Romantic comedies tend to follow the same pattern.
A guy and a girl meet and fall in love. They have a conflict and fight. The person who made a mistake apologizes, and the other person forgives them. In the end, they’re happy in the relationship. The majority of those on-screen romances, however, often feature a particular type of couple, which many audience members may not relate to.
Jade Sein-Colon, a sophomore studying communication, said the typical on-screen couple is often portrayed as two straight, white people. While couples like that exist, that model excludes too many other kinds of relationships, she said.
Despite that, she doesn’t believe seeing different kinds of relationships represented on screen would increase acceptance of those diverse types of models because people think the movies and shows have bad intentions.
“Representation and diversity in couples are met with backlash,” Sein-Colon said. “I have listened to my peers, and sometimes my family members say that this is a way of teaching people and conditioning them that (these couples are) acceptable or the new norm.”
Weiheng Yu, a senior studying biological sciences pre-medicine, said it’s “boring” to see only one type of relationship depicted in media. He said filmmakers may show only straight, white couples because that’s what they think the audience wants.
Eve Ng, an assistant professor in media arts and studies and women and gender studies, said mainstream TV shows have more diverse representations now and female characters don't just want the typical tough male character because viewers see a broader representation of masculinity.
“The A-type, macho, ruggedly-handsome guy is not always set up by the writers as the most desirable one anymore," she said.
Depictions of women on screen includes more complexity, Ng said. Female-led shows have protagonists that could be considered “quirky.” Female characters also have more agency now and question themselves less.
However, Ng also noticed that minority characters are mostly seen in interracial relationships on screen.
“Writers will try and kill two birds with one stone,” Ng said. “You’ll see a same-sex relationship, and one person will be white and one will be a person of color.”
Sein-Colon said interracial couples may be portrayed the most because it’s palatable for viewers.
“A lot of the time, people are threatened by a strong black couple,” she said. “We don’t typically see that too much in TV shows anymore.”
Filmmakers might want to show cultural progress by including interracial couples because they haven’t always been openly accepted in society.
Akil Houston, an associate professor of cultural and media studies, said portrayals of minority races have grown in recent decades.
Compared to the 1970s and 1980s, when black people were only cast in certain roles such as the best friend or the action sidekick, there’s more acceptance of them in leading roles.
“As time has progressed and we sort of culturally move to a different space, you now have black love interests,” Houston said. “The characters are a little more believable.”