Romantic Comedy Cliches I’m Sick of…

So today I had a great experience at a swim meet in Logan(something I will be posting about once I get all the photos from my friend). It was an intense meet with lots of college-level swimmers but I’m proud to say I came through with my best times so far! Like I said, more to come on that front….

For those that don’t know Logan is about 2 hours away from my apartment, so as you can imagine after such a long drive I came home exhausted.  My muscles ached all over and I had to fight falling asleep (I didn’t want to take a long nap because I knew it would be hard to sleep tonight).

Anyway, as I browsed the channels with my heat pad in toe I started and stopped watching several romantic comedies.  It got me thinking.  How is it that Hollywood can get away with using the same tired cliches over and over again?  Especially when stacked next to each other, it’s truly amazing how similar these movies are. Whatever happened to the romantic comedy writing of the 1950’s where scripts were sharp and surprising? (I think part of the reason is in the old system stars had to do whatever they were asked; thereby, putting more of the budget to the script, music, dance etc.)

As a response to this question I would like to put out a list of romantic comedy cliches I hope to never see again:

1. Characters trip, bump, topple, save each other from a moving dumpster (yes, that’s from an actual movie), and not only do they fall but they always happen to land in prime kissing position.

2. One character is forced to move, travel, or leave and his or her love must make a mad dash to the airport, subway station, bus depot etc.

3. Characters become unlikely dance partners and the sparks fly.

4.  A pair of glasses and some frizzy hair is the only thing keeping boys from flocking to Anne Hathaway and a million other “nerdy” girls.

5. The love birds become involved in a secret bet, challenge, secret identity, contest or investigative article and their success depends on wooing the girl (worked in Taming of the Shrew but get over it!)

6. A long makeover scene involving waxing and hair coloring turns the ugly girl into  an attractive specimen like magic.

7. A proposal/kiss has to be made in a crowded room where everyone applauds at the end.

8. The best friend is either a wisecracking gay man, Judy Greer, or some other sarcastic sidekick (where’s my compadre who exists only to make snarky comments about my life?)

9. The idea that every working woman is somehow cold and too preoccupied with their career to get a man.  I can’t even count the number of movies I’ve seen where Jennifer Anniston, Katherine Hiegel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez are painted as cold jerks too busy for love just because they have a job they are dedicated too (tell me did feminism happen? Sometimes I wonder with romantic comedies!)…Please!

10. A lip synching scene where the girl and her galpals dance around the house fake singing to songs like I will Survive or Aint No Mountain High Enough.

11. We hate each other at first but really we are in love.  Usually by the end of them finding their love you hate both characters too much to care about them getting together.

12. I’ve seen one too many movies in recent years where the beautiful lead is desperate for a baby and goes to a sperm clinic only to meet Mr.  Sunshine right after (literally in the Back Up Plan Jennifer Lopez meets her stud in the taxi on the way home from AI)

13. Characters magically switch places with a mother, brother, dad, best friend, rich friend, nerdy friend etc.  This is true for any other ‘magic’ cliche like the characters are in different time periods but still can exchange letters or a character steps into a painting and falls in love with the girl…so lame!

14. Its OK for a character to commit adultery if the spouse is a jerk and the guy is her ‘true love’…

15. The lead is a single mom waitress, baker, writer, unemployed, maid, and yet lives in a 2 bedroom 7 million dollar apartment in Manhattan.

16. Somehow our wonderful and loveable heroine is dating, engaged, or married to a total jerk who she has no problem dumping when the right guy comes along.

Here’s an idea Hollywood- how about you make a movie about a real girl who is happy with her career, happy with her body and then meets her man.  What’s so wrong with that?

A movie like 500 Days of Summer shows you don’t even have to give the movie a ‘happy’ ending for it to be a charming, wonderful romantic movie.  Let’s be creative and

So, there you have it.  What movie cliches bother you?

29 thoughts on “Romantic Comedy Cliches I’m Sick of…

    1. I take that as a compliment because she’s a good writer. I love her story about the pitch meeting. How sad. You would think in the era of Sundance where movies can be made at such a low cost we would get some variety but no its Yahtzee the movie!

      1. I also like her point about the gallery owner. You could also include advertising exec, reporter, architect, newsroom employee, anything in TV. I would say that covers about 80% of jobs in rom coms.

  1. You know…I’m not sure about cliches in romantic comedies, but my favorites have always been Some Kind of Wonderful and When Harry Met Sally. I think that’s because neither strictly follows formulas.

    1. Those are both very good. They have some of the cliches but just enough surprises, plus great chemistry, that it works. I love the dialogue in both. Most romantic comedies are so lazy in the scripts. You’ve got to create compelling characters that you actually want to fall in love. I think the cliches are more obnoxious when they are leaned upon by the writers, actors, and directors. Like I said most romantic comedies just feel lazy. I have seen better written and acted movies on Lifetime and Hallmark TV then most feature film romantic comedies. (and I don’t have to pay $10 for TV movies!)

  2. From the movies you put up, maybe you are just sick of Hugh Grant. 😉 It seems like for ever since there has been a really good chick flick. I know “You’ve got Mail” and “While you were sleeping” maybe cliche, but I love them.

    1. Maybe. He is the romantic comedy King. Him and Matthew McConaughey. I also love You’ve Got Mail and While You Were Sleeping. Both of those movies have pretty good scripts and likable characters with good chemistry. When you that you don’t notice the cliches as much.
      One good one that came out this year is Midnight in Paris. It is Woody Allen who I normally don’t care for but this one I enjoyed. You should rent it when it comes on dvd.

  3. I thought of one more- the cliche of a love interest has the most important meeting of their career but as he or she is speaking they realize how much they need their forsaken love and rush out of the room usually saying something like ‘I’m sorry but I’ve got to go’. It must be some kind of love that can’t wait until the end of a board meeting.

  4. Hi Rachel 
    Now I read your other post it got me started reading some of your other posts, you’re a talented writer. I’m a big movie fan so I particularly liked this post of yours, totally agree about the cliches. Yeah the rush to the airport to propose always perplexes me, why can’t they just wait till the loved one returns from their trip? And your mention of the love that is so urgent to be expressed that it can’t wait until the end of the board meeting made me laugh, though to be fair anyone who has sat through a board meeting would agree that just about any excuse would be enough to want to leave the meeting early! And yes I agree about the frizzy hair and glasses, putting a pair of glasses on a supermodel does not make said girl suddenly repulsive, and why is it that we the audience still can see the girl is smoking hot but the hero is not aware of it till the “ugly duckling” removes her glasses. Perhaps it’s the hero that needs glasses!

    At the risk of being too saucy its some of the love scene cliches that bother me, such as these: 

    Hubby/lover throws rose petals all over the floor/bed to romance wife. My immediate thought is hmm I wonder who’ll be expected to vacuum that up in the morning!

    Love scene that involves couple in bath or lying on the floor/bed surrounded by 6 million lit candles. Do people really take a person home and say “I wish to ravish you but firstly I need to go light 50 candles.” Secondly don’t they get nervous about the house burning down or at the very least getting a 3rd degree burn in an embarrassing place!

    Another cliche I find very perplexing is the lovers after a long absence reunite at the airport or train station and the girl leaps up and wraps her legs around her beau’s waist whilst they passionately kiss in front of all the other passengers, not only does it look somewhat indecent to do this in public, I really wonder do girls (other than acrobats) actually do this?

    Period drama where innocent young servant is seduced by the Lord of the manor and instantly gets pregnant, then she is dumped, surely there must be at least one of these girls who didn’t get pregnant? But it all ends well because despite coming from humble beginnings and becoming a single mother in a time when this would be utter ruin, she ends up owning a multi millionaire dollar cosmetics empire and gets revenge on the dastardly cad! 

    On the other hand the other period drama cliche that bothers me is that only the innocent girls get pregnant, the experienced women have rampant sex with everyone, yet despite the lack of reliable contraception at that time period, they never get pregnant. 

    Southern Belle cliche – I am yet to see a movie where the southern belle is not a raving nymphomaniac, and usually an alcoholic to boot!

    Mind you the old movies (as much as I love them) had cliches of their own. I once watched an old movie with my mum where a girl briefly went inside a guy’s apartment (just the kitchen) they had a brief chat and seemed quite happy, then she left. The next scene she was drowning herself! Totally perplexed I had to ask my mother to explain, apparently the girl going into a mans apartment late at night was code for them doing the deed, she’s fallen pregnant and therefore has to drown herself due to the shame!

    But to the end the post on a less saucy note I think the number one cliche that bothers me is the one you mentioned, the couple hate each other when they meet. Does anyone know any happy couple who hated each other when they first met? No doubt it has happened somewhere in the history of the world, but according to Hollywood it’s an epidemic! Of course if you want a real cliche the sparring couple are cops!

    1. Thanks for the comment and the compliments. I’m glad you found this entry because it is one of my favorites. I like all of your cliches especially the one about the candles. I always think, are these people millionaires? Buying all those candles would cost hundreds of dollars. Plus, they must all be unscented because the scent would be overwhelming. LOL.
      Old movies can be just as cliched. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve just had the bad one’s filtered out and get the cream of the crop. Romantic comedies had a bad track record the last 10 years but every once in a while a gem comes out like Midnight in Paris, so it can still be done. Even if a movie has cliches it can still be good if the chemistry works and the characters are likable. So many movies I’ve seen I hate the characters. Even though Lizzie and Mr Darcy hated each other you never hated their characters. It is a key element to making the tension work out.
      I really think I’ve seen better romantic comedies on lifetime than most feature films. I don’t even have to leave my home for that!

      1. Thanks for the reply, yeah some movies are so good that you can forget the cliches, I love Harry Met Sally, even though there are a lot of cliches in that – they hate each other when they first meet etc – there is a lot of original stuff in there too.

        1. That’s one of my favorite also. I love Norah Ephron’s writing and both Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are so likable that you want them to be happy and get together.

    1. Not too late. Please share. Green Card is super bad. I got it on netflix a little while ago and its not even fun rom com. Although this year there hasn’t been any even bad rom coms. I’m hungry for romance at the movies!

      1. You said, “Here’s an idea Hollywood- how about you make a movie about a real girl who is happy with her career, happy with her body and then meets her man. What’s so wrong with that?”

        Nothing’s wrong with that, except that if there’s no conflict, there’s no story problem to write a screenplay about. Kind of like Bronte’s back-story in Green Card: She was apparently happy with her career, her vegetarian body, and her relationship with vegetarian Phil, but they didn’t make the movie about that part of her life – it would have been about “two nices” as her friend Lauren said. But when Bronte inexplicably takes the unbelievably stupid decision (for someone with her academic background) to contract a sham marriage with the illegal alien Georges (for a “nice” person, it’s bizarre that she can just up and break immigration law), so that she can get the lease on an exclusive penthouse apartment – BOOM, now we’ve got conflict, a story problem, a screenplay and a movie (flimsy as its premise may be).

        1. Fair enough that’s a valid point but wouldn’t you agree sometimes they go a little over the top? I think a movie like Juno found conflict in a real life, realistic event and had romance and everything else. I liked Friends with kids and that managed a similar balancing act.

        2. Plus, pitch perfect managed to be funny about a singing competition. Best in Show about a dog championship. Office Space about something as boring as an office. I realize those aren’t all romantic comedies but real life has all kinds of potential for humor when the writing is good. The Apartment, Breakfast at Tiffanys, Bringing up Baby are all in the end about fairly ordinary things happening. Its the writing that makes something funny.

  5. You said, “I realize those aren’t all romantic comedies but real life has all kinds of potential for humor when the writing is good.”

    That’s certainly true about comedy in general, ranging from classic screwballs and slapstick through comedy-dramas, all of which frequently have romantic subplots of varying strength, but which depend more on other story problem elements to carry the plot.

    You asked, “wouldn’t you agree sometimes they go a little over the top?”

    A lot of RomCom films go way over the top, in one or more directions, as do a lot of romance novels (which is one of several reasons why I wrote one, but that’s another story). In any romance, the developing love relationship is supposed to be the story problem, supported by subplots, but the Boy-Meets-Girl thing has been done so often, that there’s little original creative potential left in the genre, so we end up with a lot of unimaginative, exaggerated rehash that strains our ability to suspend disbelief. Take “Leap Year,” for example. Coincidentally, I was in Ireland for two weeks in December of 2009, where I saw an ad for it in a newspaper. I went to see it sometime after coming home, and it was so hideous, it smoothed out Green Card’s rough edges, by comparison. (What’s funny now, is that I can always tell who’s seen “Leap Year,” because people who see me wearing the claddagh I bought in Ireland will gasp loudly and say, “You’ve got one of THOSE rings!”)

    1. Ha! Leap Year is pretty bad. The meet cute rom com has been done to death with all the cliches I mention in the post getting so over used.
      One of my favorite writers is Nora Ephron and she managed to use a lot of cliches but the writing was so sharp and the chemistry so good that it works. What are some rom coms that you like?
      You are writer? How cool. I actually have a weakness for drippy romance novels as long as they aren’t too erotica (50 shades of gray and the like).
      I’m a huge rom com fan so partly my post was in good fun, poking at the genre. Every genre has their cliches whether action, horror or romance. I actually miss rom coms. There hasn’t been one in so long!
      The last one I really liked was Silver Linings Playbook. That is good writing, which is funny and still very romantic. (It even touts out the old dancing partner cliches but it totally worked for me).
      One I hated last year was Playing for Keeps. So bad and such a good cast. Sigh…
      Thanks for commenting. Leap Year the scene where they have to kiss at dinner is so strained and pulled. That would never happen in real life. It takes a real star to pull off that kind of material. Carey Grant could. Whoever is in Leap Year cannot.
      Incidentally I’ve got a claddagh ring and I’ve heard the same thing (and also I guess the people on Sister Wives have them which is funny since I live in Utah. Oh well…) We’ve both got one of THOSE rings. Ha

      1. RomComs that I like? I had to think about that. I don’t have any real RomCom “likes,” unless it’s the grandmother of them all, “It Happened One Night,” which defined the genre, back in the 1930s. I guess my taste runs more to films in other genres that also have strong romantic subplots (classics, drama, fantasy, suspense, historical, musicals). Films with more going on than just people having pratfalls.

        Yep, I’m a writer. At my blog you can read how “Irish Firebrands” happened, and sample it. There’s “adult content,” but not like James, nor even as graphic as Jovan. The Amazon review refers to an advance copy of an edition that’s not currently available. Search Amazon for the ISBN13 from my blog, not the title. Since you like drippy romance novels, it may tide you over until a good RomCom finally turns up.

        1. Cool. I’ll check it out. It happened one night is so good. I love rom coms but I like many genres.

        2. Did you think the post was funny at all? It makes me laugh. I thought I had some witty lines. 😉

  6. I was curious about something, so I looked at “Green Card” again. I think what can be off-putting about that one is that it turns some of the classic romance story traits, tropes and tableaux on their heads. In other words, it’s not about the heroine’s redemption of a “bad boy” who ends up doing “the groveling,” as Moriah Jovan calls it. It’s about a petulant, peevish, whingey woman who’s in the wrong, who ends up groveling. (BTW, I think the very best acting in the whole movie is three seconds in the last scene, when Gerard Depardieu’s crows-feet relax, as the electricity passes through the window glass, and you know that HE KNOWS! True method acting, there.)

    1. Yeah I haven’t seen that in years so its interesting. This post was a bit tongue and cheek. My attempt at being funny while paying homage to the rom com which I love. There haven’t been any good one’s for a long time and I miss them. Cliches and all.

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