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Guest Post: I Hate Romantic Comedies: Why I Made a Romantic Comedy

Women and Hollywood By Anna Van Valin | Women and Hollywood April 17, 2012 at 11:24AM

Yes, I am a woman and I hate romantic comedies. I have only seen a handful in my life that I didn't feel like took place in some parallel universe, and fewer than that that didn't seemed like they were created by a focus group to sell women on the idea that a dude will be THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Every preview for a RomCom makes me feel like I need to lie down and take a nap. They seem to always center around the quirky and humiliating yet adorable things that happen on the bumpy road to falling in love. In my experience, falling in love is easy. And not really up to you. Falling in love is about history, chemistry, opportunity, timing, and how much therapy you've had. The real bumps come once you have established that you are in love and, yes, you want to be together so . . . now what?
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Anna Van Valin

Yes, I am a woman and I hate romantic comedies. I have only seen a handful in my life that I didn't feel like took place in some parallel universe, and fewer than that that didn't seemed like they were created by a focus group to sell women on the idea that a dude will be THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Every preview for a RomCom makes me feel like I need to lie down and take a nap. They seem to always center around the quirky and humiliating yet adorable things that happen on the bumpy road to falling in love. In my experience, falling in love is easy. And not really up to you. Falling in love is about history, chemistry, opportunity, timing, and how much therapy you've had. The real bumps come once you have established that you are in love and, yes, you want to be together so . . . now what?

At the end of your typical RomCom, when the couple (one of whom is usually Meg Ryan) miraculously finds each other in the distance at some New York City landmark, and they run towards each other across the Brooklyn Bridge/Central Park/observation deck on top of the Empire State Building, they kiss and then . . . that’s it. Really? That’s it? Maybe that comes from our escapist need to see a happy ending, but I think it brainwashes women into thinking that all you need is love and relationships are easy.

Besides this bizarre kiss-then-credits phenomenon, there are so many other face-palmingly bad things about RomComs: the women and men are walking gender stereotypes, the hilarious but benign best friend (who is generally either chubby and/or of color, and therefore of course unloveable), and that inevitable part where the guy shows up at the airport/her work function/her wedding to the other guy and professes his undying love to her. This last one is my least favorite because it has NEVER HAPPENED EVER. If you know of any man who has ever chased a woman down before getting on a plane to go take her dream job in London/DC/Paris and said something even remotely close to “You complete me,” please tell me and I will run naked through Times Square screaming “I was wrong!” If a man can choke out a modest “I like you” that’s best-case-scenario, and usually it’s all a woman can handle hearing anyway.

So when I decided to make my own film, out of frustration at the lack of exciting projects with exciting roles for me (or any women) in them, and since RomComs aren’t going anywhere, I decided to make one that I would want to see. One that showed a couple as two equals working towards the goal of being together. One that showed what I find to be the most universal event in all relationships: one partner does something well-intentioned, the other partner doesn’t get it, the first partner gets upset, the second partner tries to fix it, they figure it out, they move forward together. I am also, like many people, deeply frustrated by the lack of female voices in our cultural narrative, especially in the wake of so many vicious political attacks on our health and freedoms. Instead of complaining about it (well, honestly, in addition to complaining about it) I decided to just make something and bring as many women on board as I could. While there were many wonderful dudes who I love dearly involved in making my movie, it is a film written, directed, produced and shot by women. I intend for it to be the first of many.

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Anna Van Valin is a New York City based actor and filmmaker, who recently wrote, produced and starred in the festival-bound comedic short film TAKE IT OFF.

This article is related to: Women Directors


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