17 Reasons Why Entertainment Weekly Is Wrong About Romantic Comedy

Entertainment Weekly posted a list of “24 RomCom Cliches We’d Retire.” I’ve spent the past eight months studying romantic comedy at Popcorn Dialogues, the last twenty years writing romantic comedy, and the last forty-five years watching it, and I feel this is a topic I have some expertise on. So this is a list of 17 reasons why Entertainment Weekly’s thinking on romantic comedy is biased, sloppy, and often dumb, plus seven things they got right. Sort of.

24. The heroine works in the media.
I have no idea why this is a romcom cliche. The reporter on the trail of a story is a staple in fiction; see Russell Crowe in State of Play. Why should some jobs be off limits? Unless they’re thinking it’s weird women are in the media. No, they’re in the media, they can’t be that close-minded. Makes no sense.

23. The Last Minute Sprint aka The RomCom Run
This is practically a drinking game at PopD so this one I’ll agree with.

22. Introducing Magic into the Plot
The two examples given are Simply Irresistible and Practical Magic, both of which are movies about magic. It’s not introduced to solve a problem, it’s a central thread of the movie. The sisters in Practical Magic are witches, for heaven’s sake, how is magic a cliche? Are they bitching about Harry Potter’s wand or Luke Skywalker’s Force or Wolverine’s fingernails? No. Of course, those are guys. So magic is only a cliche for women in love? I don’t think so.

21: Mischievous Dogs.
Romcom heroines shouldn’t have dogs? Don’t make me come over there and slap you.

20. Working Girl Needs Balance
Since when is being a workaholic a girl thing?

19. Mr. and Mrs. Right in Front of You
Suddenly discovering your best friend is your one true love is a popular trope in romcom, so at least on this one they’re not being ridiculous. But I’d defend this one as not a cliche but as a subgenre, like the buddy cop movie. If they’re going to call buddy cop movies a cliche, I’ll give them this one. If buddy cop movies are a subgenre, then so is this.

18. Love at First Fight
They meet and don’t like each other and fight and fall in love. It wasn’t a cliche when Shakespeare did it and it’s not in Ten Things I Hate About You, either. It’s a character thing.

17. Clumsy Heroines
You know, I’ve watched 36 romcoms in eight months, and I can’t remember a clumsy heroine. They cite several, but if it’s a cliche, shouldn’t it have turned up sometime in there? Unless they’re thinking all romcom heroines have to be graceful? But then wouldn’t that be a cliche?

16. Blooming Wallflowers aka The Makeover
Yep, this is a cliche. The transformative power of love usually does not involve a new hairstyle and a slamming gown.

15. The Lonely Montage
This one’s weird. I’d have been with them if they’d said the Relationship Montage, the one that summarizes what happens after the first step to commitment, the one that shows them walking on the beach, shopping for quirky things, putting ice cream on each other’s noses, and other cute Us Moments that show that now they’re in a relationship, that montage, yes, that’s a cliche. But I don’t remember seeing any Lonely Montages this year, although now that I read EW I find that I did in When Harry Met Sally . . . I’ll give them this one just because I think romcom abuses the montage more than most genres, but I don’t see the Lonely Montage as a huge problem. It’s a Montage-in-General problem.

14. Bad Influence Buddies
The hero’s best friends give him bad advice. I haven’t seen any of the movies they cited, but of the 36 romcoms I have seen this year (and countless others), I don’t remember any that did this. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, just means I never said, “Oh, not this again.” Unless you count Jim Belushi telling Rob Lowe that the best thing that could happen to him was an industrial accident. Great line. Also, aren’t there Bad Influence Buddies in all the guy comedies, too? I think if it’s a romcom cliche it has to have something to do with that genre particularly (the romcom run, the romance montage) rather than a reflection of one gender’s inability to provide good advice across the spectrum.

13. Ridiculous Proofs of Love aka The Sign
“If we’re meant to be together, a rose will bloom on the site where we met.” I’m with them on this one, unless the premise of the movie contains real magic in which case, there’s a logical reason for it. Not sure it happens often enough to be called a cliche, but it’s annoying as all hell.

12. Easy Sex
This is the one where the girl says yes and the guy refuses because he loves her too much to sleep with her under those conditions (drunk, upset, etc.). I don’t think it’s a cliche–again, that means it has to happen a lot–and I don’t think it’s unbelievable that a good guy would refuse to sleep with a drunk or distraught woman. Maybe I have more faith in men than EW.

11. Schlubby Guy, Pretty Girl
EW must have a heart of stone. Only good looking people fall in love with each other? They’d have had a better chance of convincing me if they hadn’t used Albert and Allegra from Hitch as their example. Do not doubt the power of Albert and Allegra. Then they followed it up with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in Roxanne. Please.

10. Heroines as Bad Drivers
They cite two movies to show this is a cliche. I have news: it’s a cliche in real life, too, but that doesn’t make it a romcom staple.

9. People Pretending To Be Who They Aren’t aka The Big Misunderstanding
Because nobody ever goes undercover in cop movies. Still, I’m going to give them this one because I think the whole “you lied to me” conflict is such a loser, and it’s part of this. However, I would call this one The Big Misunderstanding, the thing that if they just TALKED to each other would not be a problem. The old “You spent the night in your apartment with her!” “She’s my sister!” climax. Yeah, that’s a cliche.

8. PDA Climax aka the PDAC
I hate this one with the passion of a thousand firey suns. It’s not real love unless you declare your passion in front of a crowd, preferably one that’s willing to cheer. Bleah. The Rom Com Run can be done well, the Big Misunderstanding is just annoying, but the PDA Climax makes me want to throw something at the screen.

7. The Top of the Stairs Moment
This is the one where the heroine appears at the top of the stairs transformed and the hero is stunned by her beauty. Except we did this back in #16 Blooming Wallflowers and I’m not giving credit twice.

6. Eating for Two or Three
I don’t get this one at all. Heroines with hearty appetites are a cliche? I’m not seeing this repeated, the example they give (Two Weeks Notice) makes no sense since she’s ordering Chinese for dinner not snacking through the day, and I’m very suspicious of anything that implies that a heroine is eating too much. That’s Hollywood for you.

5. Egregious Girl Bonding
They don’t like scenes where girls bond by laughing and singing together. They’d hate my life. What are we supposed to do, watch the game instead?

4. Wet Climax
The old last scene where they kiss in the rain. Wasn’t that in Spiderman? The two they cite are Four Weddings and a Funeral and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Two examples do not make a cliche, and you want to come over here and say that again about Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Wait a minute. Breakfast at Tiffany’s wasn’t a romantic comedy. Jesus, people, what did you do, get drunk and say, “I got an idea for a column, let’s make up stuff about romantic comedy”?

3. The Dress Montage
This is the one where the heroine tries on a lot of dresses. I do not remember seeing this a lot. There’s definitely one in 27 Dresses, but, uh, check the title. The dresses were part of the plot. Cher did the whole computer dress thing in Clueless, but again, part of character development, not egregious. They also cite Sex and the City. Sex and the City is not a romantic comedy, the entire movie is a dress montage. Also, I gave credit for montage as a cliche in romcom and I’m not doing that twice.

2. Singing into Objects
Again with the bias against singing women, which they already expressed above. Redundancy is not good in magazine articles. Also, lots of people sing when they’re alone. It’s not a cliche, it’s a fact of life.

1. Quirky BFF aka the Funny Friend
Yeah, that’s a cliche and has been all the way back to Ruth Hussey and Joan Blondell. Let’s make the wisecracking friend the heroine and give her a beautiful BFF. And while we’re at it, let’s do the same for the guys. Oh, wait we can’t do that because then a schlubby person would get a pretty person and who would believe that? Damn.

So after we get rid of all the non-cliches and the repeats, we’re left with the RomCom Run, the Makeover, the Montage, the Sign, the Big Misunderstanding, the PDAC, and the Funny Friend. But here’s the thing: every one of these can be wonderful if done well, so suggesting they be retired is dumb. Storytelling cliches are cliches for a reason: People like them. Some of the best movies of all time were cliches when they were made. Or as my creative writing prof used to say, you can use any cliche you want, you just have to do the best job of using that cliche in the history of storytelling.

One other thing. You know what the top cliche in magazine articles is? Lists. I’d retire that if I were you, EW.

139 thoughts on “17 Reasons Why Entertainment Weekly Is Wrong About Romantic Comedy

  1. Before I started your post I went and read the list at EW, and was just confused all the way through at how ridiculous it was.

    I love your breakdown of it, and the things you agree with and disagree with. I’m in the same place for most of them.

    And like you said at the end, even those that are cliches can be well done. No need to ‘retire’ any storyline.

    0
  2. Didn’t The Truth About Cats and Dogs do the reversal suggested in number 1 (not that Janeane Garofalo is anything but pretty but you know what I mean)? It worked rather well, but perhaps wouldn’t if the Quirky BFF wasn’t a cliche the rest of the time! I’m not even a big fan of rom-coms, but have seen plenty and pretty much agree with every point you make.

    0
    1. Yes, Hollywood is a place where Janeane Garafalo is ugly in The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Renee Zellweger is overweight in Bridget Jones Diary. And they wonder why they can’t get romantic comedy right.

      0
        1. I was going to say the same thing. Also? I think Janeane Garafalo is way prettier than Uma Thurman. Uma’s sort of blandly odd-looking to me.

          0
  3. this made me smile a lot. My sister and I, who didn’t have much more in common than our love of rom coms back then, used to spend hours breaking down what worked and what didn’t, and bemoaning the fact that the big studios hadn’t run their endings past us first.

    My absolute worst is the PDAC. But, you’re right, that’s not a reason to ban it. Someone could use it amazingly. Potentially.

    I did actually see a real one once – a guy proposed on stage at the biggest short film festival in Australia (Tropfest). It just made me feel for the girl – how do you feel free to say no?

    0
    1. Yes. It’s so much about the guy proposing which always makes me doubt the whole thing. “Look at me!” should not be the first motivation for a marriage proposal.

      0
      1. Check out Fail Blog (on Icanhazcheezburger.com). Right now they are running romantic fails and there is a video of all these public proposals that went wrong. I think that, unless you are completely sure she will say yes, don’t do it. Just don’t. Nowadays, many women don’t have a problem with saying no. Oops.

        0
        1. I cannot imagine how painful that video must be. But I also stand by my original point: public proposals are about the guy showing off, not about telling a woman he loves her. No PDAC.

          0
      2. The wayyyy too public proposal is now a staple at most professional ball games, to the point where MLB teams sell engagement packages so you can ensure that their jumbotron video crew will be at your seats when you kneel to pop the question. I was at such a game with a psychiatrist once when this happened. What some view as a huge, grand, gesture, he saw as a manipulation.

        I’ve also been at games where the woman slammed the bouquet back into the man’s chest, bolted from her seat and ran up the stadium steps out of view.

        0
      3. Being a witness to several hundred proposals I can tell you most of the time they are quiet and intimate. Once in a while, after the fact, you have a guy shouting, “She said YES!” to randome pedestrians. On one occasion a girl said no, then she jumped out of the carriage and ran off. However, a customer told me that they were on a hot air balloon ride when a guy proposed (in front of everyone) and the girl said no. Awkward 90 minutes ensued. At least on a carriage odds are you wont die during the dismount.

        0
    2. Hm, real life this weekend. Was at a SF Con, and guy at filk open mike sang a song he wrote for his 5+ year live in partner. The song was a proposal. She jumped up, knocked him and guitar out of chair and sang yes. We all laughed, and he said, you gotta know she’s been listening to me mess with this song for months. She was not surprised, and I knew her answer. We were having fun.

      0
  4. Lonely Montage: Notting Hill, where “Ain’t No Sunshine” is played in the background while Hugh Grant’s character is walking through the market as the seasons are changing. However, I don’t think that’s a trope as much as creative cinematography to show the passage of 6 months.

    0
      1. I loved that scene, and loved the scene in When Harry Met Sally. Isn’t the lonely montage the most effective way to communicate that the character is lonely? If he/she is sitting on the couch with a buddy crying into his/her beer, then that’s about being sad, not lonely, because the buddy is right there. The lonely montage is just so much more poignant. That said, the ice cream on the nose happy couple montage – right there with you.

        0
    1. I just watched The Backup Plan and they did a lonely montage. However, part of that montage was a deleted scene.

      0
  5. I agree with you on most points but in some cases, I can see where they got it from. Heroine in the media: yes, because it’s a job where she is allowed to go to a lot of places at a lot of times, meeting a lot of strange people which would not be so easy to stage if she was working, say, as a secretary or a teacher at a high school. It just makes it easier to put her where she’s needed in the plot. Also, it’s a surrounding which has a special kind of image such as going to a lot of parties and there’s always the one big deal that makes or breaks a career. Very tempting for novel and screenplay writers.

    Then, the magic: I guess they picked the wrong examples. It’s rather the “Freaky Friday” movie or the one where Jennifer Garner is thirty all of a sudden that use magic because there’s no other way to explain the basic problem. I’m not sure if you’d count them as RomComs though.

    And finally, please forgive me, the dogs: you’re a dog lover, so you cannot find fault with putting a dog in a story. I am not, so from time to time I get a little fed up with the “add a dog for cuteness”-factor if it doesn’t have any other function within the story. The reconciled family smiling at their dog in the final shot is a cliche since Lassie entered the world of TV. Again, not necessarily RomCom.

    On the other hand, I’m with you on the list thing. A list is definitely number one of “Twenty Things Which Must Be in a Magazine”.

    0
    1. The media thing – I think its just a way of slightly sidestepping the issue of writers that write about characters who are basically writers or have their lifestyle. Its just easier for them to write what they know. See also, bands writing songs about staying in hotels and going on tour. And films about filmmaking (urgh, The Player). It gets a good reaction from their peers because they also identify with that lifestyle, so the reviews are often overly positive.

      0
      1. Yep. I read an awful lot of stories about grad students when I was doing my MFA.
        So just for the hell of it, I went back and looked at the 36 movies we did for Pop D. There were five students, mostly because of high school romcoms. There were four heiresses, mostly from the earliest era. There were three media people unless Sally from Harry Met Sally was in the media (I can’t remember) and then it was four. There were three teachers. Every other profession had one hit: commissar, con woman, mistress, librarian, decorator, elevator girl, wife, secretary, manicurist, actress, baker, astronomer, accountant, scientist, subway worker, radio host, travel agent, CFO, movie trailer editor, and princess.
        So if “media” is a cliche, then so is “teacher” and “heiress.” I’m not buying it.

        0
      2. I think they specifically pointed out the media since they work in the media they see where the mistakes are and probably have a hard time enjoying the movie. I coordinate disaster response while my position is not one I’ve seen portrayed I seen where edges of it are touch. There are many times I have to remind myself this is entertainment.

        0
    2. I think you have to look at the premise of the movie. Freaky Friday, Big, 18 Again, 13 Going on 30 are all doing-it-over fantasies, the best of which, of course, is Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s more of a subgenre than it is a cliche and it’s definitely not a romcom cliche.

      Okay, we’ll agree to disagree but the cute dog is not a romcom cliche. They sort of gathered up everything they didn’t like about movies (cute dogs! bleah!) and said, “And it’s a romcom cliche.” I’m trying to think if any of the romcoms we watched had cute dogs. The Holiday had a totally egregious one, but after that, I can’t remember any. As opposed to the RomCom Run which is endemic.

      0
  6. So, if we’re not allowed a Funny Friend or a Bad Influence Buddy or Girl Bonding, whats left? I’m not sure why there would be a problem generally about showing a woman with friends, but thats the only conclusion I can draw from the original list.

    PDA Climax aka the PDAC – oooooh, thats so The Proposal. I enjoyed the start of the film so much, but by the time they were dragged back hundreds of miles for an awful declaration of love in front of co-workers, well a lot of other things had annoyed me by then but that was the icing on the cake.

    0
    1. By the way, one of the most overworked cliches is that of “saying no at the last minute” or “causing havoc at the wedding”. But maybe they would still like to see it another thousand times.

      0
      1. I know of three: Philadelphia Story, While You Were Sleeping, and The Proposal. No, four: How To Marry A Millionaire. Uh, The Wedding Planner (can’t really remember)? No wait, five: It Happened One Night. Hmmm.

        I really do feel you need more than four instances to make a cliche which was one of my major objections to the EW list. Unless you can show me a dozen movies with that trope–I bet I can do that with the RomCom Run, the Big Misunderstandng, and the PDA–it’s not a cliche.

        0
    2. Yep. They complete blew the ending of that movie, beginning with the wedding. Awful.

      And now that you sum it up like that, it does seems as if EW’s approach to romcom is No Friends with Personality.

      0
  7. At the end of ITV’s 2007 remake of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, they had Anne Elliot full out running all across Bath to find Captain Wentworth. I wanted to slap the filmmakers upside the head. You don’t taint the awesomeness of Austen like that.

    0
    1. Just to amend, I realize Persuasion isn’t a romcom, but the incorporation of the romcom running scene into it was what I wanted to point out.

      0
      1. And thank you, now I will not be seeing that version of Persuasion. Also I think EW should be required to familiarize themselves with source material (Taming of the Shrew, Cyrano de Bergerac) before they declare something a cliche, unless remaking a classic is a cliche. Cyrano was no schlub.

        0
        1. Aww, you should really check it out. I, personally, thought it was well done, with a few minor, weird moments. it’s not a perfect replica of the book but still enjoyable.

          0
    2. I love love love that Persuasion despite silly chase scene. Sally Hawkins was amazing and that Capt Wentworth was the stuff of fantasies. MY fantasies at least.

      0
    3. Yes, I definitely wanted to slap someone–running all over Bath–and without a coat, bonnet or even a shawl–and then kissing him in public too!

      0
  8. 11. Schlubby Guy, Pretty Girl

    I’m with them on this one. Not because I think both have to be pretty. But because it’s always a schlubby guy and a pretty girl. We never get a schlubby girl unless somewhere along the way she gets to be transformed with a new hairdo, contact lenses, and awesome dress.

    0
    1. I agree with most of above, but I actually have to cut the EW list some slack on the Pretty Girl, Schlubby Guy one.

      Only because their caption for this section ends with “When was the last time a schlubby girl got a hot guy?” Which, to me, says that THEY agree with us; it’s not they both have to be beautiful, but it’s a crummy cliche to say it always has to be the woman who is the beautiful one.

      I don’t understand why they don’t want their heroines to have friends. How sad. 🙁

      0
    2. The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Which is ridiculous because Garafalo was lovely in that.
      But yeah, if she’s a schlubby girl, she gets The Makeover. In fact, that’s probably the point of The Makeover, to bring the schlub up to romcom heroine status. Good point.
      Although I’ll admit to loving Sandra Bullock’s makeover in Miss Congeniality just because she didn’t want it and was so hostile about the whole thing.

      0
      1. I love her in that scene because I would totally react the way she did to a bikini wax. But really, Michael Caine makes that scene and that whole movie.

        0
          1. Especially since the real hero had access to Bullock everyday and didn’t appreciate her until after the makeover.

            0
    3. I just watched Just Wright last night and it’s an Athlete/fat girl movie. Schlubby isn’t really the word, because the girl is Queen Latifah, but since she’s being compared to the NBA girlfriends it makes sense.

      Not funny but super romantic.

      0
      1. Yes to Queen Latifah. Just mention her name and I can see her singing “you be good to Mamma. Mamma’s good to you”

        0
      2. I rather liked that movie. It helps that I love Queen Latifah. But it was fun because she was practically how my roommate and I are about baseball.

        I also like her in Last Holiday, which isn’t a RomCom but the romantic subplot has him liking her without any of the makeover stuff.

        0
        1. Not only was Chicago good because Queen Latifah was wonderful but I believe that Richard Gere singing and doing a soft shoe is burned onto my retinas – hard to believe it.

          0
        2. Yeah, i really liked the movie too. And it was so obvious why he liked her – she really liked him, she listened to him, she HELPED him (also, she’s gorgeous.)

          It was a little less obvious why she liked him, in the end – as a person, instead of a ballplayer. Though I feel that way about Common too so I can sympathize. Charming misogynist that he is.

          0
  9. I miss the dog. I really miss the dog, the dog that looks like my dog. The dog that looks as though he or she is posing for a “wanted” for crimes against humanity poster. As my dog Shredder has been on occasion.

    Intellectually, I understand why the new avatar, particularly for this post. But I miss the cute little white dog.

    Here, doggie, doggie! Come back, please. Bacon doggie biscuits!

    0
    1. Oh, that’s Mona. I’ll do a dog post one of these days.
      Mona’s newest thing is chewing the soft plastic handles off my scissors. Every time I catch her, the blades are open and murderously close to her eyes but so far she’s eaten five pairs of scissors and still has two eyes.

      0
      1. Yes please! Another dog post, soon! We need more pictures of the pack!
        Maybe you should switch to scissors with metal handles: it’s presumably the type of plastic she is going for, rather than the fact that they are scissors. Does she chew spectacle frames, too?

        0
        1. Everybody chews spectacle frames.
          In late breaking news, Lyle sprained his wrist again (or I did) and when I took him in to get him checked out, the vet did his blood work, too, and came back to say that he has kidney disease. Actually what he said was that with Lyle’s numbers he didn’t know why he wasn’t dead. Since Lyle’s only symptom is acute skinniness and not death, I now have meds, special food, and a bag of water with a needle attached that I’m going to have to stick into him every day.
          I’m having a bad day. On the other hand, Lyle had his traditional after-the-vet hamburger (probably his last one ever) and is now snoozing under the electric blanket surrounded by his pack and delighted to be home. Me, too.

          0
          1. I’m so sorry about Lyle. One of our kitties went down to kidney disease. She too needed the sub-Q infusions. The thing about those was that they upset myself and the husband way, way more than they bothered Autumn. And really, they made her feel much better. Psych yourself to believe that this is the very best you can do for Lyle (it is), and your calm and loving attitude will make things go really easily. It’s right that we outlive our pets and do our best for them at the end of their lives, but it’s never easy. My sympathy.

            0
          2. Oh no!!! Poor little Lyle! Let’s hope the vet just didn’t read the numbers right, because someone had chewed up his glasses.
            Are you going to be able to feed Lyle a special diet without the others eating it or Lyle eating the food belonging to the others? I know that with cats, they always prefer to eat each others’ food, because they believe that the other cats are getting something more exciting, even though it all came out of the same tin/sack/whatever, which makes special diets very difficult. But I have never had to feed dogs more than one at a time, so I don’t know if they do the same kind of musical chairs/bowls thing.
            I’d hate to have to do injections, though on the whole, animals don’t seem to be as bothered by them as we are.
            Anyway, the very, very best to Lyle and to you, trusting that he will triumph over this diagnosis. And as Skye said, have a glass of wine.

            0
          3. Yep, and the vet was kind enough to say that the special diet didn’t taste very good. Fabulous.
            Lani’s signed on to help so that’s two of us. And we’ve tried feeding in bowls before so we’ll just go back to that. Argh.
            But thank you all very much for your “poor babys” for Lyle.

            0
          4. My cat is diabetic and has to have twice daily insulin injections. He’s not fazed by them at all. Cats and dogs are resilient creatures. I’m sure Lyle will be just fine. Hang in there!

            0
          5. One of my (five) cats has kidney disease. They caught it when she went from 7 lbs to 5 1/2 lbs. Her numbers were pretty bad at the time. I’ve been doing special food and subq fluids (no meds for cats) for a year and a half and she is doing a lot better. Gained all the weight back and feels so good that she now fights me whenever I try to give her the fluids 🙂 It can be a lot easier with two people! But there is no question that giving her the fluids has bought her a lot of time. Well worth doing.

            so Poor Baby to you and Lyle, and I hope he improves rapidly.

            0
          6. Oh, poor Lyle and poor you!

            He will probably love the hydration injections. The people I know who’ve done that for cats, it perks the cats right up like magic. Temporary magic, but magic.

            0
          7. So Lyle has Chronic Renal Failure? This is very manageable. check around the intertubes, with my case I found a raw diet and daily sub q was a pain but made the condition entirely manageable for 6 years. Sorry for the nesting I hope the board doesn’t crash

            0
  10. Oh, no (wails). Get rid of your scissors immediately! I can’t go around in life thinking of open scissor blades and cute little white Mona dog eyes. What do you need scissors for anyway?

    0
  11. Exactly! Oh, I hope EW stumbles across this post– they deserve to know how wrongo they are-o for being so sloppy.

    0
  12. I am waiting for the list of cliches for other genres. Between sci-fi and action movies, the list of cliches far exceeds 24!

    0
  13. I’d definitely disagree with two you crossed out. Schlubby guy, hot girl (which as Zeborah pointed out wouldn’t be so annoying if they ever gender reversed it or had two schlubby people) and Clumsy Heroines. That may be more in the YA romcom genre, but pick a movie with a Disney star and guaranteed, she trips. Then there’s the heroines who don’t so much trip as accidentally destroy something (set it on fire, break it, etc.) Heck, half the time its in the trailer for the movie. However, this has just as much play in the horror genre, so I’d much prefer this cliche disappear from all movies.

    Except for #24 Heroine Works In Media and #22 Introducing Magic into the Plot (like you said, all these movies are about magic), I’d say they could make a case for most of these, though I’d argue some of them aren’t cliches, or bad cliches. (Its a crime for heroines to have friends?) What they should have done is visited TV Tropes and get more than three examples.

    0
    1. Then there’s the heroines who don’t so much trip as accidentally destroy something (set it on fire, break it, etc.)

      Before you get rid of that in all movies – watch the very old movie The Party with Peter Sellers. You will see that sometimes it just works.

      0
  14. In Someone Like You, Ashley Judd ate all the time, but she still had about zero percent body fat plus getting to do a good rant on “this is unattractive to you? Women who EAT?”

    0
  15. Rom Coms are just those things–oh, like everything else–that what works for some doesn’t work for everybody. I love the quirky, funny friend; and I love the climax PDA scenes. I don’t really believe the scenes where the hero turns down sex with a woman where it was too “easy”–but as you explained, you have more faith in men. (You’ll remember Harry didn’t turn down Sally when she was crying and vulnerable.) I think the only thing that sort of scene does–the guy turning down the sex–is that it just makes him more heroic than a typical male. WHMS is a great film, but I don’t think any of us are rushing out to date Billy Crystal. He’s definitely just a guy-guy.

    And I don’t think I can believe in the gorgeous hero/ine with the schlubby hero/ine. Esp if it’s the gorgeous hero with the schlubby heroine–that would NEVER happen in real life. Now I’m not saying I don’t gravitate to books where the hero falls in love with a generously curved woman (NOT that schlubby equals volumptuous, but in modern society, it seems that way)–I do like that sort of story, but do I believe it could really happen? Not really.

    Those aside, it does seem this list likes to repeat itself or mention ridiculous cliches (like the girlfriend bonding–really?)–I notice they don’t go after their man-centric “hero movie” that list every sci-fi/fantasy cliche there is.

    0
    1. Really? You don’t think guys fall in love with less attractive girls? (Or vice versa?)

      That makes me really sad.

      0
      1. There are studies about people and their personal scales of attractiveness. It turned out that they tend to look for partners who are on the same level as they see themselves (now of course, this is very subjective). It makes them feel balanced.

        So if there’s a guy who does not consider himself terribly good-looking (while folks around him do), he might intuitively look around for a girl who fits in with what he thinks will match his level. Works the other way around, too. Whether they will find what they are looking for is a different story.

        0
    2. “(NOT that schlubby equals volumptuous, but in modern society, it seems that way)”

      I had to look up ‘schlub/schlubby’ anyway, because although we do have Yiddish loan-words in British English, they are usually different from the Yiddish loan-words in American English. And the basic meaning evidently has nothing whatever to do with embonpoint: apparently it just means ‘oafish, boorish, crude’. Maybe the meaning is mutating.

      0
      1. I take it as generally meaning someone who isn’t pretty and who doesn’t make themselves pretty/handsome. And they probably don’t run around in trim, fashionable clothing, either. Definitely not pretty or handsome.

        0
        1. Yes, I can see that that is how the word is actually being used here. Languages evolve all the time, of course, but it looks as though the usage referring to personal appearance, rather than character, is fairly recent. Well, the term itself is only mid-20th century in AE. The etymology seems to be from Yiddish and Polish.
          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schlub

          Don’t mind me — I am just interested in language, and especially in the distinctions between different dialects of English.
          🙂

          0
          1. No, do share. I, too, am a language lover. Words, dialects, tracing word roots, languages: I love it all. When I become rich, I am going to learn every language I can fit in my head and study linguistics. 🙂

            0
      2. Maybe onomatopoeia? Shlubby/tubby? Because the “oafish, boorish, crude” definition doesn’t fit the way I’ve always used it. I realize that means I’m wrong.

        0
        1. Of course it doesn’t mean you are wrong! It means that the original meaning, of ‘a crude, boorish fellow’, has developed into ‘an unattractive fellow’, and that that developed into ‘a fat unattractive fellow’. That’s how language works, after all. ‘Tubby’ may well have been involved. But it was all new to me, because I didn’t know the word at all!
          🙂

          0
    3. You haven’t lived long enough if you believe that gorgeous guys don’t really fall for schlubby women. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. I recall going to a party with my husband and spotting a guy across the room who would have given Richard Gere a run for the money: dark, well built, classical profile. Turns out he was married to the woman next to him: schlubby, no make up, no dress sense but cute dimples. She was one of those bubbly women with lots to say and one of the best brains on the west coast. It is now 30 years later and they are still together, he still looks amazing (I don’t think he is in her class for brains but then few are), she still is still nothing to speak of for looks but still is witty and fun. And I know of at least one other couple like that but that one hardly counts because he is as thick as a plank and looks can’t make up for stupid.

      0
  16. “They don’t like scenes where girls bond by laughing and singing together. They’d hate my life. What are we supposed to do, watch the game instead?”

    Yet another zinger. Most of my friends and I don’t sing but then we got it out in highschool where we kinda made up a medley of different songs we liked and could sing (and rap) so, boo to EW, because over 10 years of life later, we’re still good friends.

    0
  17. Just a small thing about the RomComRun (which makes me gag even more than the PDA end) — I’ve been watching the PopCorn Dialogues, (and taking notes) and the RomComRun didn’t turn up before When Harry Met Sally, and then it seemed to be required in every RomCom since. Maybe the pre-WHMS RCRun movies weren’t on the PopCorn list, but I think it’s a sign of the power of WHMS that it is a cliche since then.

    0
    1. Huh. I wonder if WHMS was the first. I don’t think it could have been, but I have to agree that it’s of recent vintage. I don’t recall Cary Grant ever doing a RomCom Run. Of course, he was Cary Grant.

      0
      1. The “running through a field of flowers” version TV Tropes calls the Meadow Run and it looks like the earliest version they list was Gone With the Wind.

        0
    1. I did on occasion when I was younger. No one around these days to play to as an audience, so I don’t bother with the pretend microphone.

      Then there was my nephew at 2 who entertained his parents and friends with a rendition of Elvis, using the garden hose end as his microphone!

      0
    2. I know of a few occurrences when I did… although a few of those have also included alcohol. But sometimes, you just gotta belt and you gotta have a microphone.

      0
      1. Or just dance and sing and pretend to have one of the head mic-things. Me, no I’ve never done that, why do you ask?

        0
  18. I hate the RomCom Run as much as the next person (and complain about it bitterly to friends and family), but I gotta say, they didn’t pick the best examples to illustrate that one. I actually thought it was kind of cute in Love Actually because it was kids, and while Fever Pitch managed to combine the Run and the PDAC, seeing Drew Barrymore hide behind Johnny Damon to dodge those security guards made it worth it for me. And then there’s Harry Met Sally, in which I bought it.

    0
    1. Yeah, the one with the kid in Love Actually was a good one. And Albert’s run in Hitch was hysterical.
      Worst one ever was Cameron Diaz in The Holiday.
      That would be a great clip montage: The RomCom Run.

      0
    2. The running scene in Love Actually is a take off of the final scene in The Graduate. I think it’s possible to say that the running scene is not only endemic to romcoms but to romantic movies in general. However, I’m saying that without having done the research to back it up so I admit I’m being as lazy and stereotypical as EW on this one.

      0
      1. But the whole point to that story line in Love Actually was you don’t get the girl until the end – when it looks like she’s going to be gone forever. Love Actually has to be my all time favorite movie.

        0
  19. Great analysis, although I think clumsy heroines are pretty common — or maybe it’s just Sandra Bullock doing the same (fabulous, but samey) schtick over and over (in While You Were Sleeping, Miss Congeniality, The Proposal, and All About Steve, for starters).

    0
  20. I’m with everyone who doesn’t buy the schlubby guy/hot girl mating. Puhleese. What does she see in him? Those aren’t RomComs, they’re male fantasies.

    I have to add my own Rom Com cliche that I hate:
    Girl is unattached when she meets Mr. Right, and has been unattached for months, even years. (The variation being she’s with some real creep that no one, not her best friends or the audience understands what she sees in him, like in Working Girl); meanwhile….
    Guy is unattached at start of movie because his girlfriend walked out on him THIS MORNING. The assumption is, no guy worthy of Rom Com Hero status can be without a woman in his life for more than 2 hours. (See Stakeout and Desperately Seeking Susan.)

    0
  21. The left off one of the cliches that drives me round the bend – the big kiss at the end where the camera is just circling around and around and around and…now I’m motion sick. Ugh. It’s usually paired with the RomCom Run, but I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere else without the run.

    0
  22. Back to the singing – I can’t seem to let it go – was at a picnic today with girls and guys, 8 people in total (not my usual group) and it was interspersed with a bit of singing that may have facilitated bonding.

    I think that some cliches serve well in good RomComs like the RomcomRun from Love Actually. But in bad RomComs they are tedious. I just watched Good Luck Chuck yesterday (and didn’t have time to post about it.) It stars Dane Cook and Jessica Alba.

    Discussion maybe SPOILERS… If you care…
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    It starts off with a Hex on him – the magic. She is very clumsy. He has a bad influence buddy, who also fulfils the role of schlub looking for a girl. There is a RomCom run which is only different – it involves TWO planes. Then the PDA climax.
    *
    *
    *
    *
    It’s quite funny, but somehow, the film doesn’t work. Hero is nice enough but loses likability through the film.

    0
  23. They think women bonding by laughing together is cliche? The rest of them probably only exist in movies, but that one is REAL LIFE.

    But I will give them the guy getting advice from loser friends scenario, except I don’t think that one is limited to romcom. It’s a cliche in most comedies the last few years.

    0
  24. One cliche in recent romcoms that I’d like to do away with is the idea that the guy gets to remain schlubby, doofy, oafish, however we’re defining it. BUT the nerdy, klutzy, scatterbrained heroine is supposed to be be transformed into vavoom. I think to be fair, that some of those doofy men should have to clean up and learn how to dress.

    0
  25. This … IS…Great!! And I’ve been watching the RomCom list of movies, either with Popcorn Dialogues or separately, if a schedule conflict. :-))))

    [I wanted to confirm what will be next after the list of RomCon movies ends, mid-Feb. The thrillers? ]

    0
    1. Hitmen in Love. At least three of those are awful, but the podcasts for the awful ones appear to be more entertaining than the good ones. Tonight is Enchanted and we both love it, so that’ll be interesting.

      0
  26. beautiful girl/schlubby guy happens All The Time. Case in point.

    Woman, walking in park. She’s freaking statuesque. It’s like Iman is walking before me and I am in awe of her grace and how millions of years of genetics just bloomed in her. I admit to a thread of jealousy. :p

    Coming up behind her is this oafish, schlupy white dude. And I’m thinking, “You have *got* to be kidding me.” Of all the beautiful men in the world-and she could ahve had them all-she picks the half bald, paunched, ill put together dude? He catches up to her, and just like a movie, she smiles, reaches out her hand and he takes it. They go walking off and I’m *staring*. I’m sure they thought I was staring because they were an interracial couple in a place where it was highly unlikely to see such, but no, that’s was not the scource of my disbelief.

    I bet if I asked her why she picked him, she’d say he made her laugh. 😀

    0
    1. OR, possibly, she was attracted to that special sound he makes when he walks. It goes like this, “Cha-ching, cha-ching…” Jaded, sure you can call me that, but let’s face it, no one has mentioned one of the biggest pheromomes; the lovely smell of ca$h.

      0
  27. I love romcom and it gets tiresome having to defend it all the time. I’m so glad you’re on the job giving the attackers hell, Ms Crusie.
    I think that for every cliche there are instances where they are done in a way that works.
    I don’t know who I’m paraphrasing here – but nothing under the sun is new.
    I always say – if I wanted reality, I’d read nonfiction or watch a documentary.

    0
  28. Jenny, I think you should pitch a counter-article to EW. (Eloisa James just wrote a piece for TV Guide discussing Dr. House’s potential (or not) to be a hero in a romance novel.)

    I went to see Just Go With It over the weekend. I’m sort of surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I wasn’t alone. Lots of laughter throughout the theater. The commercials give the basic premise – but just in case . . .
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    SPOILER ALERT
    *
    *
    *

    Adam Sandler’s character picks up women by pretending to be trapped in a bad, loveless marriage. (He isn’t married.) He then meets a woman he thinks might be The One and needs his office assistant (Jennifer Anniston) to pretend to be his soon-to-be-ex wife. Despite the fact that picking up women by creating a complete lie about your marital status isn’t a quality I’d associate with a romantic hero and then he elaborates on the lie with this whole contrived/concocted scheme, I was hooked by the chemistry of the leads. I think Sandler and Anniston were terrific together, enough so that their character portrayals made me overlook the surface schlock.

    I want to put in a bid that this movie gets picked for a Popcorn Dialogue down the road when it’s out on DVD. I want to hear you and Lani dissect it and see how you feel about the movie.

    0
    1. I’m an Aniston fan and I’ve seen Sandler in things I’ve really liked, so I’m up for it. Plus it’s a remake of Cactus Flower so we have to do it.

      0
    2. I’d be interested too. I can’t decide if I want to see it, because despite whatever flaws it has I still like Cactus Flower, and I’m afraid Adam Sandler would ruin this remake for me.

      0
    3. I also saw Just Go With It this weekend, and I would agree with you. It was well done. It was sweet, and the comedy related to stories or circumstances that were set up earlier in the film.

      0
      1. Awesome! I wanted to see this last weekend, but was hesitant after a movie critic slammed it. (Why do movie critics seem to hate all movies but literary book equivalent movies? You know the ones without real commercial appeal. I admit I too get tired of the 15-24 male market movies too, but not all commercial movies are godawful.)

        0
  29. Hi, Jenny! I had a Crusie Craving this weekend and went for two all-time favorites, ‘Manhunting’ and ‘Bet Me.’ If the food thing, girl-bonding, and hate (or at least I’m-not-sure-I-like)-turns-to-love are all romcom cliches, then you are a serial violator. On the other hand, those elements are crucial to the stories, characters, and the joy of the reading experience. It’s a shame the EW writers went for shallow straw-man targets to slam romcoms with, rather than writing a more intelligent article that might ask what is so appealing about romcoms to a discriminating (predominantly) female audience.
    Also, I digs me a montage done right. Did you ever see the one in ‘Notting Hill,’ where Hugh Grant walks through several lonely seasons to “Ain’t No Sunshine”? It gave me chills.

    0
    1. I like Notting Hill. I know I’m in the minority and it does have a RomCom Run and PDAC at the end, but I thought it was mostly charming. And it’s so nice that he takes his entire community on the run.

      0
    2. Now I have to watch Notting Hill again. I really enjoyed it the first time around, which surprised me. (I always have to be dragged by the heels to watch RomComs, and yet the ones my friend Hobbes drags me to I always like.)

      0
      1. I like this movie, too. Cliches don’t have to be bad if they’re done right. Or maybe they become cliche because they worked well once.

        0
  30. Oops – I missed Michele’s earlier shout-out to Notting Hill. Perhaps that might make an interesting case study for PopD – a RomCom with a celebrity issue figuring in the plot, like Notting Hill, or America’s Sweethearts (to name a few Julia Roberts examples). The celeb-falls-for-everygirl plot does pop up regularly in series romance, and it might be interesting to see how the subject fares on celluloid.

    0
    1. You’re right, that is a series staple.
      I don’t think America’s Sweethearts is a romcom. I think it’s hysterical but the romantic subplot just screws up a very funny movie about promoting movies.

      0
  31. On the subject of one particular director who does seem fond of setting up schluby guys with gorgeous girls…

    http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1909368

    I’ll agree that it does not need to be a problem and that any two levels of attractiveness are awesome but I would like to see more than just Cats and Dogs on the schlubby female attractive male side of things.

    0
  32. >>But here’s the thing: every one of these can be wonderful if done well…

    Yup, that’s so true. A lit prof of mine many, many moons ago said something along the line of: the storyline / plot in a work great literature is usually trivial, if not somewhat banal, (i.e., not convoluted / complex / Tom Clancy / John Grisham / etc., type twists and turns) — it’s how the story is told. And that is also in romcom… And that’s the reason we also read our favorite books and see our favorite movies over and over and over again. We love the way the story is told.

    BTW, I see this as the modern equivalent of sitting around the campfire with the elders reciting the tales of the tribe — our version of “oral history”, we never get enough. Heros prevail and get the princess… It’s in our genes.

    0
    1. That’s really interesting, the thing about the trivial story in great lit. Whether the emphasis is on the plot or the writing. Must cogitate on that one. Thank you!

      0
  33. Rambled off on last comment and forgot I wanted to add this.

    For all those who snigger over RomCom remember: Jane Austen wrote (the then version of) RomCom, and two hundred years later, we’re still reading it. And they’re mostly “cliches”…

    How many of the (widely popular Northanger Abbey-type) mystery books of her day are we still reading, eh?

    No need to apologize. Just sayin’.

    (PS also had a Crusie Craving this weekend, fther-in-law passed away, needed “comfort food” for the soul. Halfway through the bazillionth reading of “Faking It”. Crusie books = comfort without the calories. What more can you ask????)

    0
  34. But at the time Jane Austen wrote she was not seen as her peers as writing Romantic novels she was seen as writing serious novels. Look at her characters compared to others of her time. She writes about the younger sister who runs off with the military man and her family does not disown her and other events that were sensitive topics at the time. This was an age when men would have serious second thoughts about proposing to a woman who had a major scandal in the family because maybe any children he had with her could turn out like that. Because our social mores are so much looser we don’t recognize how serious her topics were in terms of being socially acceptable for her time.

    0
    1. Yup, Jessie, point well taken that they took into account serious topics — but, c’mon, the humor and sly, ironic humor is buried in there in most, if not all, books.They were very much social commentaries. Jane was poking fun at much, if not most of what she observed. Let”s also not forget that the humor 200 yrs was also much subtler than ours. Maybe it’s exactly the other way around: we take them more seriously now, because of the language in which they were written and because she’s a “great author”. We don’t dare “laugh”, it would be sacriligeous…

      Remember, Shakespeare was crude, populistic, completely packed with humor (world’s best double entendres ever) — yet now we put him up on a pedestal. His stories were pure entertainment. He”d probably find that totally hilarious…. He too wrote rom com — and a lot of it “formula”..

      Plus, Northanger Abbey itself had to have been considered funny even then, the characters are, in their way, too “cartoon-like” not to be.

      Humor and romcom have been out there FOREVER… Just sayin’ ;>

      0
  35. The lonely montage—the only one that I could think of when I read that was the one from Notting Hill. It’s one of my favorite parts of that movie and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. Even with some of its problems, I’ve always liked that movie. One of the lines that always cracked me up was “Mel does his own ass work“ which has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years.

    Schlubby Guy/Pretty Girl I don’t think of as a RomCom cliche so much as a Hollywood cliche. It goes hand-in-hand with the nearly constant Old Fart/Pretty Young Girl thing that directors seem to need to feed their ego and/or insecurities.

    And public proposals. Always hated them, in movies and in real life. I figure if a guy needs the Big Gesture to say “Look how romantic I’m being!” he’s going to be one of those types that takes out the garbage once a week and wants to be congratulated on how he helps with the housework.

    0
  36. I think Jenny nailed it with this comment: *Jesus, people, what did you do, get drunk and say, “I got an idea for a column, let’s make up stuff about romantic comedy”?* Yep, Grinch week at EW.

    I think a case could be made for “it’s been done.” However . . . if it can be done again, and better, why not?

    Another interesting exercise would be to turn these so-called tropes inside out. Several people have mentioned Schlubby Girl with Handsome Guy. I suppose the “working girl needs balance” is actual an inside-out of “small town girl goes to big city and beats them all.”

    To tell the truth, most of these things just seem to be annoyances that crossed the writer’s radar. Most of them have nothing to do with rom-com per se. Not a great article, but it is part of a trend where writers think anything to do with romance is an easy target.

    0
  37. I have to say, I can live with just about any of the above listed cliches so long as they are *done well*, however when they appear together in multiples that is when I have to just either stop watching or start drinking.

    On another note, I started reading this post and the comments during a moment of insomnia, then ended up falling back asleep for a while (just coincidentally, I swear) and had a great dream about how I was in your home attending some sort of workshop on the whole topic. Very vivid and oh so disappointing to wake up!

    0

Comments are closed.