A history of romantic comedies : NPR


It’s Valentine’s Day. I do know you have got most likely heard that approach too many occasions at this time. There are, in fact, all of the little rituals round this vacation – proper? – just like the playing cards, the goodies, the overpriced flowers, the best way overpriced dinner for 2. After which there are some individuals who select to spend the vacation, as I’ve actually completed right here and there, curled up on a sofa watching a romantic comedy. Love them or hate them, rom-coms suck so many people in, proper? Like, there’s the snappy dialogue, as in “When Harry Met Sally…”


BILLY CRYSTAL: (As Harry Burns) Women and men cannot be buddies as a result of the intercourse half all the time will get in the best way.

MEG RYAN: (As Sally Albright) That is not true. I’ve various males buddies, and there’s no intercourse concerned.

CRYSTAL: (As Harry Burns) No, you do not.

RYAN: (As Sally Albright) Sure, I do.

CRYSTAL: (As Harry Burns) No, you do not.

RYAN: (As Sally Albright) Sure, I do.

CRYSTAL: (As Harry Burns) You solely assume you do.

CHANG: …Or the awkward coincidences, like this scene in “One thing’s Gotta Give.”


DIANE KEATON: (As Erica Barry) Sure, I’ve an intruder in my home – 29 Daniels Lane, Sagaponack…

JACK NICHOLSON: (As Harry Sanborn) I am relationship your daughter, Marin. She invited me right here for the weekend. She’s in her room proper now, altering.

KEATON: (As Erica Barry) You are relationship my daughter?

NICHOLSON: (As Harry Sanborn) Now, who would have thought that might be worse information?

CHANG: And, in fact, there may be this sputtering, clumsy occupation of affection, as in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”


COLIN FIRTH: (As Mark Darcy) What I am making an attempt to say, very inarticulately, is – in actual fact, maybe regardless of appearances, I such as you very a lot.

RENEE ZELLWEGER: (As Bridget Jones) Aside from the smoking and the ingesting and the vulgar mom and the verbal diarrhea.

FIRTH: (As Mark Darcy) No, I such as you very a lot – simply as you might be.

CHANG: Simply as you might be – you will have seen that each one of these scenes which might be so recognizable now are from rom-coms which might be at the least a pair a long time previous as a result of someplace alongside the best way, across the early to mid-aughts, studios simply form of stopped making as many rom-coms as they used to. And that’s what we will discuss now with creator Scott Meslow. His new e-book known as “From Hollywood With Love: The Rise And Fall (And Rise Once more) Of The Romantic Comedy.” Welcome.

SCOTT MESLOW: Thanks. Joyful to be right here.

CHANG: The excessive level that you simply write about, this golden period that occurred for rom-coms, was in the course of the Nineteen Nineties and the early 2000s. Are you able to, to begin with, record the best hits for rom-coms throughout that interval after which simply remind us what was happening culturally on the time that perhaps made audiences extra receptive to those sorts of tales?

MESLOW: I imply, the flicks we’re speaking about, it is a fairly unimaginable record – “When Harry Met Sally…”, “Fairly Girl,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony,” “Love Truly,” “How To Lose A Man In 10 Days” – I imply, it is simply – it’s a record of simply hit after hit.

CHANG: Yeah. Yeah.

MESLOW: And by way of why these films hit so properly, I – typically it truly is the only reply. These have been excellent films. They have been films that have been doing what they got down to do in a approach that basically linked with audiences.

CHANG: Then what occurred after that? – since you discuss how these movies began falling out of favor. Audiences began feeling a disconnect with these films. Why do you assume that was?

MESLOW: I believe from the viewers aspect, rom-coms acquired a bit extra contrived. It is form of what occurs throughout the board in Hollywood. There is a factor that may occur to romantic comedies the place they’ll change into a bit untethered from actuality.

CHANG: Sure.

MESLOW: I’ll shout out one of many films that I do not like as a lot, which is “Serendipity,” the place – that is a film that could possibly be over in two minutes if the people who find themselves clearly in love would simply say, OK, we needs to be collectively. Let’s cease taking part in all these bizarre tips the place we will see if destiny brings us again collectively.

CHANG: Proper.


KATE BECKINSALE: (As Sara Thomas) OK, see this e-book?

JOHN CUSACK: (As Jonathan Trager) Yeah.

BECKINSALE: (As Sara Thomas) So once I get dwelling tonight, I’ll write my identify and my quantity inside this e-book. After which very first thing tomorrow morning, I will promote it to a used bookstore.

CUSACK: (As Jonathan Trager) That is simply unsuitable. You do not simply have probably the most unimaginable night time of your life with an ideal stranger after which go away all of it to probability, do you?

MESLOW: To me, that is probably the most irritating form of rom-com, the place it is identical to you are creating your individual impediment. And there is no actual drama within the precise love story as a result of they need to clearly be collectively. I believe these tropes grew to become a bit irritating to audiences.

CHANG: Properly, yeah. And we also needs to discuss the issue of race. Rising up, like, each rom-com heroine I might consider was both white or J.Lo, mainly. Are you able to simply discuss that piece of this? Like, why this style, even for Hollywood, which has been lengthy criticized as being white-centered of their tales – why rom-coms particularly have been so white-centered.

MESLOW: To a level, it is all the time nearly cowardice. The Meg Ryan film did properly, so who’s a Meg Ryan kind? And over and over, there are many nice rom-coms that didn’t simply star white protagonists. They tended to be indies, they usually did not are likely to perpetuate extra films of the identical type as a result of Hollywood, in the end, is a risk-averse enterprise. However it’s to the detriment of the flicks that have been made, and it is to the detriment of the audiences that might have loved them.

CHANG: And but, J.Lo, she’s an instance of an actor who’s not white that did make some headway into the rom-com style. I imply, she’s had various rom-coms beneath her belt at this level. Why do you assume she was capable of make a crack into this style?

MESLOW: I cowl J.Lo quite a bit within the e-book, and he or she’s a very fascinating instance as a result of the straightforward reply is she simply liked romantic comedies and actually wished to make them. And nobody was encouraging her to be making romantic comedies. She simply wished to. “The Marriage ceremony Planner” – the director of that talked about how he did not assume that she can be a rom-com lead. She hadn’t completed one earlier than. After which “Maid In Manhattan” – I imply, that is a film that was turned down by a whole lot of the white actresses that might have come up. Sandra Bullock turned it down. However that is a very attention-grabbing instance as a result of “Maid In Manhattan” is a film that adjustments as a result of the protagonist is a non-white girl. It is – she has a line within the film about how the male lead, Ray Fiennes, would not have seen her if she hadn’t been carrying this fancy coat.


JENNIFER LOPEZ: (As Marisa Ventura) Come on. Half the time, I am some stereotype that they are making enjoyable of. The opposite half of the time, I am simply invisible. You understand what? Perhaps that is the purpose. The primary time you noticed me, I used to be cleansing your toilet ground – solely you did not see me.

MESLOW: That line does land in another way if it’s a non-white character delivering that dialogue.

CHANG: Properly, you argue in your e-book that rom-coms have been making a comeback not too long ago. How are you seeing this new era of rom-coms adapt to a few of the critiques that we’re speaking about? Like, how are you seeing studios tweak the rom-com components to be extra inclusive?

MESLOW: You possibly can at the least see an openness to extra numerous sorts of affection tales, and the people who find themselves making these love tales are usually extra numerous. “Loopy Wealthy Asians” is clearly the large studio rom-com success story of the previous few years. And that’s – that is a film that is actually attention-grabbing as a result of it was actually on the nexus level between the previous and the brand new. They have been – as they have been pitching that film round, they have been concurrently fielding a three-movie supply from Netflix to simply adapt your complete trilogy in a single shot, which is the form of factor Netflix likes to do, after which Warner Brothers promising your conventional form of four-wall, massive, splashy theatrical launch. And that was the choice they needed to make. And the inventive staff behind that film very a lot stated, we wish to see this film in theaters. We would like individuals to come back see a film about Asian protagonists, a rom-com, the world over in film theaters. We do not need them streaming it at dwelling. It’s a larger assertion to have it there.

CHANG: So what’s your suggestion for one of the best rom-com to observe tonight, it doesn’t matter what your romantic circumstances are?


CHANG: Valentine’s Day – what ought to I be curling as much as tonight?

MESLOW: That is an amazing query. I’ll shout out a more moderen indie that I do not assume has acquired as a lot consideration because it deserved, which was “Plus One.”

CHANG: Oh, I really like that. I’ve already seen that.

MESLOW: It is so nice.

CHANG: However sure, go forward and promote it. Promote it.

MESLOW: Oh, no (laughter). It is a – while you’re speaking about form of a jaded rom-com, I believe that is proper within the candy spot of being romantic, however the characters are self-aware sufficient. It is Jack Quaid, so it is Meg Ryan’s son – rom-com royalty – and Maya Erskine, who’s so enjoyable and pleasant. They usually’re mainly a few buddies who agree, we have 1,000,000 weddings and occasions and stuff like this this yr. We’re simply going to go as one another’s plus one so we do not have to fret about discovering a date on a regular basis. And would you imagine that sparks begin flying?

CHANG: Would you imagine it? Scott Meslow’s new e-book known as “From Hollywood With Love: The Rise And Fall (And Rise Once more) Of The Romantic Comedy.” Thanks a lot for speaking with us at this time.

MESLOW: It was my pleasure. Thanks.

CHANG: And Joyful Valentine’s.

MESLOW: You, too.


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