5 Romantic Comedy Tropes That Need To Die

I would love to say that I don’t like rom-coms, as I feel that would make me a much better person in general. It’s hard for me to admit that, no matter how many times I watch it, I’ll always get a bit misty during The Notebook. That is just my cross to bear. However, even in the movies I do love, there are just a few cliches that I’m so tired of seeing, I demand that they all jump simultaneously into a roaring fire and be incinerated, never to come back.

1. Everyone is white, unless the storyline is about them not being white.

Unless we’re talking about Tyler Perry movies, it’s a pretty safe bet that the working title for most romantic comedies is “two acceptably quirky white people court each other over a several-week period, overcoming one absurd obstacle, including a musical montage at some point.” Unless your movie is about overcoming racial differences, (I see you Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker), you can be pretty much guaranteed that the love story to follow will look like a gallon of whole milk spilled across a polar bear-fur carpet during a blizzard. Of course, the white people can’t just be any old white people because this is, lest we forget, not your average love story. Because of this, you can be sure that our protagonists will have everything from Asperger’s to Leukemia — anything that could throw a wrench into their falling head over heels — just so long as it doesn’t effect the creamy whiteness of their skin. God forbid.

2. Everything good happens in the rain.

At some point in filmmaking history, there was a staff meeting amongst writers in which they needed to convey in this scene a sense of purity, of rebirth, of a “washing away” of the old, so to speak. It was then that an intern one bad coffee order away from being fired stood up, raising his pen aloft as a ray of sunlight came through the window. “I know,” he exclaimed, “let’s have them publicly grope during a thunderstorm!” And so it was. From that moment on, every climax of every romantic film would have our protagonists find themselves in flash-flood-level rains, standing out in the street somewhere, completely sans umbrella. They would at first bemoan the ruining of their hairstyle, only to laugh at the utter silliness of life and then embrace, there in the rain, showing the world at large the disregard they have for things like weather patterns or that gross feeling when the inside of your shoes get wet. And aside from shirts getting see-through and sticking to boobies, rain kisses give us the added bonus of a sense that the slate has been “wiped clean,” leaving our protagonists to move forward into the hesitant but reassuring sunshine that is sure to follow.

3. Relentlessly pursuing a woman after she has clearly said ‘no’ is the only way to her heart.

Similar to the Taylor Swift school of “you’re only as good as your totally awesome virginity,” there exists this theory in rom coms that women are essentially passive ducks waiting to be tossed a few decent-sized bread crumbs (in the form of romantic attention). If she says no, honey, that’s just phase 1. Phases 2 through 10 are doing everything from playing music outside her window to showing up at her work to sing to her, progressively getting more extreme in your tactics until the “Oh, right, I love him” switch has been flipped on in her head. There exists no stunt too humiliating, too over-the-top, for a woman to not eventually melt over and take you back with open arms. And aside from this trope being irritating and repetitive, there is also the knowledge that any guy who would do this kind of thing in real life likely wears a fedora, refers to you as m’lady, and would kiss the back of your hand in public (why, God, why?). In no alternate universe would guys who look like Channing Tatum or James Marsden spend their free time sending you all of the tulips in the tri-state area because he knows you love him — and frankly, if he did, you would be well-advised to run.

4. There exists no charming cad too muscular to transform with your love.

When women are not getting bombarded with emotional fireworks in these films, you can be sure that she’s teaching a perpetual bachelor how to use his heart muscle with the help of her witty, ascerbic, and refreshing form of courtship. You see, he thinks he wants to be free, be young, sow his wild oats, and knock over a stack of lingerie models like dominos, but that’s not what he actually wants. No, no. Anne Hathaway knows what he wants — and that is to learn how to love. You see, she’s going to melt through his icy-bro exterior with her stinging little barbs that get to what he’s really thinking and challenge him in a way that no other woman is capable of — because every female character in this movie other than Anne Hathaway is just a mobile breast delivery unit — and she will even win the approval of his neanderthal friends. You see, at the end, he’s going to have a life-changing revelation (and subsequent confession, likely in the rain) about how he thought he was happy, he thought he knew what he wanted, but she changed his life. He was going to let her walk away, but he just can’t do that. He just can’t do that.

5. Kate Hudson is still a person that we should pay to see act in movies.

How many movies is this woman allowed to produce before we collectively hold some kind of open forum down at city hall and decide that her getting paid millions of dollars to read a script in front of a camera is an abomination in the eyes of our Lord? I mean, nepotism is nothing new, but just because she sprang forth from Goldie Hawn’s vagina with a similarly adorable shade of blonde hair does not mean we are chained to her face-meltingly bad performances the rest of our lives, does it? I mean, I almost just want to pass around a hat so we can get together a nice severance package to set her up with before we put her out to pasture — I don’t want to be cruel about this or anything. And yes, I have long ago stopped watching any of her films, yet magically, I don’t stop seeing her on posters and in trailers for what appears to be the same exact movie she’s been making — and making poorly — for the last ten years. Can we just cut costs and replace her with an upturned mop with googly eyes on it? Personally, I would have a much easier time believing that the male protagonist was into her with that casting change. If we don’t stop now, she’ll still be doing her ditzy, blonde, quasi-free spirit schtick into her seventies. We can’t do that to our children, we just can’t. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Terry

    What about Hitch?? Love me some Will Smith and there was no race issue in that movie. One of my all time favorites :)

    • Africanfaith

      I’ve always found the black actor has to be super high profile for him to be in a rom com where his (or her) race doesn’t play some essential role in the movie. i.e. denzel washington type fame. it’s sad, but true! really funny, smart article :)

  • Nishant

    Friends with Benefits.

    It spent the first half hour dissing every other rom-com as typical and predictable and cheesy. Then went ahead and did all those same things.

  • Michebreeze

    J.Lo ain’t white.

    • Anonymous

      She does only get paired with white men though, now that she’s got it made.

  • Guest

    One does not simply insult Kate Hudson.

  • http://raymondthimmes.com/ Raymond Thimmes

    Otherwise titled as Five Tropes that Ensure Rampant Singleness. Especially watching Kate Hudson.

  • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

    This is why Love Actually remains the best rom-com. None of these things happen. Not a single one. (Best way to avoid the Kate Hudson? Get all-Brit casts.)

    • http://twitter.com/iamthe0nly Jordana Bevan


    • Danaynay

      Yeah, it just skips over the troupes and goes straight for God Awful. Kind of like Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve. Oh wait, no, they’re all nothing but re-hashed, sappy, unrealistic love stories.

      • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

        I think the two you mentioned were attempts and copying the Love Actually model but failing dramatically and couldn’t even touch the original. Nor would I call it re-hashed (as, again, it was the original “separate stories that don’t mix” rom-com) or sappy or unrealistic – other than Hugh Grant’s storyline, there was death, cheating and divorce, the guy doesn’t get the girl he wants in the end. It felt quite subdued and, dare I say it, real to me.

        I have never written this much about Love Actually ever.

  • Maybeemily

    I know there is nothing worse than someone poking holes in your broad generalization but in regards to number one what about Hitch?!?! That was all Will Smith and Eva Mendez. HOW COME NO ONE REMEMBERS THAT MOVIE? It was merely okay. 

  • Casey

    Upturned mop with googly eyes….That was the laugh I needed this morning. Thank you!

  • Chris D.

    Every time I see two people standing in the rain sans umbrella and coat I always feel obliged to tell them what my mom always told me: “BOY, YOU BETTER COME FROM OUT THAT RAIN BEFORE YOU CATCH PNEUMONIA!”

  • http://twitter.com/beckisaysrawr Becki

    You forgot ‘Zooey Deschanel is… Manic Pixie Dream Girl! She’s so quirky and adorable! LOOK AT HOW QUIRKY AND ADORABLE SHE IS!”

    (… I am forever drawn in by her. I both love and hate her at the same time. I think her huge eyes have hypnotic powers)

    • http://robvincent.net Rob T Firefly

       Zooey adj. Sort of like a zoo.

  • june

    ooh dont be mean, most things are totally true, but if these things dont happen in real life lets enjoy them in the movies at least! I can’t control the weather like Storm either, and unfortunatly I wont ever have super powers, but I still like to watch it and imagine what if I did. Dream :)

    oh and Kate Hudson is not a bad actress, common… hasnt done anything brilliant so far but she’s not a bad actress

  • Diana

    Let’s remember that originally Cameron Diaz was originally thought of to play Will Smith’s love interest in Hitch, but the studio thought that would cause uproar with the audience, choosing to cast the more ethnic looking Eva Mendez instead. 

    • KarliCo

      Did not know that.  

      Am not surprised.

  • Guest

    Thank you for saying what no one else will say!!  Kate Hudson is awful, every time I am subjected to one of her rom coms a part of my soul dies.

  • http://twitter.com/imwithdband Eri

    I absolutely agree with you on #5
    I don’t understand America’s obsession with Kate Hudson, she’s extremely overrated, like Kirsten Stewart and the vampires movie.

    Plus, there’s nothing more boring than a rom-com. If I wanted to see a movie about some unreal kind of love, Cinderella type, I’d stick to Disney.

  • Em

     “How many movies is this woman allowed to produce before we collectively
    hold some kind of open forum down at city hall and decide that her
    getting paid millions of dollars to read a script in front of a camera
    is an abomination in the eyes of our Lord?”

    This was so great, I think this is the best article I’ve read from you on TC. LOVED IT! Plus it was hilarious.

  • http://twitter.com/Commander_Co0l Tony Fernandez


  • James

    Regrettably, if you eliminate items 3 or 4 you subvert the whole rom-com genre out of existence. The structure is you put boy and girl up in a tree in the first act, throw stones at them in the second – i.e., they cannot possibly be together – then take them down in the third for a happily ever after.  As for item number 1, when black women start driving BO numbers, they will be represented.  In the meantime, the average American white woman doesn’t identify, for any number of legitimate reasons far in excess of five. Kate Hudson might be annoying sometimes and getting a little long in the tooth herself, but she is a talented comedienne in her own right. Not her mother, true. And the nepotism thing got her in the door, not to stardom.  That’s not the way it works.

    Oh, and weather has always been used as a visual/aural mood regulator across genres.  Or maybe we should just shoot films in neon-lit office cubicles belonging to part-time bloggers?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZBLLAEM4NSBY2CEYTEWC4DWSK4 Lilibeth

      Bro, loosen up.

  • Renee Campbell

    Hitch was a great movie that actually did have a black guy but… you know they chose not to cast a black woman in the role because they figured white folks wouldn’t watch it.

    will smith is one of those “non-threatening” black men so it is easily for him to assimilate and he’s very marketable. someone who took a race relations in america class who understands the theory of color-blind racism, come back me up before someone misconstrues what i’m saying.

    everything else about love stories are true. you also can’t forget #6: you cheat emotionally cheat on your significant other but you still get the girl, regardless, and are forgiven of your lack or moral compass. aka every character matthew mcconaughey has played

  • Sophia

    you used the wrong “affect” in #1.

    • Sophia

      (/obnoxious grammar naziism, sorry)

    • Jmart20


  • Later

    In the triiiiiii-staaaaaate areaaa! 

    • http://twitter.com/shoshkabob Shosh

      I don’t know who you are but I think I love you.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    Every time i somehow end up watching one of these movies, it’s me, my friend, 10 old ladies, and 5 elderly couples in the theater.

  • http://twitter.com/shoshkabob Shosh

    I absolutely LOVE this… except I almost didn’t read it through because #1 made me groan. Really? You’re going to pull that one? Honestly, I doubt producers and directors in the film industry are going around making sure their stories are about Pure Whiteness. If anything, it’s a subconscious “I am white so I’m going to pick white people because that’s what I’m used to” kind of thing (totally forgetting the sociological terms that would have allowed a shorter sentence, forgive me). Which, you know, is also a thing that needs to die. But my point is that I’m pretty sure this stuff is not done on purpose.

    By the way, that fedora-wearing guy who refers to you as m’lady and kisses the back of your hand in public? I have been personally victimized by one. *shudder* Not a fun time.

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