Has Netflix allowed the return of romantic comedies?

Cailin Rawlings examines the prevelance of new rom-coms on Netflix.

Caitlin Rawlings
7th February 2020
In 2001 film companies were churning out hit romantic comedies such as Legally Blonde, Bridget Jones's Diary and The Wedding Planner. However, the predictable 'boy meets girl' narrative structure became tiresome and the genre soon lost the interest of film companies and audiences. In addition, the same directors, actors and production companies had appeared on the credits for numerous romantic comedies. Audiences had become indifferent to watching Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant fall in love again. All the incredible romantic comedies such as When Harry Met Sally (1989), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and Notting Hill (1999) were quickly becomes films of the past and the success of the genre faded away with them. Nevertheless, nineteen years later romantic comedies have been resurrected in the film industry which leaves us with the question, why are rom coms making a comeback?

The return of the rom com is all due to Netflix. As the internet's leading entertainment service Netflix has resuscitated the once loved genre and has given it a new lease of life. This surge in the production of Netflix rom coms began back in the summer of 2018. Netflix produced a series of films such as To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018), Sierra Burgees Is a Loser (2018) and Irreplaceable You (2018), all of which achieved international fame. Netflix's renovation of the genre even caused a new film festival called Rom Com Fest to emerge in Los Angeles. The festival celebrates the renown romantic comedies have attained in recent years as romantic films are no longer condemned as inferior chick-flicks thanks to streaming services such as Netflix. But what exactly is it about these new rom coms which has made them so successful?

Inclusivity is finally on our screens

Netflix has reformed the genre and made it inclusive. Diverse actors and stories are appearing on our screens. Netflix has produced films which represent characters who look like real people. Characters of different races, sexual orientations and genders are being recognised. Netflix has held up a mirror to 21st century society and has given minorities an opportunity to be seen on screen. For too long we have witnessed the same individuals receiving film awards and minorities being ignored amongst award nominations. Now is a time of revolutionary change in which the diversity of modern society is beginning to emerge on screen.

Emotional human stories are being addressed

Netflix has produced rom coms which have complex narrative structures and multi-dimensional characters. These films are no longer omitting reality and presenting a fictional world far from our own. For example, To All The Boys I Loved Before (2018) follows Lara Jean, played by Lana Condor, as she deals with the death of her mother and the difficulties of young love. Moreover, Irreplaceable You (2018) follows the story of Abbie, played by Gugu Mbatha-raw, as she is diagnosed with cancer and attempts to find a new lover for her fiancé. Rom coms are no longer presenting a world through rose-tinted glasses where horrific incidents do not occur. By presenting stories which are relatable the rom com has achieved a new sense of authenticity and honesty.

Providing escapism from a chaotic world

Romantic comedies have always provided audiences with an opportunity to escape from their reality. Whilst the genre has been modified to acknowledge the difficulties in our everyday lives there is still a sense of hope that love will conquer all. In a world of Brexit and Donald Trump we need to feel a sense of light relief and romantic comedies often provide this. I watch rom coms because for two hours I want to believe in boombox serenades and happy endings as do millions of people around the world.

Thanks to Netflix's romantic comedy revival the genre has been transformed, yet still retains its ability to transport audiences to a world where love prevails.

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