire and deepest longings remaining in her are for a man. That in romance, her life is found and completed here. It’s the same formula that leads us into a pit of worries that love will pass right by us, or worse, the acceptance of what would otherwise be viewed as the demeaning role of a bimbo-like accessory, which we quickly welcome as some version of affection. Constant consumption of such entertainment can numb some of us to believe life doesn’t begin until we fall in love.
On the flip side, these comedies (now often translated in tv shows - which progressively continue to rival featured films), paint an ideal picture that can nullify what life holds for females outside of love. And with such statistics making single females no longer a minority, why wouldn’t we want to see more of it on film?
Alas, I understand life is love and love is life. But for those of us who’ve grown to be 30-something and have yet to experience life as love, what does that mean for our life?
Romantic films tend to fashion our minds to forgo the complexities and nuances of love, in constant anticipation for some formulated version of what life should hold. Of course today's romantic comedies certainly aren’t easily summed up in some formulated version as they once were. So hopefully future females won’t have to undergo the expectation that life should follow suit as if some glorified rom com.