Romantic comedy is possibly the worst genre of film ever made. The plots are always flimsy, the lead female characters insulting portrayals of women who are only looking for love, the lead male character always far too ruggedly handsome but entirely lacking in any sort of depth.
Rom-coms perpetuate the ridiculous idea of women as beautiful but simple creatures who, whether they know it or not, need nothing more than the love of a “good man” to satisfy them, while men are there to be fixed – because there’s nothing healthier than loving someone for who and what you will eventually mould them into as opposed to the person they are now. If you look past the flimsy plot and bad writing, rom-coms also have some of the worst messages you can encounter in a film. I’ve cobbled together a list of the worst offenders, the least romantic and comedic of all the romantic comedies:
5) Pretty Woman
This film is not romantic. For years I’ve listened to people gush about how they wished they had their very own Richard Gere to sweep them off their feet and I’ve always genuinely wondered if we watched the same film.
“A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.”
Sounds great doesn’t it? Except one small detail: prostitution is not a glamorous or romantic career. Gere’s character is portrayed in this film as the white knight who rides in on his horse to save Vivian (played by Julia Roberts, for those of you living under a rock since 1990), but their arrangement starts out as a seedy proposition, with Edward paying money in exchange for sex. When he desires her company for a prolonged period of time he simply ups his asking price. Vivian is a service, she has a price.
For a rom-com, Pretty Woman is very much lacking in comedy. Perhaps the writers and I just have a differing sense of humour, but attempted rape doesn’t really tickle my funny bone. Vivian spends the entire film attempting to gain acceptance into a world in which, not only does she not feel comfortable, she is not welcome. While her aspiration for a better life is understandable and justified, it’s not really the romantic ending people perceive it as, when Edward “rescues” her at the end of the film. Is she really going to remain living in poverty, working in such a dangerous profession when she has a millionaire pursuing her? Anyone with a brain would see that as their way out.
But what sort of future could the two possibly have? Does Edward own her now? Is he going to keep paying her or does she need to find a job of her own? Is Vivian just going to give up her prostitute friends and never see them again or is Edward going to help her get them out of this high-risk industry too? Is her past never going to be an issue in their relationship? I really don’t see this working out for either of them, and, when it all inevitably ends in tears, Vivian will just find herself back on the street.
4) 27 Dresses
Katherine Heigl (yes, Heigl is the leading lady – reason enough in itself not to watch) plays Jane, a woman who has been a bridesmaid at 27 weddings. Jane is some sort of wedding junkie. Despite each bridesmaid dress she is forced to wear being more hideous than the last – so ungainly in fact, that you’d wonder whether these women were her friends at all – she not only wears them, she keeps the damn things as some sort of shrine to her obsession.
Jane’s favourite thing to do, other than harbouring a secret, unrequited love for her boss, is to read the wedding announcements column in the newspaper. Seriously, if this woman’s addiction was to anything other than weddings, people would be staging an intervention.
In typical rom-com fashion, the object of Jane’s desire, her boss George, falls for her sister, Tess, who in turn lies to George to impress him. They fall in love and start planning the wedding. Jane is, as always, the bridesmaid and mopes relentlessly because the man she has never revealed her feelings to somehow doesn’t know she has feelings for him. Jesus Christ woman, he’s not psychic! Tell him how you feel or get over it.
Meanwhile, the wedding columnist Jane is so obsessed with is doing a feature on her sister’s wedding, which is really a secret feature about Jane and her perpetual state of being a single desperate bridesmaid cliché. Now, call me crazy, but if a guy comes over to your house and wants take photos of you in all 27 of your bridesmaid dresses you tell him to feck right off. One, that is a weird thing to do – suspicion aroused, alarm bells ringing. Two, montages may look fun in movies but do you now how much effort it requires to put on and take off that many evening dresses?
Surprise surprise, at the end of the film, when Jane’s attempts to ruin her sister’s wedding and steal her fiancé don’t quite work out, she and Kevin end up together. There is possibly some sort of plot development in there somewhere, that leads to the two eventually liking each other, but I think I missed it as I was so enraged by how utterly unlikeable both Heigl and her character Jane are. How she even had 27 friends to be bridesmaid for in the first place is a marvel.
Jane somehow forces the anti-marriage cynic to change his views and realise he’s in love with this uptight, perpetually-single-for-a-reason, emotionally repressed, bore. The two get married, and, as every sane woman does, Jane uses her wedding as a bizarre platform for revenge, forcing her so called friends to don the bridesmaid dresses she wore at their respective weddings.