Romantic Comedies – Yes or No?

A guy meets a girl. After getting through some life obstacles together, they fall in love. The two separate, only to realize, that they are a perfect match. The guy and girl reunite, and they lived happily ever after.

This is the basic formula in romantic comedies. It has been told over and over again, endlessly recycled by the movie industry. Some variations in the storyline is made from time to time to keep the audience entertained. Sometimes, the variations were quite major, some of them crossed the border, and they were moved to the other genres. Few movies even created their own genres. But, is it really necessary that a movie must meet a certain standards so it could be categorized as a romantic comedy?

Everyone have their own criteria of what can be called a romantic comedy. Some thought, if it’s romantic and has its funny moments, then it is a rom-com. Others thought, if the core of the story is not the ‘boy meets girl’ scenario, then it is not.

Most of the times, we let the movie makers decide it for us. But, a romantic movie that can spark up a laugh is not always romantic comedy for them. For example, if someone thinks that Fight Club (1999) is a rom-com, can you accept it? Of course, when you’re thinking Project Mayhem, there’s really nothing romantic about it. What you can accept though, is the attraction between The Narrator (Edward Norton) and Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter). Watching skyscrapers tumbling one after another together is not exactly an ideal date, but there is clearly romance between them. And some people do think that the movie, and the weird relationship, is funny. After all, she met him at a very strange time in his life.

Romantic comedies could came in a lot of forms. They could even be hidden in movies we considered macho. There’s Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man (2002). There’s Han Solo and Princess Leia in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Or John Smith and Jane Smith in Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005). These movies are never considered romantic comedies, but we have to admit, without the chemistry between the couples, it will never be the movie we know today. It would be a lot less of it.

The key to identifying movies we could consider a romantic comedy, is to analyze the relationship between the couple. If the romance is only used to spice things up in a movie, then it’s probably not. If you could erase the whole romantic scene from the movie, and it makes no difference whatsoever, then the movie clearly has no talent for being one. But, if the romance portion of the movie defines the characters and supports the main storyline, then a rom-com might be lurking on your screen.

What we think about a movie, defines the movie. The movie makers might have a different opinion, but, they can’t force the audience to categorize a movie solely because they said so. Ultimately, it’s the audience who decides whether the movie they watched was a romantic comedy or not.

So, what can we do after getting a new definition of romantic comedies? Maybe we can incorporate this new set of rules in our everyday lives. And then, we can start a debate with our girlfriends and wives about which ‘romantic comedy’ movie we should watch on date night. It should be fun.