Cliché Romantic Comedies with a Collaboration of the American Dream
What is a Romantic Comedy?
- Traditional/ Typical scenery and story line
- Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl
- Masculine approach of protagonist (varies)
- Some type of break up or blockage throughout the storyline between girl and boy (also known as hero and heroin)
Clichés will always proceed to its roots. I will be brushing up the very known traditional romantic comedy scenes and analysis on the films “Pretty Woman” and “10 Things I Hate About You”. Beginning with to my best believe most universal viewed movie of the early 90’s is “Pretty woman”.
This film is so rich in character and in its very traditional story line. The movie begins with an interesting Miss that has her life wrapped around a pole. As lost yet found she feels, her life is nothing close to the Beverly Hills hunk she comes across one night while on the job. Assuming we all know what happens from here on, well…yes you have guessed it right. She stays over night and then the night turn to two nights, then three nights, then so on and so forth. The cliché theory of the romantic comedy genre comes in play as the description molds; boy gets the girl, boy then loses the girl, boy wins the girl, and happily ever after. Round of applause for Hollywood and its beautiful creations to what really happens in reality. One scene that really, and I mean really cries for the cliché outburst is, well…take a look. This scene is the representation of the traditional romantic comedy, very well achieved by Hollywood. Capturing the very essence of the widely known American Dream. Yes, we all say it is typical and radical but lets admit, we all watch it over and over and perhaps sob. They just have a way to our hearts. Deeper into research, I came to realize that romantic comedies all have this chain reaction like trait that somehow links them to the so called American Dream. If we really dig deeper into “Pretty Woman” we will come to find that being who Vivian Ward was and who Edward Lewis was, it is only obvious to how the very idea of the American Dream played out. Vivian played a Hollywood hooker which falls under the low ranks of society norms. The representation of the American Dream to Vivian must have been the idea of growth in the big city, which not ironically was Los Angeles. Los Angeles was and still is known for the big market in the film industry, and many more opportunities. In Viviane’s case Edward Lewis was perhaps her ticket to the golden side of town. He showed her the real world and the fancy locations. The American Dream proceeds throughout the film as Vivian becomes more and more immune to her almost new life, although that is soon crushed by the traditional romantic comedy rule where boy looses girl. As we all know how the story ends, thanks to clichés, let’s proceed to the dissection of the next film, “10 Things I Hate About You”.
I believe this film is probably every girls favorite kind of romantic comedy specially from the late 90’s. It was hip and almost close to real high school time. Stuck up female meets bad boy hunk with both sides having family issues, bringing them closer together. To my understanding, this probably is the best and most realistic romantic comedy I have seen, although it still contains a tad bit of cliché but hey! who doesn’t have a little bit of cliché in their lives. “10 Things I Hate About you” begins with a typical teen film opening of a single parent household and two hormonal teenagers. Having a super strict father, the three really get frustrated within their high school years. The humorous climax to this story is that the roles are a bit in fact switched, yes switched. Girl meets boy, girl looses boy, girl finds boy. Due to the painful role of Julia Stiles as Kat Stradford the roles are reversed with Heath ledger as Patrick Verona the hunky rebel. Although they later fall in love, some typical complications come to horizon as the story line roles. In this film by no accident comes a typical scene where Kat expresses her true feelings towards Patrick, ready set roll! While she states her feelings of how much she hates the way she doesn’t hate Patrick (talk about teenage hormones) she also highlights the cliché of this film and perhaps all films under the genre romantic comedies. Moving on a bit, the American Dream really has a role in this film due to their being lots of teenagers around and unwritten futures. Although, the protagonist of the film is the main deal of the American Dream idea. Kat wants it all, she wants to move away from home and go to a school far away to learn and to experience as a free bird. Is that what the American Dream is really aspiring to achieve out of people? Kat describes the eagerness and the missing puzzle in her life to be this yearn for bigger and better things other than the town she had grown up in. This film had both a cliché yet realistic approach to where it is relatable as a teen and also dreamy all at the same time.
Both “Pretty Woman” and “10 Things I Hate About You”, have the depiction of the idea of the American Dream approach. They both cover the need to succeed and move up to bigger and brighter things in their lives no matter where they come from in their past. That is what the American Dream strives to grasp out of people’s experiences and they future plans. Not all but most romantic comedies do cover a semi American Dream Act whether that being the female or male protagonist.
The Radical (sometimes bleak) Romantic Comedy
Romantic comedies; they’re romantic and should make you laugh. That’s what we know. That’s what we’ve seen. That’s what most of us want. So much so, that there is even a formula to said romantic comedies:
- Boy meets girl
- Girl is unattainable
- Boy woos girl
- Boy gets girl
- Boy loses girl
- Boy woos girl again
- Boy and girl have a wedding (and maybe a marriage, but we as the audience have to be sheltered from that frightening and maybe unpleasant part of life so we just leave the story at the high note of a wedding ceremony)
The question is: Do any of us see ourselves or anyone we know in these by-the-book Hollywood romances? Has anyone ever stood on your front lawn with a boom box so the bellowing of Peter Gabriel would win you over? Are all of our best friends actually in love with us and have kept that secret since they first laid eyes on us?
But that’s okay, because we all live in the real world. Therefore, it’s admirable when movies decide to join us out here in the stressful, remarkable, gritty, sometimes depressing, and always unpredictable thing we call real life.
A film that successfully portrays all of the traditional romantic comedy ingredients, but then flips everything and makes the audience see what falling in love is truly like is, 500 Days of Summer (2009).
This film, directed by Marc Webb and penned by the Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber duo, not only simultaneously shows you the beginning and ending of a relationship with a jumping timeline, but also allows the audience to try to understand the two characters’ view on the relationship itself. Probably inspired by Woody Allen, the film begins with a breakup.
She loves the pancakes. That’s what’s important. Summer can say that she loves the pancakes but she doesn’t love Tom. Therefore, we know right away that this story may not end in your wishful “American Dream” wedding finale after all. But this is a romantic comedy, isn’t it? It is. By this scene alone we can see that Summer isn’t your typical rom-com beauty because even she calls herself the “Sid” of the relationship and still wants to truly be friends with Tom. This causes the audience to ask themselves if Tom was always only her best friend and if they were always on the same page.
The character of Summer in this film defies traditional female roles in this genre because she’s independent and most importantly, she’s happy that way. This genre typically shows the women in light of them wanting to simply find their “Prince Charming”, have a wedding, then they can live their happy life that has been implied but never shown. But what happens if the female character doesn’t even believe in love itself? True and romantic love is the glue that holds these stories together and the happy ending depends on the girl’s hope for it. But again, Summer is different. That is why plenty of real girls can actually relate.
The best thing this movie can do for the audience is, if not the traditional wedding ending, give a realistic look into the workings of someone who has been conditioned to yearn for the happy ending but unfortunately lives in the real world. That’s Tom. Usually the girl in the story is the traditionalist who has had her wedding dress picked out since the 4th grade, but in this case the male character has dreamed of his true love since childhood thanks to 80’s pop music and French romance movies. That’s the biggest difference with this film and more specifically this next clip; it shows you what we all expect and what the reality is when it comes to love.
This is a very important scene for the romantic comedy genre because it lays all of the cards on the table. The writers of this film knew exactly how most of us feel and hope. Seeing what we want and what we actually get is cringe-worthy, but that’s only because we can relate to it. It’s the seedy underbelly of romantic comedies, if you will.
People usually watch movies to escape and not see real life, and that’s why typical Hollywood rom-coms still exist today. But then there’s the radicals. The genre-defiers that fearlessly trail-blaze through a sea of traditions. These films don’t worry about displaying characters that will fulfill their “American Dream”, these films show us how we can make our own happy endings depending on how we see life and love.
The Life Beyond the Wedding…
As stated before, the wedding at the end of the movie is our happy ending. And that’s what we are conditioned to believe; it’s the end. But life doesn’t (hopefully) end on your wedding day, that’s only one day. Yes, it is the beginning of something new and a different life, but it’s not your happy ending. The marriage comes after the cake is cut and the bride throws the bouquet. We, the moviegoers and audience, rarely see the story beyond. And when we do it’s hardly, if ever, the main plot or even the main characters that are the married ones. It’s usually the parents or the “married couple next door” that linger in the subplots and supporting roles because unfortunately they are now married and their stories are old and tired and finished; they already accomplished their American Dream.
Luckily, there are a few gems that display marriage and all of it’s complexities. Because the only thing more complicated than a relationship, is a relationship that you are contractually obligated to be good at.
Therefore, we will be looking into a little film that was made with only $840,000, directed by Lee Toland Krieger and written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack; Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012). The plot to this film is almost unlike anything else and at first seems awfully awkward, but interestingly enough, plenty of people can relate to it.
Celeste and Jesse are best friends, truly, but they are also getting divorced. They had their happy ending with the perfect backyard wedding, but unfortunately real life crashed into their fairytale. Celeste is a modern, working, independent woman who knows exactly what she wants and she is not afraid get it. So much so that she is willing to divorce her best friend because she knew that Jesse actually wasn’t a good marital match for her. She needs someone who has a career, a car, aspirations, basically she wants a “grown up” which Jesse doesn’t seem to be quite yet. Although she already has the perfect job, car, house, and even clothes, she doesn’t feel as though she has the perfect husband to share that with. That’s radical.
If that plot point wasn’t radical enough, let’s have Jesse find actual love with someone else and be happy and even grow up. What was holding him back from having all of that was his love for Celeste and his hope that they might actually forget the entire divorce and have a happy ending all over again. That’s what’s supposed to happen! They have to fall back in love with each other in order for the romantic comedy formula to be correct and end happily.
Interestingly enough, the tables are turned and when Celeste learns that Jesse is doing very well and will be having a baby with his new girlfriend, she spirals into a manic and unpredictable state. Why is nothing working out for her if she has done everything right? She went to a good college, got a good job, hast he perfect friends, and above all she believes she has it all together. She allowed someone else’s success trigger her into a demise. That shows us that we all want to succeed but do we really want someone else to? Especially if they were always unambitious, lazy, and distracted from achieving the perfect grown-up life.
So what really makes up our happy ending? Is it the career and house or the perfect person to share it with? The great thing about today’s modern times is that we don’t have to decide. Our happy ending is whatever we make it out to be. Because everyone is different and so therefore everyone will have a different “American Dream”. Even if you think you found your perfect match, you might found out five or even thirty years into that marriage that maybe they aren’t and maybe they never were. People grow and change and a lot of the times the other person can’t catch up and shouldn’t have to.
Even though Celeste might measure her happiness based on how other people treat her, true happiness shouldn’t have to be based on what other’s do. And I reiterate the fact that your happiness and “dream” is however and whatever you make it. Romantic comedies might have conditioned us to accept the fact that we aren’t truly fulfilled or happy until we find our “other half”, and that is true for many. But if 500 Days of Summer and Celeste and Jesse Forever have taught the audience anything, it’s that we can’t expect other people to live up to our expectations and even fantasies about them in order to fulfill our dream of them. They too are people and it isn’t fair to hold them accountable for our happiness. We can only hold ourselves accountable for our American Dream and happiness because that’s all we really have in the end; ourselves.