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Books, movies provide romance tropes, unrealistic expectations

Art+By%3A+Aurelia+McKinney
Art By: Aurelia McKinney

As rain taps steadily on the windows in front of her, junior Lava Serohi wraps a white, fuzzy blanket around her shoulders. She snuggles closer to her sister on the couch, getting ready to watch “10 Things I Hate About You.” When her sister presses play on the remote, the TV lights up and two characters — the couple-to-be — fill the screen.

According to The Numbers, romantic comedies, also known as rom-coms, typically make up 4.4% of films produced in a year, whereas in the late 1990s and early 2000s, rom-coms made up 18% of films produced in 2001.

Furthermore, box office revenue from rom-coms has decreased from over $250 million in 2019 to over $86 million in 2023.

Sophomore Amily Zhang said this change is largely due to the rise of TV, creating easily accessible, readily available programs which you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

“In rom-coms, there are certain scenes that can be awkward if you watch them in public,” Zhang said. “So many people prefer watching through streaming platforms like Netflix as they are more accessible and easier to use.”

Serohi said many streaming platforms have outcompeted movie theaters, which has also led to the decline in box office revenue for rom-coms.

“Whenever I go watch a rom-com at the theaters, my friends and I always end up laughing together at the happiness shown on the big screen,” Serohi said. “This is why so many people race to the movie theater when a new rom-com comes out and force their friends to go with them to experience it.”

During holidays such as Valentine Day and Christmas, Serohi said theaters often show more rom-coms because people are more likely to go with their loved ones.

“These holidays are the only times when genuinely liking a rom-com is acceptable as everyone is wishing their story was like the one on screen,” said Serohi. “Otherwise, for the rest of the year, you are confined to your bedroom if you want to watch rom-coms.”

Both Serohi and Zhang said they believe the decrease in rom-coms stem from one main issue, being the transition from the movie theater experience to the comfort of watching at home. But Zhang said another issue can be attributed to the negative stigma surrounding rom-coms, therefore harming the viewership and production of rom-coms.

While rom-coms from the 2000s typically featured slow-burn romances and cheesy, feel-good scenes, Zhang said modern rom-coms include more sexually explicit scenes, shallow characters and weak plots, making the films less fulfilling to watch.

“Many rom-coms nowadays have taken out the traditional, classic parts of rom-coms that are wholesome and pure, innocent love and instead have introduced these ideas of casual dating and hook-up culture which connects them more to reality,” Zhang said. “While this can bring in a broader and more diverse audience, the majority of those watching rom-coms want to see the picture-perfect relationship.”

Furthermore, Zhang said with rom-coms repeatedly bringing extravagant love plots to life, watching too many can blur the lines between realistic and fictional love.

“Rom-coms let you dive into a world that you could never experience in real life, making them so appealing, (yet) they often lead to people our age having an altered perception of what a relationship is supposed to be or have greater standards for a partner,” Zhang said.

Because many modern rom-coms are transitioning to even more polarized stereotypical plots and characters, Zhang said the popularity of rom-coms are continuing to decline due to the lack of originality, personality and sentiment.

“While rom-coms are still enjoyable, they don’t have the same popularity they had in the past since so many have adopted more realistic plots,” Zhang said. “I hope producers begin making more rom-coms with a more classic plot, wholesome romance and innocent love as I feel they would attract more of an audience.”

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Isabelle Carlsen, Staff Writer
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