The romantic comedy, more often referred to as the “rom-com,” left a lasting expectation in our head about what love should and could look like. But where has it gone? Flipping through cable, images of Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey flicker in your eyes.
You’re wearing your Justice pajamas as your heart is being warmed by the story of two unlikely people finding love on the streets of New York City, forever ingraining the idea that opposites attract into your brain. There would be no way to deny their true love. No matter what they tried, they were pulled back together. Somehow, throughout the duration of the 90-minute film, whether by chance or the constant badgering from the office best friend that it was their turn for love, the ending kiss to conclude the run through the airport, mall or busy street brought us to tears. In retrospect, this is especially funny as our interaction at that age had maybe ranged from the occasional side hug to hand holding.
2021 was the year of Marvel, with “Spider-Man: No Way Home” earning $609.89 million in its first three weeks. Action, adventure and horror are the top grossing movie genres for 2022, but when will we see another film that brings the audience back to the same state of bliss delivered through a romantic comedy? While we still get the occasional “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” there is the lack of cult support from those of all backgrounds, genders, ages and preferences that was seen with films such as “13 Going on 30” and “Clueless.” What is now seen as a great story would never be seen as something potentially applicable to one’s own life.
Today, the opportunity for love exists within the endless swipe, a long list of eligible bachelors held in the endless 5.78 x 2.82 inch catalog also known as a smartphone. In romantic comedies, they showed us stories of people who could not figure out their true feelings yet went through hell and back to make it work. But with today’s ease of finding a new option, why go through that? Why run through the rain drenched head to toe when you can swipe right on Tinder? Why drive to their house to play music from a boombox out of your open convertible when you can post a Snapchat? Staging a flashmob in the middle of a busy street? No, send a direct message. And right there, you have a new “sneaky link,” “thing” or “situationship” now in the palm of your hands. And if that one doesn’t work out, if you’re a part of the 84% of 18-29 year olds who use social media, you can simply open it again and go to the next option.
These romantic narratives aren’t believable anymore; we are so exposed to the new truth about relationships that we know it won’t happen. No matter what occurred in these rom coms, they were in love, and that’s what mattered. But this constant opportunity to move on to the next can make the idea of commitment seem less appealing. Don’t like something about your partner? Allow technology to scan your face for admittance, and an endless list of people with the possibility to not have that same trait are at your fingertips. Not getting enough attention or affection? Open a few apps and there are millions awaiting interaction behind their own glass screen. Everyone in society is aware of these possibilities. In committed relationships, there can be a sense of uneasiness about what could be occurring on your partner’s private devices. Thirty-four percent of adults in romantic relationships have looked through their partners’ cell phones without their knowledge, and these are only the people who admit it.
In our capitalistic society, we must produce what will appeal to our audience. For Generation Z, the highest consumer of media, they value authenticity over aesthetics. We desire that people just tell us the truth. America’s Generation Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, the soon-to-be best educated and the generation demanding an activist government the most. Generation Z wants transparency and difficult to process emotions, not a fake story because it is not applicable to the characteristics of the current world of dating.
You see over and over again the dramatic makeover montage to fit society’s standards, the tearing apart of the closet to try on a million and one outfits and the crying to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with a pint of ice cream and bottle of rosé. These narratives of rom coms perpetuate these heterosexual expecations that if a woman does not fit the physcial standards of the man, she must do everything in her power to match them. With the growth of feminism and demand for equality among genders, society today believes they don’t participate in these activities, so rom coms are not something they can align their own experiences with.
However, all genders create these profiles to present themselves in a particular way to be added to the list of back burners, or those kept in the back pocket with the potential for something more. The expansion of technology has allowed our generation to keep easy contact with past or aspiring relationships and check in on their life without them even knowing. This leaves a constant opportunity for lack of loyalty within relationships, which creates this underlying gap in commitment.
The romantic comedy cannot appeal to the current desires of Generation Z because there isn’t the same concept of love that is “do or die” or “be-all end-all.” No matter what state the relationship is in, both partners know there is a constant stream of alternatives.
Gabby Rivas is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.