Am I Biased Against RomComs?

Evan Gittler

After watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I couldn’t particularly give a rave-review. I thought the dialogue wasn’t great, the setting was a bit weird, and overall was just a bit hard-to-get-through. However, after watching the film, I proceeded to read a piece about Romantic-Comedies by Tamar Jeffers McDonald. In it, she talks about general responses to the genre as a whole, writing, “Romcoms are viewed as ‘guilty pleasures’ which should be below one’s notice but, Jo Berry and Angie Errigo suggest, which satisfy because they provide easy, uncomplicated pleasures”. Nevertheless, she goes on to argue that the appeal which romcoms provide to their audience is more complex that that. Having read this argument, and having thought about it in relation to my own reactions to the movie, it left me wondering: “Were my feelings on the movie biased in some way by the general sentiments towards the Romantic-Comedy genre?” “Did my distaste for the movie stem from some elitist viewpoint?” I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as a romcom-hater, but maybe it was forming under the surface…

Overall, I just wanted to understand my own reactions to the movie in order to, maybe, get a better understanding of where they were coming from. Were they due to bias, or was the movie really not that good? So, I thought it would be best to talk with other people who had watched the film. Interestingly, most of the reactions to the film were positive. Most people liked it. But, perhaps more interestingly, no one gave their review praising the individual aspects of the movie, like the characters, the plot, or the dialogue, but spoke more about the overall enjoyable viewing-experience. They seemed to like how the movie overall made them feel, rather than specific aspects of the movie, which hurt my feelings towards the movie. Perhaps I was too bogged down with the different parts of the film that I didn’t appreciate it as a whole… However, one person’s review of the movie made me rethink this. It was their second time watching, and they recounted really enjoying it on their first-watch. But, on their second-watch, they became increasingly frustrated with the dialogue and the plot. Aside from feeling somewhat justified on my opinion of the movie, it prompted another question: “Is, let’s say, second-watch-fatigue symptomatic of the genre as a whole, or specific to this movie?”

Part of the appeal of the romcom genre is, possibly, the foregone conclusion. Usually, when watching such films, it is quite obvious who will get together, and indeed that they will get together. So, I wouldn’t assume that knowing the ending is the source of a less-enjoyable second-watch. Thinking about this, my attention went to a common theme brought up when I was discussing the movie with other people who had watched it, namely cliché. Even amongst the people who enjoyed the movie, a common sentiment was along the lines of, “even though it was pretty clichéd, I still liked it”. So, possibly, a commonly-used cliché can be somewhat charming on first-viewing, but feels played-out when seen again. I still wondered, though, about the tendency to describe the aspects of romcoms as clichés, rather than tropes. Again, I think this goes full circle back to the beginning of the post, when I talked about McDonald’s paper about the genre. I still feel that the general view on romcoms is somehow that they are “lesser” or just pure entertainment, and thus are described with “lesser” vocabulary, even amongst people who enjoy the genre.

In conclusion, after both watching the movie and reading the paper, I feel that I will be much more conscious about my reactions towards romcoms, and what I get out of watching them. If you ever get around to watching the film, try to think about what I wrote in my post, and see whether how much the specific aspects, i.e. dialogue, plot, shape your feelings about the movie!

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