I have a movie going on in the background when I get ready in the morning because plots make boring things better. Today, though I’ve seen it probably six or seven times, I selected Sleepless in Seattle because it never gets old.
I mean, there’s THIS scene right?
When I was growing up, the 90’s chick flick was much like Sleepless in Seattle, and therefore delightful. The characters were charming.Women were feminine and intelligent and men were vulnerable, but manly. And the humor was clever and ironic and often times understated. And the entire story revolved around one heavily anticipated, chaste, romantic kiss that was so satisfying that women everywhere rewound their VHS over and over again just to relive the moment.
So when something was working, when something was so clearly working, why now does every trailer I see for a Romantic Comedy totally bum me out? What changed?
The answer that I have postulated on for some time now (and please excuse the following sweeping generalizations): Because they started marketing Chick Flicks to Men instead of to Women, or what they believe that men want to see these days: Sex, Sexy People, Potty Humor, and Anti-Realism.
I will use the following trailer from When In Rome for a closer examination.
- Women are now portrayed, almost exclusively, as “Career-Women” who have no time for love. “That’s me in the headset. A few days ago, I was a very single, very happy New Yorker.” Says Kristen Bell in her fancy black pant suit. I’m not against women working, or being Women Power in ANY WAY, but must they always be calloused and hard-hitting, I’m already bored. Blah Blah Blah, I’m tired of this motif. Let’s get a working woman who also has a likable personality. For Instance: Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail.
- Chick Flicks today are filled with Slapstick humor. Oh! How funny! The Vase doesn’t break. I had no idea it was going to sail into the champagne glasses or that the sexy mail lead was going to do something klutzy at a major event. I’m shocked. … I’m sorry but is that really funny to women? Especially when it’s so completely predictable?
I miss THIS kind of humor. Totally understated, tells us something meaningful about these characters and this routine relationship.
Please excuse the end of the clip, this is my first ever .gif!
This is Annie and Walter in Sleepless… They are working together to fill a humidifier.
Do you understand what their relationship is like just by watching this little clip?
- The Romantic Comedy became a vehicle for blatant sexual innuendo more than intelligent romantic connection (Magic Mike, much?). Yes. Let’s have an artist paint a naked mural of our lead. That’s hilarious, right? Let’s make crude jokes that cater to the prurient interest. I get it, as humans we are sexual beings–but a sexual innuendo is as easy as a poop joke, and maybe you elicit a cheap laugh, but they are really hard to make clever.
- Characters are too good-looking to be trusted. Josh Duhmel, I know about your personal life, how can I possibly trust you to be faithful to Kristen Bell’s character? You’re not a romantic lead, you’re a sexy lead. I think most women would way rather end up with a Tom Hanks or a BILL PULLMAN (whom I secretly love and you will too if you watch While You Were Sleeping). Real Women want a Real Man, not a walking steroid advertisement. I did not rewind to watch Kristen Bell and Josh Duhmel kiss. I didn’t care one bit whether they ended up together or not.
- Characters are now caricatures. Yes. Let’s get Danny Divito, Napoleon Dynamite, Gob* from “Arrested Development” and Dax (who CAN act for real, but is best remembered for his outlandish characters in Punk’d). The characters are not authentic enough to help people believe that this kind of love story is possible for them.
I’m not saying there wasn’t some real winners in the last decade. We all saw Hitch, and The Devil Wears Prada, and Love Actually. But by-and-large Hollywood, I want the old chick flicks back.