I suppose this doesn’t qualify as much of an admission—seeing as how I’ve written on this subject before, albeit briefly—but I adore and despise the romantic comedy genre, in equal measure.
From the romanticization of stalker behavior to the gaslighting of every leading lady, romcoms are the adult version of “he only pulls your hair because he likes you.” They’re stories snatched straight from the playground, dressed up with schmaltzy soundtracks and marketing targeted to women under the snarky diminution of ‘chick flick’.
Cuz not only will Hollywood not make us decent movies, society’s gotta mock us for taking enjoyment in those scraps we are offered. [See also, for a book-centric analysis of this soft bigotry of the romance.]
My next also!not!shocking! admission?
I find hating romantic comedies part and parcel of enjoying them.
In fact, “Once you’ve mocked romantic comedy clichés, you are free to indulge in them” is itself a pervasive romantic comedy cliché, as Chloe Angyal once pointed out. (By the by, Dr. Angyal is both an active and vocal feminist critic…and herself so romanced by the romantic comedy that she wrote her dissertation on the genre, and its relationship to post-feminist Hollywood feminism.)
One of my favorite mock-worthy clichés is the obligatory makeover of the heroine.
The Ur-Romcom in this respect remains Pretty Woman, a flick my college roommates and I used to watch over and over in our dorm room—but only up through the shopping scene, after which we would each drag our sartorially-satiated selves back to our desks. Athough newer movies have done it differently, none has done it better.
1999’s She’s All That, which holds its own place in the makeover pantheon as Most Glasses-Removal That Were Ever Removed*, even paid homage to these roots.
[*I acknowledge this film’s status, even as I maintain my own soft-spot preference for the glasses-removal scene in the Australian delight Strictly Ballroom: where our heroine is enticed to remove her glasses—and apparently cure her own nearsightedness for the remainder of the movie??—not because she will look better with them off. But because she will dance better.
Nothing says “two left feet” quite like 20/20 vision, I guess.]
Now, to see a truly genius act of romcom makeover-cum-gentle self-mocking of its own tropes-cum–Pretty Woman shout-out—all served up with a side order of genre gender-bending, no less!—for my money, nothing comes even close to this scene from Warm Bodies, a Romeo-and-Juliet retelling in which the House of Montague is played by zombies.
Including our undead hero:
No glasses to lose, but hey. Can’t have everything, right?
Copping to my final admission is, I’ll admit, a bit painful. But [big breath] here goes:
I sure would like escapist romantic movies that I could escape to without also hating.
I mean, is it really too much to ask for a movie that is both 1) a romance and 2) not-completely-sucky? Word to the wise, for any Hollywood producers eager to accommodate the ladies and unsure how to begin: you could try a remake. (I know you producers LOOOOVE a remake.)
You could try this kind of remake, in fact.
I’ll even take my glasses off just for you, if you do.
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How’s about you, dear readers–what movies have you been watching lately? Got anything you’d recommend?