I’m just going to come out and say it because I know someone needs to hear this right now. You don’t actually hate romantic comedies. You’re just listening too much to that pretentious voice in your head, and if you’re not careful, that voice will probably drown you in Wes Anderson films, LaCroix and regret.
Romantic comedies, often known as rom-coms, are very diverse. Some are incredibly complex and use humor to craft commentary on relationships. Some are god-awful and exist solely to give viewers a chance to gawk at Ryan Gosling. But like all films, both types have a valid, noble goal — to act as a brief reprieve from everyday life.
Yet fans of romantic comedies face unique criticism. Personally, when I go to find my favorite romantic comedy on streaming platforms, I never understand why the category reads “Guilty Pleasures.” Why would I want a dose of shame along with my movie, Netflix? While guilty pleasure is merely an expression, there is some truth to the idea that liking romantic comedies is often associated with embarrassment. Some people label the entire genre and those who like it as “shallow,” and I cannot for the life of me understand why.
I personally love romantic comedies. I think they’re a window into so much more than just romantic love. The genre is about what happens when people find a connection, and the lengths they will go to keep or recover it. It is about vulnerability and intimacy. Yes, many of them are full of cliches and can be over-sentimental. But you know what? Love — platonic or romantic — is the most cliche, sentimental thing out there. We might as well embrace it now. So while “27 Dresses” and “Crazy, Stupid Love” will probably not be remembered as some of history’s most groundbreaking films, it is worth noting that romantic comedies have real value.
We often underestimate how remarkably good the romantic comedy is at humanizing people. At their best, these films can have a uniquely powerful impact; they make us laugh, cry and reflect on our own relationships. But most importantly, the rom-com’s talent for encouraging vulnerability has the potential to make our world a better place. Romantic comedies paint people as worthy of being valued and desired while asking viewers to open themselves up to each character’s experiences in love.
For groups of people who do not typically fit society’s golden standard of beauty — whether because of race, body type or other factors — representation in a romantic comedy is deeply reaffirming. Just look at the success of films like “Love, Simon” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.” People like to know that love is something that belongs to them too. I personally can say that after all my years of hearing people casually mention they just “aren’t into black girls,” romantic comedies with black female leads have become touching signs of acceptance. There is nothing cliche or tacky about watching a romantic comedy. If anything, it is a sign of embracing vulnerability, optimism and human connection.
The romantic comedy says to the world, “hey, everybody is struggling with relationships,” but it also insists we all crack a joke or two while we’re at it. Personally, I refuse to have any guilt for liking that idea — no matter how many times any streaming platform calls my film choices a guilty pleasure.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 3 print edition.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
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