The Romantic Comedy as we know it is dead.
This beloved genre’s demise is not just because TV is getting better or because Tom Hanks and Freddie Prinze Jr. are getting old.
Nay, the culprit is coming from inside your pocket.
Social Media has murdered the rom com.
Yes, the time suck that is Facebook, Tinder, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, ChatChat, TapDat, AssHat…
has irrevocably changed how we interact with, write and consume the time-honored first-world tradition of romantic comedy.
First, let us consider the plotline problem.
The lost-then-found lover is a motif as important to the rom com as spritely mischief is to Shakespeare.
These tales of old-flame-returns-for-high-school-reunion or mysterious-man’s-child-keeps-calling-me-from-Seattle seem quaint in the era of social media.
They seem *so* not plausible today that if you tried to make a movie with these storylines, you’d lose viewers. Instead of getting lost in the story, they’d be thinking about how this just wouldn’t happen. Why wouldn’t she just look him up on LinkedIn?
The last thing you, as a writer, want your audience to do is to start asking questions about plausibility. We all know love isn’t real.
Here’s a specific example of rom com plotline extinction.
Do you guys remember the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights? It’s a movie with Josh Harnett and the hot girl from Wristcutters (that’s the better movie to watch if we’re doling out Netflix suggestions here).
Anyway, Josh’s character swears off sex for 40 days and 40 nights, but, alas, during this time he meets the would-be love of his life, hot girl from Wristcutters! So he hides from her what he’s doing, she thinks he isn’t that into her, cupid’s arrow is nearly for naught. (The moral of the story, to 17-year-old boys, here is to always have sex asap.)
Social media’s role in our modern lives would not allow for any of this story to unfold the way it does. First, the couple meets in a Laundromat and connects over how hot girl from Wristcutters circles words she doesn’t know in the book she’s reading so she can go look them up in the dictionary.
HA! She’s reading a real book!
If this were happening in 2015 and not 2002, she’d be all up on her phone either googling the words she doesn’t know as soon as she finds them or, let’s be honest, digging into her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s step sister’s Instagram photos from a beach vacay to the Dominican Republic.
“Her baby is super ugly.”
So not only would this couple likely not meet, if they did, the dude character would have a hard time hiding his abstinence mission and thus, hot girl from Wristcutters would never go experience the folly of misunderstanding her potential lover’s intentions.
After all, in 2015 he will have taken this opportunity to start a blog and podcast series following his sex-free adventures so he could share them on his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages and hopefully get a book deal.
Because rom coms, the gluttonous slinger of gender stereotypes that they are, teach us that all guys are all about the Benjamins until he finds love he didn’t know he wanted… and they need you to stop fucking playing Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” on repeat already.
Furthermore, catching a cheater is no longer visually interesting, which is kind of a key element of a film.
And cheating, or at least thinking someone is cheating, is a blockbuster plot device. But today, this is what it looks like:
1) Receive text from friend about potential cheating.
2) Turn red, hyperventilate, furiously text lover.
3) Cry quietly as you scroll through now-ex’s Facebook feed looking for any shred of evidence.
4) Chug whiskey alone.
Not exactly the most sexy, riveting stuff. And because things can happen so quickly, romance is kind of a lost art. On Tinder, you can literally scroll through hundreds of potential lovers while doing nothing but eating cheese and crackers off your belly.
This is not the type of scenario for which God made men as gorgeous as Ryan Gosling.
We’ve become desensitized to romance. After all, your girl can just get on Pinterest and post quotes full of loving sentiment you could never come up with. Oh, and your guy can just go read your Pins to figure out what is required for you in particular to woo.
It’s why kids these days prefer their romance from the mouths of babes that turn into werewolves during the full moon.
Social media lets you be whoever you want to be, let’s you concoct or express a whole well-rounded personality and, on the positive side of that, helps eliminate stereotypes – you are not just the weird girl in art class with glasses, you are a complete person who has family photos and interesting things to say about world events and look at this whole album of selfies taken without your glasses on!!! Social media is a confidence booster. It reinforces the idea that you can be whatever you want!
But here’s one thing you can’t be anymore. And it’s a thing that is also incredibly important to the rom com cannon—a magazine reporter.
Some of my favorite romantic comedies revolve around the career field of magazine journalism. I think this is because it’s glamorous without being too POWER BABE (heaven forbid), plus most of these screenplay writers were probably once journalists so publishing is a world they understand.
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Morning Glory are all great rom coms starring characters who work in journalism.
Here’s the thing though. Social media is also singlehandedly murdering print journalism. Today’s newsroom is anything but glamorous. The editorial meetings are no longer about which champagne to offer on the set of a fancy photo shoot but how to convince the unpaid intern who is five out of journalism school to stay on board – man, at least after sweeps!
Hardworking journalists are being replaced by hardworking bloggers and freelance content sharers. But finagling in your pajamas with your accountant on the phone about tax writeoffs isn’t nearly as sexy as a fun loving, wacky work crew that always seems to be there for you when your dream man is aloof.
Finally, because of the fast paced and argumentative nature of social media, some of our favorite rom coms wouldn’t even get made today.
Consider, Grease. If you do not know the plot of Grease and the melody of at least one of its songs, you clearly didn’t know a theater kid in high school.
Cover your ears if it is possible to spoil the ending of Grease for you, grandpa.
Olivia Newton John’s wholesome Sandy gets all slutifued by her pink ladies to impress the Danny Zucko.
Granted Danny also donned a letterman sweater at the school carnival to impress Sandy but that decision was quickly revoked when everyone just silently admitted that it’s way more fun to be a bad bitch than a basic one.
But you know who would’ve been all over that plot line of woman giving up it all for a love? jezebel.com.
And probably all the Christian organizations you can think of, for other reasons. But basically this movie would’ve been a flop before it went direct to DVD, jazz hands cart wheels and dancing hotdogs be damned.
Same goes for the abusive principal in The Breakfast Club. And the patriarchal town in Footloose would’ve had its own reality TV show before that movie could ever get made.
We are think piecing ourselves out of a good old-fashioned, gender-roled love story, people.
So in conclusion social media has made us too savvy, too homogeneous and too stalker-prone to enjoy romantic comedies. The stories seem as fake and contrived as Channing Tatum’s abs.
For the real funny drama we’ll just all turn to Facebook.