We are all too familiar with the film genre that rakes in millions in ticket sales and rentals every year: the ubiquitous romantic comedy. These feel-good films are formulaic to a science, yet they are still massively popular among target audiences dominated by women.

 

As women, we can all admit that we like to indulge in one of these cheese-fest chick flicks every once in a while, or twice in a while, or maybe we shamelessly watch every Nicholas Sparks adaptation and heartstring-tugging romance that piles up on our DVR.

 

It is completely natural to be drawn to this kind of movie; the writers and producers of this carefully tailored and extremely profitable vein of entertainment have perfected the romantic comedy to give us exactly what we want to see, and maybe almost wish we had. This kind of indulgence is perfectly fine to an extent. A more sophisticated audience can appreciate the romantic comedy for what it is: pure fiction. It is a moment out of your day where you allow yourself to get lost, sigh, and say “if only,” just like any other story, and then continue on with your life.

 

But there must be a line drawn somewhere when you consider the potential the fantastical film genre has to affect the lives of a very wide and impressionable audience of the younger generation of girls and women. A negative consequence of watching the same exact message played out in a thousand different ways is that eventually, the line between reality and fiction gets blurred. This becomes problematic when you look at the underlying messages in a lot of these cheap romantic comedies that young girls begin to adopt into their own expectations for themselves in their own lives.

 

With exceptions in recent years from films that surpass the genre, like “500 Days of Summer” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” which provide more substance, less-predictable plotlines and more complex characters, most rom-coms fall right into the conventions of the genre. The audience, in turn, falls right into their hands.

 

Typical romantic comedies always feature a very attractive female lead who is perfect in every way except for some unrealistic yet endearing flaw or emotional baggage; maybe she is clumsy in a charming way, and is always making a fool out of herself by spilling drinks or tripping over her own feet. Maybe she is emotionally closed off because of the death of a loved one or familial problems. Either way, there is an inexplicably perfect female lead with some character flaw that makes her “damaged goods.” She then meets the handsome lead man who falls madly in love instantly despite her one flaw and then after the tension builds because of a brief misunderstanding or fleeting fight, the man decides to sweep her off her feet and save the day, leaving the two of them to live happily ever after.

 

The problem with this formula is that it teaches girls that no matter what their problem is, it can be solved by some dashing gentleman who comes like clockwork 15 minutes into the movie. Even though at minute 80 they have a brief fight or conflict, by minute 100, everything works itself out, and they live happily ever after as the credits roll.

 

Unfortunately, this story is not one that applies to our reality as women. These movies are teaching young girls to be dependent on superficial love instead of seeking independence, and are giving them unrealistic expectations for their future romantic relationships that are not practical and can only lead to disappointment. Additionally, the portrayal of women in these romantic comedies is always the same type physically; they are always slender and beautiful, which simply cements the same societal image of beauty that women have to battle every day.

 

Romantic comedies oftentimes only serve to solidify female stereotypes, societal standards of beauty, and the definition of “happily ever after.” Younger girls are certainly in danger of falling into the rom-com trap that allows you to believe that your own character flaws need to be validated and “fixed” by some handsome male counterpart (preferably Ryan Gosling) who will inevitably swoop in and save the day. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. Rom-coms have a time and a place — mostly for nights spent in sweatpants with your girls — but there comes a point where you have to be able to step back and appreciate them for what they are: perfectly tailored bits of formulaic fantasy.

 

What do you think of the romantic comedy genre? Share your thoughts by posting in the comments below or shoot me a tweet @JenksUOhMeASoda