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They Had Us At Hello: The Return Of The Romantic Comedy


Romantic comedies. You know how it’s going to end, but the journey is so fun to watch.

In recent years, some critics noticed that the genre experienced a downswing. Here’s Christopher Orr writing for The Atlantic in 2013.

Among the most fundamental obligations of romantic comedy is that there must be an obstacle to nuptial bliss for the budding couple to overcome. And, put simply, such obstacles are getting harder and harder to come by. They used to lie thick on the ground: parental disapproval, difference in social class, a promise made to another. But society has spent decades busily uprooting any impediment to the marriage of true minds. Love is increasingly presumed—perhaps in Hollywood most of all—to transcend class, profession, faith, age, race, gender, and (on occasion) marital status.

But with hits like “Crazy Rich Asians” (which netted nearly 174 million dollars at the box office) to Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” it seems like rom-coms are back, baby. You know the classics: “Sleepless In Seattle” and “Pretty In Pink.” But these new films are more diverse — and include other elements than just romance.

If romcoms aren’t your kind of content, consider this: NPR’s Weekend Edition recently suggested that one of the best ways to avoid familial holiday strife is the Hallmark Channel — the home of the rom-com.

Host Lulu Garcia-Navarro says “You can never argue over the Hallmark Channel — I mean, seriously.”

Here’s how Constance Grady, a culture writer for Vox, defended the rom-com:

I think any defense of rom-coms has to begin with the idea that it can be enjoyable and worthwhile to watch two attractive people trade banter, face complications, and eventually fall in love, and there is nothing wrong with that. That basic plot template is not inherently less valuable than the one about the sad, mean man who is really good at something and so has no excuse but to be terrible to the people around him, or the one about the people who fight in a war and are very brave. The fact that we treat rom-coms as frothy nonsense for dumb people stems from the fact that romantic comedies are generally marketed to women, whom our culture does not like — not from the genre’s inherent value.

At their very best, romantic comedies are sheer joy. They are about forging human connections and people changing each other for the better — all of which is complex stuff that is worthy of sustained aesthetic attention — and they approach their subject matter with glee.

As a part of our series “Cuffin’ Season,” we’re snuggling up, switching on the radio and talking about what makes romcoms great.

Produced by Paige Osburn.


Alissa Wilkinson, Film critic, Vox; cultural studies professor, Kings College in New York; @alissamarie

Dana Schwartz, Correspondent, Entertainment Weekly; co-host, “The RomCommoisseurs;” @DanaSchwartzzz

Billy Mernit, Script analyst, Universal Pictures; author, “Writing the Romantic Comedy;” @mernitman

Christine Swanson, Writer, director, producer; wrote/directed “All About You” and “All About Us” @cswanson44

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