Both of the girls were home the other night and someone popped in a romantic comedy. I dozed off, woke up midway and realized it could have been one of a dozen movies. Romantic comedies adhere to a similar fashion.
First, you take a good-looking female lead character and knock off her parents. Statistically, the odds of this happening are infinitesimal, but it is nearly required in the romantic comedy. Somehow, the fact that she has lost both parents has no long-term effect on her. She is not depressed or scarred; if anything, she has emerged stronger, perkier and happier. (Sometimes the lead female can keep one or both parents, but if they are alive, they must be remote and uninvolved in her life.)
Next, you introduce a drop-dead gorgeous male character that has no way of ever, ever, ever getting together with the beautiful female lead character because he's (a) already taken, (b) mean or (c) has the IQ of tree bark and does not notice that the attractive female lead continually throws herself at him.
The two characters are then hurled by fate into a preposterous situation due to an accident, power outage or colossal misunderstanding. Forced to spend a few days together, they hate each other with a new vengeance. The catastrophe averted, one of the lead characters leaves and the remaining character realizes that this person is really the person he or she was destined to marry. Commandeering cars and cabs, maneuvering impossible traffic jams and diverting helicopters and planes, the one pursues the other until they are reunited by a long lens with a soft focus filter.
The person that was despised, scorned and loathed only a short 72 hours ago is now the person the lead character wants to spend the rest of his or her life with.
In real life, people like this should be medicated. Or in counseling. Or both.
Romantic comedies make relationships look virtually effortless. There is never a shortage of people of a compatible age, height and interest, in the local coffee shop, on the beach or at the Laundromat. You don't have to work at cultivating a social life, people simply materialize out of thin air.
The other problem with romantic comedies is that everyone in them is extremely good-looking. In real life, most people are somewhat average-looking. Most people may not crack mirrors, but most people aren't going to wind up on the cover of Vogue either.
In the romantic comedy, somebody almost always has to grovel in front of somebody else or create a scene in public. Most people don't enjoy groveling and most people avoid scenes.
The hazard of romantic comedies is that they skewer expectations of reality. Eye-makeup never runs, sweat never smells, and everybody looks good wet. Most people just look matted when they're wet, not unlike a golden retriever that has just emerged from following a ball into a pond.
Romantic comedies make relationships look easy. They are not. Relationships are often difficult. And finding the one lasting relationship may be the most difficult work of all.
Relationships of all sorts and stripes take time, diligence and effort. That said, romantic comedies do serve a purpose -- 90 minutes of escape from the hard work of reality.