If you asked movie-goers what genre is a “guilty pleasure” watch for them, majority would say romantic comedies or sit-coms. This genre of love and humour has got such a bad rep in recent years that no one even openly admits to watching them without associating “guilt” with it.
Rom-coms of the ‘90s like ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Sleepless In Seattle’, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ or basically any other Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan starrer film which were classics in their own right and dealt with the genre of love effortlessly so as to not come off as overbearing or cringe-y and had just the right balance of emotions, humour and drama to make for a good Friday night watch.
Not to mention these films were box-office toppers of their time, but in recent years there has been a downward trend in the sense that studios are making fewer rom-coms and the ones that do release don’t fare well at the box office.
One of the reasons for the decline of this genre is the modernization of society; the current political, social and cultural trends are impacting media now more than ever before. There has been a significant increase in the representation of authentic real-world stories that deal with trending issues. These ‘serious’ films are considered more heavy-weight choices to watch either for its social significance or for its lack of superficiality.
The romance dramas that are made these days such as ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’, ‘Call Me By Your Name’, ‘Love, Simon’, ‘Marriage Story’ among others have all dealt with important subjects of racism, homophobia, single parenthood and divorce that were once considered taboo in the romance genre but have now found popularity. These films are proof that romance doesn’t have to hinge on to the dying trend of mindless plots and that they can convey real points while still depicting an honest and emotional romantic story.
Another reasons is the tone deaf portrayal of romance in chick flicks. The target audience of these films don’t want the conventional idea of love anymore; they’re much more receptive to new and independent stories.
For example, ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ turned the genre on its head to be a satire on our expectations of a stereotypical rom-com. The film ended up performing much better than its recent counterparts. On streaming platforms such as Netflix films like ‘Set It Up’, ‘Always Be My Maybe’ have had the right mix of a crisp and engaging plot, that didn’t rely on the stereotypes associated with the genre, and the emotionality of love that makes them worth watching.
So rom-coms are re-inventing themselves to romance dramas to give viewers what they want – original and contemporary stories that are relatable to the audience of today.
Even comedy-drama shows that are considered “easy” watches and that don’t require mental gymnastics to understand their plot lines like some of its contemporaries are seeing a steady decline. Users have so many options to choose from that they want to be engaged and immersed in the show from the get-go. TV shows like ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘One Tree Hill’, ‘Gilmore Girls’ and others might still be watched as the occasional comfort watch but they’re definitely losing their former glory. These days only if you can’t understand a show’s complicated narrative and multiple character arcs is a show considered successful. Majority of viewers only watch these intense series as a way of social bonding online and for their popularity. While they definitely deserve the praise they get, sit-coms and rom-coms shouldn’t be bashed for the former to be successful.
The good news though is that there is space for both to co-exist online so we will never have to choose but we can be partial to one!
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