In Criticism of: Rom-Coms


TW: Stalking, consent, body image

I hate rom-coms. I am probably in the minority here but I just can’t get into them. To me, they promote unhealthy, sometimes stalkerish forms of love and other times they’re just too cheesy to bear. Also, as someone in a long-distance relationship, sometimes I find them difficult to watch when I miss my partner. I get why people like them: they can be funny, they can be a form of escapism, they can be lighthearted but, for me, I would much rather put on a good horror film instead.

Firstly, as I mentioned, I think they sometimes promote unhealthy forms of love. Love Actually, for example, is a cult classic but I find it kind of unsettling. Especially the storyline with Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and Juliet (Keira Knightley). He films only her at her wedding, leaving out her husband, then comes to her house and creepily tells her he’s in love with her despite her being married. In fact, even Lincoln himself told Vanity Fair that he feared he’d come across as a stalker. Lots of rom-coms do this and it doesn’t sit right with me.

I also find that most rom-coms are far too cheesy. I know that some people love a cheesy film as they’re light-hearted and don’t require much thought for unwinding after a long day. However, I find most rom-coms are TOO cheesy. Filled with nauseating lines that, probably, very few couples actually say to each other. Also, cheesy, again sometimes creepy, pick-up lines and mushy storylines and first dates. Due to this, I often find myself uninterested in the characters, plots and where their love lives are going and just want to change the channel. Maybe I’m cynical because I can’t be with my boyfriend all the time, but I find it annoying and too much.

As well as this, most rom-coms are just plain unrealistic. The only rom-com I truly enjoy and end up watching every Christmas, is The Holiday. It’s got a cast I adore, it isn’t all just about love (look at the sub-plot between Eli Wallach’s Arthur and Kate Winslet’s Iris) and it is filled with heartbreak too. However, even I have to admit that it is unrealistic. The chances of moving to a new country to be with a guy you’ve known for a week are slim. The chances of that working out are even slimmer. I get that it’s a feel-good, ‘smile at the telly film’ and people don’t want accuracy. That would be boring, I guess. I just find it unrealistic that ‘they meet each other and instantly fall in love, give up their lives and careers and end up together’ storylines rarely happen in the real world and I don’t find it fun and comical- it’s annoying and frustrating. It possibly sets unrealistic expectations for relationships and compromises too.

10 of Bridget Jones's best movie moments

Universal Pictures

Similarly, many rom-coms are quite sexist and promote dangerous stereotypes surrounding body image and a woman’s place. Representations of different body types are usually not very diverse in rom-coms. Some films like Bridget Jones’ Diary, though I have never seen this one specifically, show that the woman gaining weight is the worst thing that can happen. They become ‘unattractive’ when they gain weight and it becomes a plot point for them to lose weight to please a man. This is not only annoying and sexist, but it’s also dangerous too. Rom-coms often have constant references to diets and gaining weight and it’s very unhealthy problematic for the women to make sacrifices for the man.

Overall, I get the appeal of rom-coms. I’m not saying that all rom-coms are bad and dangerous as some are great but just a bit cheesy. There are several rom-coms that I really enjoy as well, like Man Up and About Time, but for me, I find the majority of them too much.


About Author

Third-year History student, Classic Culture Editor 2021/22. Loves everything theatre and literature but especially horror books and musicals.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Carpenter on

    Amazing article Daisy!

    Rom-coms can be great but often for the sake of ‘comedy’ these films forsake morality and with many films now being made from Fanfiction (Twilight, After, even The Mortal Instruments), this cycle is being perpetuated even more. People are growing up with too much access from a young age to dangerous material and grow up believing this is a normal way to show love such as reading Wattpad fanfiction about dangerous and pretty abusive mafia men and then being thrilled by films such as 365 Days.

    Much like you mentioned about the issue of promoting unrealistic body standards onto women, and almost promoting creepy behaviour, rom-coms tend to blur the line between dangerous behaviour/ideology and romantic because they reflect one of the great cultural myths of romantic love: that no matter how big the obstacle, love will conquer all.

    Other than simply presenting women as either vapid, empty shells who only exist to accept love or shrews who must be tamed or even ugly ducklings who need love to transform them, rom-com also tend to lean towards the idea that women should lower their expectations whilst spouting that women need to constantly work to fit men’s idea of what a woman should be whilst also not trying too hard. In short, Gone Girl says it best in the ‘cool girl’ monologue.

    Rom-coms in particular are the worst culprits, more so than other romance films, because the comedy is meant to lie in the women’s refusal of the behaviour or the ‘hijinks’ the male characters get into trying to get their love interest’s attention.

    Some of the worst culprits of perpetuating dangerous behaviour involve stalking which is a crime for a reason. Being stalked is not romantic and it is defined as a pattern of unwanted behaviour, directed at a specific person, which causes that person to change their routine or feel afraid, nervous or in danger. However, in the very heavy rose-tinted goggles the audience is forced to wear to watch rom-coms, this behaviour becomes desirable. Suddenly, Ted from ‘There’s Something About Mary’ isn’t a threat despite hiring a private detective to track down his crush is not an infringement of her privacy but a sign he is completely devoted to her. This is a theme so common there is a TV Tropes page for it: We as the audience are meant to ignore this very alarming behaviour because of the love interest’s attractiveness or in some cases, their lack of attractiveness means the audience should feel pity for them and want the love interest to give them a chance.

    Other examples of dangerous behaviour framed as romantic include; Noah from the Notebook threatening to kill himself if the love interest doesn’t go out with him and also threatens suicide again later on when she tries to leave, Sam Coulson from Never Been Kissed hitting on the love interest who is portraying an underage girl before he knew her real age, and even Time from About Time using time travel to meet the woman over and over until she falls for him (I am aware this is not reasonable to worry about however the idea that someone is changing time or in worse cases your memory, is genuinely terrifying).

    The best criticism of the rom-com being dangerous is the book series/TV show ‘You’. It’s a show about a guy named Joe Goldberg and his obsession… apologies, ‘love’ for the female protagonist of the show.

    Now, saying all of that I do like rom-coms but I also like the rom-coms where I feel safe the most. Rom-coms like 13 going on 30 or The Holiday are funny, don’t perpetuate terrifying behaviour, and let the female characters be multi-dimensional characters who aren’t just giving in to the nearest good guy or dangerous person.

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