The Devolution of Rom-Com

Essay written by Saad El-Asha on Thursday 8, August 2019

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Here's an axiom: we, humans, are different, we have multiple personalities and world views. Hollywood, most of the time, begs to differ. Through its massive distribution of romantic-comedy films, popularized as rom-com, the industry presents a hidden manifesto: Thou shalt not be single and promiscuous – and God help you, friends, if you live with your parents! God help you! Thou shall seek financial success to bask in the glory of the sacred family, whereupon you lead the most valuable of all lives; otherwise, you are "damaged", hollow, cynical, an asshole, selfish, lost, "numb", and, mostly, fat and bald. One might argue the latter applies to men. Well, we may omit alopecia in that case. I hasten to add that my target here is rom-com movies, being made in Hollywood and emulated world-wide. My question is limited. It is not an inquiry about the few good exceptions, or love stories, or comedy. It merely investigates the danger of infecting the genre with one voice, a voice that easily infiltrates everything, from world cinema to mini-series and memes. ……………………………… In the "golden days" of Screwball Comedy, something magical happened; great filmmakers – Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks, among others – told stories of love and comedy when the insolence of Capitalist ethics started to draw the lines of how we should live our lives. I'm not attributing leftist discourse to the genre. I'm too dumb to talk Capitalism. What matters here is that certain artists took it upon themselves to show us a series of films which had no agenda but the private lives of their subjects. They were witty and light; they used stereotypes to subvert stereotypes. But most of all, they never antagonized a certain group of the society (the single "loser", for instance) Let us begin with marital status. Naturally, romantic comedies explore monogamous relationships, and it's fair to say that marriage is perhaps the goal of most people on planet Earth. That can be beautiful. Other types of relationships, or lack thereof, can also be beautiful. Thankfully, this has been explored since the dawn of cinema, citing the Nouvelle Vague as the pinnacle. Hollywood itself, as I wrote, has made masterpieces on "alternative" ways of living (we present the "alternative" to film narrative and not life itself. Great cinema challenges narratives because the background of our lives are changing and formless, not because formative change is good, per se) En route to the virtuous life, these films emphasize that we must leave our parents' home (If your parents are divorced, you should stop living with your father. In case of maternal residences, you must escape your mother's "basement" ) This might find roots in the concept of a yuppie lifestyle, choreographing the only possible way to survive in the modern world, in accordance with the teaching of Father Tuxedo. It remains a mystery to me as to why Hollywood rom-coms hate bachelors. But then, it's not that mysterious; promiscuous people, especially women, are dangerous to them. They do not pay it forward. They must be portrayed as incomplete or brainwashed. " I know so many people who think they can do it alone They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zones." This is from The Beach Boys' I Know There's an Answer, one of my favourite songs. I love the song but hate the lyrics. The reasons, however, beyond these words does not correlate with the ideological impetus of Rom-Com. Brian Wilson's private life had something to do with the selection of these words. However, the lyrics go on to "They come on like they're peaceful But inside they're so uptight They trip through their day And waste all their thoughts at night." If anything, this shows exactly how rom-coms portray single people. It all ends with the line " Now how can I come on, and tell them the way that they live could be better!", perpetuating the idea that you, dear bachelors and bachelorettes, are lost souls, and all you need to do is open your hearts for "love", as though friendships and self-love are outside the spectrum. Of late, Netflix has been producing presumably progressive rom-coms to tackle the contemporary issues of minorities and post-MeToo America. I have to admit, I was quite hopeful to see films that show us that there are more to rom-coms – and life – than meets the eye. Instead, I saw the same films with a few updates. Now we have black, Arab, "Asian", Hispanic leads who can only love black, Arab, "Asian", and Hispanic leads, with immanent jokes on white people. The library is full; there is no need to provide examples. Only the exceptions apply, but they are not the subject of these inquiries. ………………………………. We are living in the best of times. Cinema lives on. Great Romantic Comedies are still being produced all over the world. We are living in the best of times. Cinema is a rebellious act and it naturally lives on. The majority of Romantic Comedies, however, is devolving into a superficial discourse that allows other industries to adopt the same formula (In South Korea, India, Nigeria, Argentina… etc.) These pseudo-progressive films are in sync with other "leftist" media that failed to encounter Trump and others in the west. Instead of using arguments and questioning ourselves, these screenwriters/directors (Mostly screenwriters, since the age of the auteur is waning) they attack the unmarried, the fat, and the small-cocked, as does VICE and other media outlets who deride the fat "orange" creature with his small hands and schlong. Mean-spirited sensibility is what corrupts most of the rom-coms since Reagan, because they have no alternative but their own philosophies: the pluralism that does harm to pluralism more than Fascism does. This is not an exaggeration. Beware of the shallow "liberal"; and unless single people become a positive social media trend, they will be the butt of the hipster Hollywood's joke. For years to come.

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    I agree with you on this. When I was young, I took a girl on a date to see "Love Story." I thought it was one of the worst movies ever made. She ended up hating me because of that opinion.

    A few years ago, I got a chance to watch it again. I thought I may have mellowed a bit since I have become a senior citizen.

    Nope. I was right the first time around. It is still one of the first movies made.
    One of the worst* you mean Grin