My Proposal: That I Stop Watching Stupid Romantic Comedies

I should have known better.
When I boiled down my movie-reviewing options to “The Proposal” and “Year One” for the weekend, I should’ve gone to see “Year One.” Sure, it looks like one of Jack Black’s bad movies (his movies are, in my experience, either freaking awesome or freaking horrible. There is no middle ground.) but romantic comedies almost invariably grab my feminist chain and yank it, hard.
“The Proposal” was no exception.


Sure, it starts out tweaking convention (female lead is a high-powered exec, male lead is her dutiful, talented, devoted secretary) but it ends in the classic “man = in charge, woman = femme and perky” setup. When the two of them kiss near the end, an onlooker exhorts the male lead to “show her who’s boss!” and in the final sequence, her hair is loose and wavy rather than pulled up severely like in the rest of the film, and she’s giggly and sweet instead of straightforward and businesslike as she was in the beginning.
Now, taken on its own, this isn’t a problem. Some women are happier being femmed up. Some guys are happier being in charge. Some relationships where the guy is more assertive than the gal work. Not a problem.
But taken in the larger context of the standard romantic comedy, this bugs the shit out of me. Where are the romantic comedies featuring women like me? I’m talking strong women who don’t become femme-d out giggle machines once we’ve found a guy. Women who care about their careers even after they get married. Women who don’t want kids, who’d rather be single than in a relationship that didn’t work for them, who expect to have an egalitarian relationship with their husband?
Yes, yes, I was an English Major. I know that romantic comedies are about reinforcing the societal order (which is why all of Shakespeare’s comedies end with at least one marriage). I know. But that’s what pisses me off! The societal order is messed up on this front! Relationships don’t have to be “macho dude in charge of sweet femme wife.” I want romantic comedies where the couple wind up in an egalitarian relationship! I don’t mind if there are ALSO romantic comedies with macho dudes and sweet femme gals. But I’d like some freakin’ diversity! Some options. I’d like to see a romantic comedy where the final relationship actually resembles my own, and not the one everyone seems to think I ought to have.
Is that too much to ask?
If you know of a Hollywood romantic comedy in which the heterosexual couple wind up in an egalitarian, non-stereotypical relationship at the end, PLEASE let me know in the comments. It will be on the top of my Netflix queue so fast your head will spin.

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6 Responses to My Proposal: That I Stop Watching Stupid Romantic Comedies

  1. Rich says:

    I thought that is what Away We Go was about.

  2. Elkit says:

    That reminds me of an interview with John Cusack I read a couple of years ago, where he said something like, “You have two choices in Hollywood: you make an action film and get paid to tell lies about violence, or you make a romantic comedy and get paid to tell lies about love.”

  3. Keith says:

    um… I just saw The Proposal last night and I don’t know what movie you saw but that’s not what I saw.
    I thought that Sandra Bullock kept her severe business ice queen attitude through out the entire film. If anything it only softened.
    Also I never saw a single giggle out of Bullock. Perhaps a laugh and joke to show she had a sense of humor.
    Lastly it’s hard for Ryan Reynolds not to be macho I mean come on. He’s Ryan Freaking Reynolds and with a body like that he gets to be as macho as he wants.
    Finally one last note is I thought the ending was very egalitarian in that Bullock describes why she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with him and he describes why he does and they decide together to go for it.
    So in closing. I usually agree with you on movies especially rom coms cuase they are mostly tacky and tasteless but I have to disaggree with you on this one.
    On the other hand I fully admit that I am a man and thus have no fememist chain to yank, so my view is somewhat skewed.

  4. Ealasaid says:

    Rich: As I understand it, Away We Go is a pregnancy roadtrip movie, not a romcom. I could be wrong, tho.
    Elke: Hah! Yeah, that sounds like Cusack. He’s so awesome.
    Keith: I could swear she giggled in the interview clips at the end. She DEFINITELY had all soft flipped hair and was dressed WAY more femme. I was deeply disappointed. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that her “Oh noes, we shouldn’t be together!” spiel at the end is meant to be motivated by fear and poor self-image, and we’re to understand he’s in the right to insist they be together and she’s wrong.
    What really got me was one of the office drones yelling “yeah, Drew, show her who’s boss!” and there wasn’t so much as a PEEP out of Margaret. RRRRGH! Tacit acceptance of the dude being in charge.
    Admittedly, “The Proposal” is better than a lot of romcoms — but that’s like saying “well, Lake Erie is smaller than the Pacific!” That doesn’t mean it’s SMALL. You know?

  5. Keith says:

    I will aggree with you whole heartidly that the last line of “show her who’s the boss” was tacky and in poor taste I didn’t think that line was funny at all.
    As for the “we shouldn’t be together” speil I draw you back to the conversation she had with Gert outside the bar about how great Andrew is and what not. I felt it was an evolution of personal respect for Andrew that led her to the “we can’t be together” at the end of the film.
    The ending to me was a reverse on the beginning on how she forced him into the whole mess in the first place. I think the writers were trying to do “the end is the same as the beginning” thing and yes it did end with Ryan Reynolds being all macho.

  6. anon says:

    You seemed to have really slimmed down your cinemagoing choices. I could recommend “In the mood for love”. A great piece of far eastern cinematography, and more importantly it has a neutral view on relationships.