With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s likely (and natural!) that my blog will revolve around relationships even more than usual this month. After all, aren’t the images of love and ridiculous grand gestures exactly what the media wants to ingrain in our consumer-driven/chocolate-addicted minds? That’s why we watch romantic comedies in our oversized sweatshirts while choosing to ignore the huge gaps between art and real life. It’s also why we conveniently forget how formulaic most of the films in this genre can be, and instead breathe a sigh of relief at the end when the lead actor and actress finally admit their undying love for one another.
Face it — there are only so many variations of “couples” and characters that romantic comedies have the time and creativity to introduce to us. Maybe Katherine Heigl started playing her after Meg Ryan traded in for a new face, or perhaps Josh Duhammel has become the new Richard Gere (ew), but at their very core, most rom coms are more or less the same story, same characters.
This week, we’ll poke fun at some of the couples we encounter in romantic comedies. All of these couples can be well-written and fleshed out, but then there are the ones that the writers got lazy working on. Feel free to add your own in the comments!
The Friday Five: Types of Romantic Comedy Couples
1. The best friends.
Audiences have always rooted for this couple. Why? Because audiences identify with this couple. (After all, who didn’t root for Harry and Sally?) Most people have at least one close friend of the opposite sex, and therefore, the idea that two best friends could be soulmates gives them hope that if nothing else works out, they always have a relationship to fall back on. These movies usually turn out as follows: Flashback to the beginning of the friendship (often, but not always, during childhood or college), followed by a flash forward to current state of friendship, in which both parties may act as wingmen for one another. Person A enters a relationship with a secondary character and it becomes serious. Person B undergoes a life-changing experience that causes him/her to realize that he/she has been in love with Person A the entire time. Insert emotional outburst from Person B that erupts in a passionate kiss. Cue thunder and rain. Person A storms off after Person B gives a speech about how Person A is just closing himself/herself off to true love to avoid getting hurt by something as real as their long-lasting friendship. Cue montage of Person A acting distracted around his/her clueless significant other and staring sadly out a window or two. Finally, Person A breaks things off with aforementioned significant other and runs to meet Person B (who is about to make some huge decision), prepared with an apologetic speech consisting of all the things he/she loves about Person B and something along the lines of “I just didn’t realize my soulmate was right in front of me all along.” The two kiss again under fireworks or some other romantic surroundings and the scene closes. Sound familiar? That’s because it is.
2. The sworn enemies.
Katherine Heigl, this one is for you. Some romantic comedy characters love to argue for no discernible reason at all, and so when they find someone who loves to push the envelope, sparks begin to fly. The best part about this couple is that their banter doesn’t even have to be that witty — as long as the characters try to use words that the writer picked out of his pocket thesaurus, audiences will cling to the “sexual tension” and “unbridled passion” that the two share. After all, kissing someone you hate is a great way to shut them up, am I right? (Author’s note to Katherine Heigl: Meg Ryan has played this role in a much more likable way.)
3. The uptight working woman and the man who helps her break loose.
I’ve always had a problem with this couple because it assumes that all successful, career-driven women: a) Don’t care at all about dating or their social lives and instead choose to sacrifice their happiness, which can only be fulfilled by a relationship; and b) Refuse to wear their hair in anything other than a really tight bun. All semi-feminist rants aside, these films usually pair up a carefree guy who has had few (if any) real responsibilities in his life with a workaholic leading lady who stopped responding to men’s advances or pursuing relationships because (as we learn in the second half of the movie) she had her heart broken and has learned to adjust by burying herself in Excel spreadsheets and expense reports. Usually in these movies, each character takes a little something from the other — the woman learns to let her hair down (literally – she takes it out of the ponytail/bun in a moment of weakness while her glasses are off, and the male lead finally realizes just how beautiful she is) and accept a relationship, while the man finally gets a job and learns to be more reliable.
4. The player who finally finds the girl he is willing to settle down for.
This is the story of a guy who likes a girl but struggles to give up his womanizing ways. The girl recognizes this from the beginning and therefore plays hard to get, while the guy realizes that she is the first real challenge he has ever had in his life. This alone makes him fall madly in love with her, and as he finds himself doing thoughtful things for her in the hopes of getting what he wants, he realizes that she is worth more than her looks. In the end, he relinquishes his Heartbreaker title and lives happily ever after with one woman. (This couple is also one that I have difficulty supporting, because it leads younger girls to believe that the guy who cheats on his girlfriends will change for them — and unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.)
5. The conspirators.
According to this couple’s track record, if you ever pretend to be in a relationship with someone, you will eventually fall in love with that person. These two characters fake a relationship for some other benefit (for example, they stage a wedding so that they can use the gifts to furnish their homes and pay off debts — thank you for that, My Fake Fiancee!) but in the process, they realize that they have developed feelings for one another. Finally, the whole sham unravels when one admits this to the other, before they ultimately reunite under romantic yet humorous conditions.
Who are your favorite/least favorite romantic comedy couples?