People take for granted that I am, and always have been, a die-hard fan of the romantic comedy. It’s a fair assumption, considering I’ve written a romantic-comedy novel. But the truth is, if I were starring in a rom-com about my relationship with the genre it might be called: It’s Complicated.
As a kid and adolescent, I loved romantic comedies, the 1990s Nora Ephron trifecta of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail in particular. By the time I went off to college, filled my course load with classes on gender, race, and class, shaved my head, and started dating girls, the rom-com had become unwatchable to me. I was no longer willing to project myself onto characters with whom I had nothing in common. I couldn’t unsee the fact that not a single romantic comedy had been written with someone like me in mind.
Around this same time, epic representation fails aside, the rom-com objectively started to suck. Remember 2003’s Gigli? Or that same year’s the Sweetest Thing? How about 2008’s Over Her Dead Body or 2009’s All About Steve? It’s been well-documented that in the early 2000s, the once robust genre began to decline and studios soon made fewer of them. In 2010 and 2011, nine major releases were rom-coms. Between 2012 and 2016 that number shrank to one or two a year. In 2017, zero rom-coms were released at the major-studio level. The reason for this trend depends on who you ask, but the cultural dominance of comic-book movies is (of course) part of the equation.
Good riddance, you might say. I sure did. Nonetheless, I went ahead and wrote a queer romantic-comedy novel, to put a story out there about characters that looked and behaved like my friends and me, no projection necessary. After it was published and people began asking me about my assumed longtime reverence for the romantic comedy, it was time to bring myself up-to-date on the current state of the genre.
With the old stuffy studio system out of the way, we get to see love stories where not everyone’s white, not everyone’s straight, not everyone’s thin, not…