Your Guide to Defining a Romcom
Last Monday Sticker Fridge contributor Erik Casarez asked Alissa and I if we wanted to write something for the site about our favorite romcoms. Later that night we had all met at the local Alamo Drafthouse for Triviadome; a weekly movie trivia game, when the topic came up again. Our team, Freddie Mercury’s Mustache, was solidly in 5th place when Erik turned to me and asked, “So what is your favorite romcom anyway?” I hadn’t given it much thought so I blurt out some half joking/half serious line about The Notebook being my favorite because I felt a boob for the first time watching it with a high school fling. Little did I know that my comment would start a very contentious argument. Everyone at the table had the same prosecutory look on their faces. Apparently, The Notebook is not a quote-unquote romcom. Sure it’s a rom, they all said, but where’s the com?
I turns out this is a real question that needs answers. What is a romcom anyway, who decides what is and is not a romcom? Is I Love You, Man a romcom? What about Bridesmaids, sure it’s funny, but is it romantic? It depends on who you ask, I guess. Furthermore, how do you spell romcom? Is it Rom Com, Rom-Com, or Romcom? I’ll tell you, I googled it and there definitely is not a consensus.
Diving deeper into the murky depths of the internet I’ve learned that film writers see romcoms not so much as a genre unto itself, but more as a structure. A good romcom can take place anywhere, anywhen. It could take place in a bustling metropolis like New York City or Seattle, or back in your small home town like in Sweet Home Alabama. You can have characters jumping through time like in Midnight in Paris or About Time. The characters don’t even have to be gender normative, really the important thing is the structure. A good romcom should have a great meet-cute, the characters fall in love, then there is a big falling out, followed by a giant sweeping gesture that brings them back together.
For me, this needs, needs, needs to include some sort of character arc. A character needs to change, or see things in a different light. Usually, it’s the male character who doesn’t realize that he NEEDS love. He fucks up and has to plan some over-the-top show of affection to win the girl back. And bonus points if the movie is actually about something and not just a schmaltzy fantasy. Good film should ask important questions like, can men really overcome gender differences? What is more important, looks or character? We use film as a way to push boundaries and to expand culture. We used it to show interracial and same-sex relationships before they became normal. As an audience member, I want to see something I’ve never seen before. Those are the kinds of things that let movies and stories endure and stay in my mind and imagination for years to come.
Oh, and one last thing…
Romantic means sexy and comedy means funny. There is a reason we all remember Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally and the scene where Adam Sandler sings Somebody Kill Me in The Wedding Singer.
Truly, that is all that is necessary for a movie to be a romcom. It needs to be romantic and funny. That’s it. Just romantic and funny. As for the spelling I’m sticking with the Wikipedia approved, “romcom”. And Erik, I think those last two movies would be my favorite in the category, WHMS and The Wedding Singer seem to have stuck with me the longest.
Now go out and watch some movies. You can start here with this list from Esquire.com for some of the best romcoms you can stream right now.
Brian Menard is a founder and contributor to Stickerfridge.com based out of San Antonio, Tx.