Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, a bit like the Germans approached the Maginot Line. And, every Valentine’s Day, millions of men are dragged to god-awful movies that seem to have no understanding of either romance or comedy. But why do these movies suck so hard? We take a balanced, objective, look.
#1) The Protagonist Is A Self-Involved Troll
We understand that working in Hollywood divorces one from reality in many ways: you start thinking air is supposed to have black particles floating in it, you insist every trip takes twenty minutes no matter how far it is, and you believe all women consider themselves the center of the universe.
Thankfully, not every woman in film is an obnoxious troll, but they seem to be the foundation of romantic comedies. Pretty much every modern romantic comedy features a “successful career woman” who is completely unable to find a boyfriend because every man she meets is a douchebag or she has no time; apparently having an online dating profile and meeting a guy over coffee is for gays or something. Then she either has some ridiculous standard that creates a “wacky” situation you usually see in the Weird News section of websites, like he needs to bench press a Smart car, or eat an entire cow, or she’s just completely incapable of relating to another human being.
It’s not that these people don’t exist, it’s that…well, do you want them to reproduce? We don’t.
#2) They Take Place In Some Netherworld Where Dating Operates By Bizarre Nonsensical Rules
Hollywood has no shortage of chutzpah: consider that they aim these movies at women who will take their boyfriends, then depict dating as something completely foreign and alien to people actually doing that, right there, in the theater.
No form of normal dating can go right. Online dating sites are populated exclusively by nerds and possibly lesbians. Speed dating attracts nothing but lying douchebags. Clubs only allow convicted sex offenders in their doors. Blind dates will inevitably result in your closest friend bringing Hitler to the door and saying “He’s in politics!”
Furthermore, dates don’t just go awkwardly, they must go horribly wrong: the woman has to pratfall at least once and the guy has to say something that can be misinterpreted, even if no sane human being would misinterpret that statement, or would at least stop long enough to ask, “Wait, did you say you love the roast beef, or were you insulting my genitals?”
#3) The Plot Has To Hinge On Something Stupid
There’s dating in real life, which is about meeting people, talking to them, and going out to dinner, and then there’s movie dating, where romance is about adopting your dead sister’s kids, trying to drive your boyfriend away for the purposes of writing a magazine article, or being handcuffed to somebody you can’t stand on The Kink Boat for two weeks.
(The Kink Boat aired for five episodes in 1981. It was the least successful spin-off ever created. See? You learn something untrue every day!)
Here’s our question: if the first rule of writing is “write what you know”…what the hell did these screenwriters do to actually get into these situations?
#4) Compromise Doesn’t Exist
Finally, inevitably, the female protagonist will find the perfect man…and either he’s a total doormat, or she gives up every aspect of her former life to be with him.
Come on, Hollywood, in reality, we all know this doesn’t end well. The friend gives up porn for his girlfriend will be busted with a brief look through his history. The girl who moves to a city across the country for her boyfriend comes slinking back in a year. We all have Facebook, we all know this. We all wish we didn’t know when these drama bombs go off, but you can’t have it all. Hell, even TV shows know this: How I Met Your Mother is way more honest about how relationships work, and it’s a goofy sitcom that expects you to believe Doogie Houser gets laid on a regular basis.
Would it really be too much to ask that, say, the main couple compromises? Like grown adults? That instead of having some contrived “I’m going to some impossibly far-flung place for ten years for my job” twist, the couple instead has to actually grow up?
Oh, right, your audience doesn’t want to grow up. We forgot.