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Have rom-coms evolved with the release of 'To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before'?

Taylor Woodyard likes modern romantic comedies.

Her favorite romantic comedies are Netflix originals that feature a strong female lead, such as To All The Boys I've Loved Before and Set It Up. Her least favorites were made in the early 2000s. 

Woodyard, and others, notice and appreciate the recent changes in romantic comedies that bring women to the forefront and break stereotypes associated with female characters. Others, however, argue the genre still has a long way to go.

Modern romantic comedies; such as To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Set It Up and The Big Sick, have female lead roles living independent lives.

Woodyard, a senior studying chemistry, said that the romantic comedies released in the '80s and '90s were great for their time but may not be perceived well today. She explained that Sixteen Candles had a lot of racial undertones. She compared Sixteen Candles to To All The Boys I've Loved Before and said Sixteen Candles doesn’t really have a true love story. 

“It’s more of her just crushing on a guy,” Woodyard said. 

She said To All The Boys I've Loved Before focuses on the main character, Lara Jean Covey, and her struggles, and touched on the emotional aspects of what a relationship is rather than the surface. Woodyard loved the kitchen scene where Lara Jean and her love interest, Peter Kavinsky, talk about their parents and pasts.

“I think I want to see more of that,” she said. “More of the real stuff, rather than the chase. That stuff’s fun but I really want to see the need of a relationship.”

Karen Riggs, a professor of media arts and studies, finds modern romantic comedies to be encouraging. However, she does not want to take those individual movies as a sign of a complete change in romantic comedies because most of the movies have the male leads trying to conquer the women, not necessarily loving them. 

Riggs said the genre is still patriarchal. 

She said she finds it motivating that women are taking on more roles, power and responsibility. Riggs, however, said romantic comedies are not a respected genre and thus do not tend to win Oscars and Emmy awards.

“They’re still a shaper of our patriarchal culture,” she said. “That’s why we still call them chick-flicks.”

Ron Shalom, an employee at The Athena Cinema, really enjoys watching romantic comedy movies when they have good characters with whom he can connect. 

“Everyone falls for someone at some point in their life,” Shalom, a junior studying screenwriting and producing, management and strategic leadership, and business pre-law said. “These movies are your way to figure out how to do it and if you have already done it, redo it through the characters.”

He has also watched To All The Boys I've Loved Before, and he said the movie focused more on the female lead. Shalom said that most of the movies are centered on males, and rarely, if ever, is there a movie solely centered on a female. 

Shalom said the representation in To All The Boys I've Loved Before is going to help the younger viewers who are trying to live life through these characters.

“If there is an Asian girl, now she has this character that she can live through,” Shalom said. “You need a character you can connect to, showing that everyone can find love.”

He revealed his favorite scene in To All The Boys I've Loved Before was when Peter Kavinsky stood up for Lara Jean in the school hallway after rumors about her were circulating.

Shalom recently watched The Big Sick with his roommates and also found the movie to be modern with a fresh look to it. 

“Girls want that romantic meet,” he said. “They want that cute meet where they can tell all their friends how they met and tell their kids one day.”


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