My first memories of a romantic comedy comes from The Wedding Planner when Jennifer Lopez gets her heel stuck in a grate as a dumpster speeds toward her and Matthew McConaughey pushes her to safety. From McConaughey picking out brown M&Ms at Golden Gate Park to the final wedding scene, four year old me fell in love with every moment. The movies we watch in our adolescence stick with us and have a huge impact on the way we see ourselves as well as our relationships with others.
1. Sidekicks Take the Lead
Like in every movie, there are main characters and supporting characters but it’s easier to see oneself in a sidekick because they’re more relatable. People feel most empowered when they are confident in themselves and their ability. A major way to find this confidence is by looking to role models that come from similar backgrounds or share a similar appearance. Following an experiment in which a group of women were exposed to female leaders they had weaker stereotypical beliefs of other women and believed that they could be in positions of power. The effects of visible role models work the same way when it comes to repeatedly being exposed to less positive traits.
The supporting characters in romantic comedies are often goofy types, with a less exciting life, and average body. The leading ladies of 27 Dresses and 13 Going on 30 actually have the same supporting actress as their best female friend, Judy Greer. When questioned about her best friend status, Greer said that it’s easier to relate to the best friend than the star because main characters are almost too perfect.
Greer nails the fun, quirky character but in terms of physical appearance she’s up there with the Kate Hudsons and Jennifer Garners of Hollywood. The super model body type that dominates Hollywood is thinner and taller than 98% of American women but is still an version of beauty that women strive to reach. As a girl that grew up watching a lot of tv without a diverse cast, I remember feeling insecure on the playground around my thinner, shorter, and shinier, straighter haired friends.
Because I saw myself physically more as a Mia Thermopolis (before her transformation) I was more drawn to her character than the perfect Lana Thomas, played by Mandy Moore.
Movies set in high school or college tend to group their characters into cliques. We have the hot jocks, stoner crowd, emo kids, nerds, and the guys that are just important enough to the plot to be a little bit of everything. Before subscribing to a crowd, young girls and boys consider their characteristics and weigh them against each those of each group. Because these groups are so one dimensional and stereotypical it’s easy for kids to latch onto dramatized traits and run with them.
2. Boy Meets Girl, Girl Changes for Boy, Boy Puts in Zero Effort… The End
Romantic comedy storylines and structures influence how we look at romance long after we think we’ve outgrown them. The movies geared more towards a teen audience take into account that a meet cute doesn’t necessarily guarantee a date but suggest that if you change your appearance then everything will fall into place.
In Grease, She’s All That, and Miss Congeniality, the leading ladies undergo some kind of physical transformation to fit into their love interest’s world. This gives young women the impression that the way they look isn’t good enough and something has to change in order to get the man of their dreams, even if it’s as simple as taking of their glasses. This kind of thinking can intensify any insecurities that younger people may already have and lead to serious body issues in the future.
Role the Credits
In the middle of writing this piece I came across this video that illustrates all of the reasons why romantic comedies give people inaccurate depictions of love. I highly recommend checking it out, the two issues that I touched on were just the tip of the iceberg.