Romantic Comedies: Still Not That Into You

The first is The Ugly Truth, which stars Katherine Heigl as a successful and smart television producer who - you guessed it - has no luck in love. What she does have, however, is the help of a sexist shock jock, (Gerard Butler) who can teach her everything she needs to know about how to get a man.

No one’s going to be surprised when these two fall in love, right? After all, one of the payoffs of romantic comedies is seeing an unlikely couple fall for each other. The problem is that The Ugly Truth wants to invoke gender issues just long enough to abandon them for a less complicated fantasy. And what an interesting choice for Heigl: her character here is not that dissimilar from her character in Knocked Up, which Heigl openly criticized as being as being sexist. So what makes the difference? (Heigl also starred in 27 Dresses earlier this year, a fim that imagined feminist empowerment as having the ability to chase down the man of your dreams.) In The Ugly Truth, Heigl’s not an ugly feminist, just an uptight one - and it gets in the way of her happiness. The promise of the film is that all she needs to do is let down her hair, exchange her politics for a little more sex appeal, and transform herself into the right kind of woman to land a man who can make her really happy. Maddeningly predictable.

The second trailer for He’s Just Not That Into You hit the Web last week, too.

Frankly, I was prepared to be not that into this movie simply because it’s based on a really problematic self-help book. Yet, in comparison to The Ugly Truth, there are a few promising notes here, namely the film’s consideration of the way that women and men are influenced by social conditioning, rather than driven by some kind of essential qualities. That’s not particularly revolutionary, and it’s a good bet that the film will end up doing what most rom-coms do: provide a romantic fantasy that ends up reinforcing to women that they’re inadequate without a man. Still, it’s something to see a film that might derive its laughs by examining why women and men feel and behave the way they do, rather than reducing them to banal stereotypes.

Romantic comedy is a thorny genre because it’s become the de facto type of film that studios produce for female audiences. It’s a transparently heteronormative formula that reinforces the myth that marriage and romantic love are the keys to true happiness for women. Yet, it’s an incredibly popular - and powerful - formula that drives women to the box office. That fact that He’s Just Not That Into You might actually be an improvement for the genre reveals a pretty ugly truth, alright: we’re a long way from seeing a truly better brand of romantic comedy.

Why can’t we get a few rom-coms that don’t try to make women feel crappy about themselves?

by Tammy Oler
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Tammy Oler has been contributing to Bitch for over a decade. Her writing about pop culture and fandom has appeared in Slate, Ozy, Vulture, and Geek, among others.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Zack and Miri

I was pleasantly surprised to find that <i>Zack and Miri Make a Porno</i> was actually a really decent "rom com" and for once certainly didn't hinge on the woman feeling bad about herself.


Jane Eyre?

I saw a recent (2000s) adaptation of "Jane Eyre" a while back (I haven't read the book), and was impressed by how, in this film at least, Jane is portrayed as an intelligent, emotionally sturdy woman who, although she's been damaged to a great extent by her awful upbringing, isn't needy or inadequate-without-a-man.

While Jane is clearly lonely, I didn't get the sense that her life was worthless without the redeeming love of a man. Her relationship with Rochester is one between equals (albeit not socially). If anything, it's Rochester who's portrayed as screwed-up and incomplete.

I thought it was a good example of a romance that follows the formula but with a positive female protagonist, without being condescending or patronizing.

Jane Eyre...

Surely Jane Eyre is hardly a Romantic Comedy. it's about as uncomedic as they come...

I like the novel, but the film version I saw of it- Franco Zefferelli's- was incredibly weak. Furthermore, while Jane is portrayed in both as emotionally stable, she is also incredibly emotionally restrained. She only, in her adult life, commits uncomformist actions because of Rochester, and she still tries to restrain herself even then.

I have to admit, I like some romantic comedies, but the stereotyping does annoy me.

When considering romantic comedies, it is interesting to look at Miss Congeniality. Now, the first is a typical girl changes to find boy story-line, although, admittedly, this is not the original intention of the character.

However, in Miss Congeniality 2, Bullock's character is single, and the film is supposed to focus on female friendship. I don't think the fim received the same praise as the original. Why is it women want to be told they have to change to find a man?

'Mamma Mia!' and 'Imagine Me and You'

While a lot could be done to improve both of them, I really enjoyed 'Mamma Mia!' and 'Imagine Me and You.' I won't get into all of the details of them, and while they both followed a lot of romantic comedy tropes they also broke out of the box in some ways that I thought were really nice.

I'm really looking forward to "The Female Gaze," by the way.

The stuff that passes for romcoms today...

...makes me very nostalgic for "When Harry Met Sally".

Romantic comedies- are

Romantic comedies- are movies made for women by the men. Do you really think a man can reflect and describe woman's wishes or thoughts? No! They just thrust their opinion and views on women to make their behavior controlled.

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