Romance, American Style

Writing scripts for Hollywood is easy. I could do it with my eyes closed. Here, for example, is the predictable plot pattern for just about every romantic comedy I have ever seen (exception – My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is my favorite romantic comedy for that very reason):

1. A Question is posed (usually by Her) – can anyone ever find the perfect match? True love?

2. He meets Her. She is Free and Independent, and doesn’t like him, but He is taken with Her.

3. In the course of trying to Woo Her, He is forced to do Something Deceptive, perhaps lying about a Dark Secret From His Past.

4. She is skeptical about his Wooing, having been Hurt many times before. But he only tries all the harder to Woo her over.

5. She finally decides to Trust him and is Won Over. Alternatively, just as she is getting ready to Trust, #6 happens.

6. By accident, She discovers the that He did Something Deceptive (see 3) while trying to Woo her. She now falsely believes that all of his Wooing was insincere, and is deeply hurt.

7. There is a Confrontation about the Deception. He is either speechless, or his Truthful Explanations are not accepted by Her. (Occasional Variation: both have been Deceptive and they are both Hurt).

8. Insert Dramatic Musical Montage here, usually involving forelorn Lonely Walks along a boardwalk or beach or The Place Where They Met. We are meant to ask: Don’t they see how they love each other? Can’t she understand the truth about him? Why has he given up? Will they EVER BE TOGETHER?! No! This can’t be! The suspense is palpable.

9. His Close Chum has an Honest Conversation with him in which He is forced to come to terms with his Feelings for her. (Just once, I’d like to see Him totally blow Her off because she refuses to trust him, requiring Her to make the next move – but this NEVER, EVER happens). In the meantime, she is about to do something Irreversible, such as Leaving Town.

10. At the last minute – right before she does something Irreversible, He does something Wildly Romantic in an effort to get Her back. She cannot help but be Overwhelmed. They kiss.

11. There is a Celebration. Usually, at a wedding of some sort.

When I’m not trying to choke back vomit through a Dramatic Musical Montage, I often think about this: what is it about the American female psyche that demands to see this story again and again?

Lets be honest here – these are stories for women. Guys are watching these movies, but they are doing it because either (a) their significant other wants to watch it or (b) it features Jennifer Lopez. So what are they telling us about what American women want in their relationships? Here are a few of my tentative observations:

– Women want to be Free and Independent, but they also want a relationship of Trust, where they can be Vulnerable. Its hard to have both, because…

– Guys act like jerks. A lot. There seems to be a lot of wishfulness that the Right Guy will have Truthful Explanations for why he has been a jerk.

– Women aren’t confident that they can identify Mr. Right. They need him to make himself painfully obvious by relentlessly pursuing them as his True Love, even to the point of putting up with their Distrust. Have you ever seen a movie where She relentlessly pursued Him, knowing He was Mr. Right? Thats a little too psycho, isn’t it? But why shouldn’t it happen? (Again, My Best Friend’s Wedding gets kudos here because that WAS the plot…)

What else can be learned from this deep, insightful film genre?

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One Response to Romance, American Style

  1. Thurman8er says:

    Heh. I think you’ve summed up an entire genre. It says something about the genre that you were able to do it in that many words. Lessons? How about this one: I’m glad to be married so I don’t have to take anybody out to movies like this anymore.

    Why do I keep seeing Julia Roberts in my head after reading this???

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