Romantic comedy

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Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (1955) trailer. Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch trailer 2.JPG
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (1955) trailer.

Romantic comedy (portmanteaus: romedy,romcom or lovecome) is a genre with lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles. [1] One dictionary definition is "a funny movie, play, or television program about a love story that ends happily". [2] Another definition suggests that its "primary distinguishing feature is a love plot in which two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled". [3]

A portmanteau or portmanteau word is a linguistic blend of words, in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds) are combined into a new word, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes.

Romance (love) Type of love that focuses on feelings

Romance is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the courtship behaviors undertaken by an individual to express those overall feelings and resultant emotions.

Contents

Romantic comedy films are a certain genre of comedy films as well as of romance films, and may also have elements of screwball comedies. However, a romantic comedy is classified as a film with two genres, not a single new genre. [4] Some television series can also be classified as romantic comedies.

A comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics for humorous effect. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film – and derived from the classical comedy in theatre –, some of the very first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.

Romance film film genre

Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their genuinely strong, true and pure romantic love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

Screwball comedy film principally American genre of comedy film

Screwball comedy is a subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. It is widely known for satirizing the traditional love story. Many secondary characteristics of this genre are similar to film noir, but it distinguishes itself for being characterized by a female that dominates the relationship with the male central character, whose masculinity is challenged. The two engage in a humorous battle of the sexes, which was a new theme for Hollywood and audiences at the time. What sets the screwball comedy apart from the generic romantic comedy is that "screwball comedy puts its emphasis on a funny spoofing of love, while the more traditional romantic ultimately accents love." Other elements of the screwball comedy include fast-paced, overlapping repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, physical battle of the sexes, disguise and masquerade, and plot lines involving courtship and marriage. Screwball comedies often depict social classes in conflict, as in It Happened One Night (1934) and My Man Godfrey (1936). Some comic plays are also described as screwball comedies.

In a typical romantic comedy the two lovers tend to be young, likeable, and seemingly meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference, a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally reunited. A fairy-tale-style happy ending is a typical feature. [3]

Description

Kathryn Grayson in Seven Sweethearts (1942), a musical romantic comedy film Kathryn Grayson in Seven Sweethearts.jpg
Kathryn Grayson in Seven Sweethearts (1942), a musical romantic comedy film

The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two characters meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then ultimately realize their love for one another and reunite. Sometimes the two leads meet and become involved initially, then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes they are hesitant to become romantically involved because they believe that they do not like each other, because one of them already has a partner, or because of social pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the characters are, in fact, attracted to each other and that they would be a good love match. The protagonists often separate or seek time apart to sort out their feelings or deal with the external obstacles to their being together, only to later come back together.

In film and television, a meet cute is a scene in which the two people who will form a future romantic couple meet for the first time.

While the two protagonists are separated, one or both of them usually realizes that they love the other person. Then, one party makes some extravagant effort (sometimes called a grand gesture) to find the other person and declare their love. This is not always the case as sometimes there is an astonishing coincidental encounter where the two meet again. Or one plans a sweet romantic gesture to show that they still care. Then, perhaps with some comic friction or awkwardness, they declare their love for each other and the film ends on a happy note. Even though it is implied that they live a happily ever after, it does not always state what that happy ending will be. The couple does not necessarily get married, or even live together for it to be a "happily ever after". The ending of a romantic comedy is meant to affirm the primary importance of the love relationship in its protagonists' lives, even if they physically separate in the end (e.g. Shakespeare in Love , Roman Holiday ). [5] Most of the time the ending gives the audience a sense that if it is true love, it will always prevail no matter what is thrown in the way.

A happy ending is an ending of the plot of a work of fiction in which almost everything turns out for the best for the protagonists, their sidekicks, and almost everyone except the villains.

<i>Shakespeare in Love</i> 1998 film by John Madden

Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 American romantic period comedy-drama film directed by John Madden, written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard.

<i>Roman Holiday</i> 1953 American romantic comedy directed by William Wyler

Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.

There are many variations on this basic plot line. Sometimes, instead of the two lead characters ending up in each other's arms, another love match will be made between one of the principal characters and a secondary character (e.g., My Best Friend's Wedding and My Super Ex-Girlfriend ). Alternatively, the film may be a rumination on the impossibility of love, as in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall. The basic format of a romantic comedy film can be found in much earlier sources, such as Shakespeare plays like Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream .

<i>My Best Friends Wedding</i> 1997 film by P. J. Hogan

My Best Friend's Wedding is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by P.J. Hogan from a screenplay by Ronald Bass. The film stars Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz and Rupert Everett.

<i>My Super Ex-Girlfriend</i> 2006 film by Ivan Reitman

My Super Ex-Girlfriend is a 2006 American superhero comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard, Rainn Wilson, and Wanda Sykes.

Woody Allen American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician

Heywood "Woody" Allen is an American director, writer, actor, and comedian whose career spans more than six decades.

Some comedy films, such as Knocked Up , combine themes of romantic comedies and stoner comedies, creating a new subgenre that can be more appealing to men, as it already may be to women. Often known as "bromance", such films usually use sexual elements which bring the two characters together. Films in this genre include American Pie 2 and even Wedding Crashers . Having sexual elements in the movie is starting to become more popular in romantic comedy movies. In almost all of Nicholas Spark's movies there is some type of sexual scene even though these movies are aimed more towards women. They can be considered to be aimed more towards women because of the hopeless romantic love scenes that are usually present in his works. [6]

The convention underlying a romance book or film is there is two people, normally male and a female, who fall in love with each other. They have a good situation going on for a while, but then the couple finds a major obstacle in their way, which usually starts to pull them apart or makes one of them leave. Before they can overcome this obstacle, one (or both) realizes that they are perfect for each other and proclaims their love for the other. The films usually end with the couple either getting married, engaged, or giving some indication that they live "happily ever after".

Evolution and subgenres

Over the years, romantic comedies have slowly been becoming more popular to both males and females. They have begun to spread out of their conventional and traditional structure into other territory. This territory explores more subgenres and more complex topics. These films still follow the typical plot of "a light and humorous movie, play, etc., whose central plot is a happy love story" [7] but with more complexity. These are a few ways romantic comedies are adding more subtlety and complexity into the genre. Two ways they are adding to the complexity are through the general obstacles that come between the couple and the general morals that the characters feel throughout the entire film.

Extreme circumstances

Some romantic comedies have adopted extreme or strange circumstances for the main characters, as in Warm Bodies where the protagonist is a zombie who falls in love with a human girl after eating her boyfriend. The effect of their love towards each other is that it starts spreading to the other zombies and even starts to cure them. With the zombie cure, the two main characters can now be together since they don't have that barrier between them anymore. [8] Another strange set of circumstances is in Zack and Miri Make a Porno where the two protagonists are building a relationship while trying to make a porno together. Both these films take the typical story arc and then add strange circumstances to add originality.

Flipping conventions

Other romantic comedies flip the standard conventions of the romantic comedy genre. In films like 500 Days of Summer , the two main interests do not end up together, leaving the protagonist somewhat distraught. Other films like Adam have the two main interests end up separated but still content and pursuing other goals and love interests.

Reversing gender roles

Some romantic comedies use reversal of gender roles to add comedic effect. [9] These films contain characters who possess qualities that diverge from the gender role that society has imposed upon them, as seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall in which the male protagonist is especially in touch with his emotions, and Made of Honor in which the female bridesmaids are shown in a negative and somewhat masculine light in order to advance the likability of the male lead. [10]

Serious elements

Other remakes of romantic comedies involve similar elements, but explore more adult themes such as marriage, responsibility, or even disability. Two films by Judd Apatow, This Is 40 and Knocked Up , deal with these issues. This Is 40 chronicles the mid-life crisis of a couple entering their 40s, and Knocked Up addresses unintended pregnancy and the ensuing assuming of responsibility. Silver Linings Playbook deals with mental illness and the courage to start a new relationship.

All of these go against the stereotype of what romantic comedy has become as a genre. Yet the genre of romantic comedy is simply a structure, and all of these elements do not negate the fact that these films are still romantic comedies.

Contrived romantic encounters: the "meet cute"

One of the conventions of romantic comedy films is the entertainment factor in a contrived encounter of two potential romantic partners in unusual or comic circumstances, which film critics such as Roger Ebert [11] or the Associated Press' Christy Lemire [12] have called a "meet-cute" situation. During a "meet-cute", scriptwriters often create a humorous sense of awkwardness between the two potential partners by depicting an initial clash of personalities or beliefs, an embarrassing situation, or by introducing a comical misunderstanding or mistaken identity situation. Sometimes the term is used without a hyphen (a "meet cute"), or as a verb ("to meet cute").

Roger Ebert describes the "concept of a Meet Cute" as "when boy meets girl in a cute way." As an example, he cites "The Meet Cute in Lost and Found [which] has Jackson and Segal running their cars into each other in Switzerland. Once recovered, they Meet Cute again when they run into each other while on skis. Eventually,... they fall in love." [13]

In many romantic comedies, the potential couple comprises polar opposites, two people of different temperaments, situations, social statuses, or all three ( It Happened One Night ), who would not meet or talk under normal circumstances, and the meet cute's contrived situation provides the opportunity for these two people to meet.

Use of "meet cute" situations

Certain movies are entirely driven by the meet-cute situation, and contrived circumstances throw the couple together for much of the screenplay. However, movies in which the contrived situation is the main feature, such as Some Like It Hot , rather than the romance being the main feature, are not considered "meet-cutes".

The use of the meet-cute is less marked in television series and novels, because these formats have more time to establish and develop romantic relationships. In situation comedies, relationships are static and meet-cute is not necessary, though flashbacks may recall one ( The Dick Van Dyke Show , Mad About You ) and lighter fare may require contrived romantic meetings.

The heyday of "meet cute" in films was during the Great Depression in the 1930s; screwball comedy films made a heavy use of contrived romantic "meet cutes", perhaps because the more rigid class consciousness and class divisions of this period made cross-social class romances into tantalizing fantasies.

History

The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines romantic comedy as "a general term for comedies that deal mainly with the follies and misunderstandings of young lovers, in a light‐hearted and happily concluded manner which usually avoids serious satire". This reference states that the "best‐known examples are Shakespeare's comedies of the late 1590s, A Midsummer Night's Dream , Twelfth Night , and As You Like It being the most purely romantic, while Much Ado About Nothing approaches the comedy of manners and The Merchant of Venice is closer to tragicomedy." [14]

Comedies since ancient Greece have often incorporated sexual or social elements.

It was not until the creation of romantic love in the western European medieval period, though, that "romance" came to refer to "romantic love" situations, rather than the heroic adventures of medieval Romance. These adventures, however, often revolved about a knight's feats on behalf of a lady, and so the modern themes of love were quickly woven into them, as in Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart . [15]

Shakespearean comedy and Restoration comedy remain influential. The creation of huge economic social strata in the Gilded Age [ citation needed ], combined with the heightened openness about sex after the Victorian era [ citation needed ] and the celebration of Sigmund Freud's theories, and the birth of the film industry in the early twentieth century, gave birth to the screwball comedy.[ citation needed ] As class consciousness declined and World War II unified various social orders, the savage screwball comedies of the twenties and thirties, proceeding through Rock HudsonDoris Day-style comedies, gave way to more innocuous comedies.[ citation needed ] In the 1970s What's Up, Doc? was a success. The more sexually charged When Harry Met Sally had a successful box office run in 1989, paving the way for a rebirth for the Hollywood romantic comedy in the mid-1990s.

The French film industry went in a completely different direction, with less inhibitions about sex.[ citation needed ] Virginia Woolf, tired of stories that ended in 'happily ever after' at the beginning of a serious relationship, called Middlemarch by George Eliot, with its portrayal of a difficult marriage, "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people."

Effects

On society today

With the increase of romantic comedy movies, there has been an apparent change in the way society views romance. Researchers [16] are asking whether the romances projected in romantic comedies are preventing true love in real life. The increase in use of technology has also led the society to spend a great amount of time engaging in mediated reality and less time with each other. Even though researchers have only started to explore the impact of romantic comedy films on human romance, the few studies conducted have already shown correlation between romantic comedies and the love delusion. Romantic comedies are very popular. They depict relationships that some scholars think affect how people view relationships outside of this virtual world. These scholars believe romantic comedies can cause their audience to be discontent in their relationships because romantic comedies cause women to place men as the center of their universe. Depictions of stalking, men fighting for women no matter what, and placing women's happiness solely on men are depicted in romantic comedies. They can teach women and men that guys should make the first move in a relationship. They sometimes depict that the guy should be masculine and smart while the girl should be feminine and passive. They can place men as the key to women's happiness and this causes women and men in real life to put too much pressure on relationships.

The illusion of love

In the past, love has not always been the real reason for people coming together. In some cultures, [17] arranged marriages were common to adhere to and propagate caste systems or to join kingdoms. Today, love is the root of all romance, and it is over-emphasized through these films. It tells viewers that love conquers all and will ultimately bring a never-ending happiness that is rarely affected by any conflict. When people do not experience the romance portrayed in these movies, they often wonder what they are doing wrong. Although people should be able to tell between an overly romanticized love and realistic love, they are often caught up in constantly trying to echo the stories they see on screen. [17] While most know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some perceptions of love are heavily influenced by media portrayals. [18]

Conducted research

A study was conducted at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh to understand this phenomenon. They studied 40 top box-office films released between 1995 and 2005 to establish common themes. Then they asked hundreds of people to complete a questionnaire to describe their beliefs and expectations in romantic relationships. Researchers found that people who enjoyed movies such as You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner, and While You Were Sleeping often failed to communicate with their partners effectively. They also believe that if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know your needs without you telling them. Although this study is just one of a handful, it shows a correlation of how people's expectations are distorted through watching romantic comedies. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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  10. Guys Are the New Girls
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  14. Cited in Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/romantic-comedy-1 Accessed June 20, 2011
  15. C.S Lewis, The Allegory of Love, p 19 ISBN   0-19-281220-3
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