Commentary: The repetitiveness of romantic comedies

In her commentary, fourth-year St. Thomas University Cindy Chua writes about the repetitiveness of romantic comedies like "To All The Boys I've Loved Before." (Netflix/YouTube)

Cindy Chua is a fourth-year media studies and sociology major at St. Thomas University.

Romantic comedies seem to be the movie genre of choice, especially around Valentine’s Day. When people are asked to think about rom-coms, the first thing that comes to the minds of many is joy. Rom-coms expose people to what love ideally is without subjecting them to the harsh, hurtful aspects that accompany it. The stories told in this genre seldom have the goal of teaching a lesson. They simply portray to the audience the idea of how great it feels to love and be loved.

Most rom-coms are predictable and most people who watch them can probably describe the whole plot before the first 10 minutes. While these movies employ countless clichés, they’re still beloved. This is beneficial from a marketing standpoint. If you analyze each movie, they all follow the same basic plot: two people meet in some meaningless way, something bad always happens to them, they lose faith in love, but then end up being together and live happily ever after. Rom-coms that do not follow this template would be surprising and possibly struggle at the box office.

The three movies in the Netflix original franchise, To All the Boys I’ve Loved, follow a similar format. The main characters, Lara Jean and Peter, fall in love. But a conflict occurs and they break up. Afterwards, they realize they can’t live without each other and get back together. The first movie was a success by using this storyline, but begins to lose its luster in the following installments.

Since rom-coms tend to follow the same formula, the plot is no longer considered a priority like it once was. Instead, casting has taken precedence over the story. Most actors and actresses that are cast in rom-coms are well above average looking and are usually cast from Hollywood. Some can be quite young-faced for rom-coms set in high school.

Rom-coms reinforce stereotypical characteristics of the ideal lover or romance. This is a vicious circle. The producer creates an ideal romance in a movie and people love it. They start to expect this type of romance in real life and quickly realize the slim probability of this. So, they turn to these “feel-good” romantic comedies to escape and live vicariously through the lives of the actors and actresses living out their ideal romance.