The downfall of the romantic comedy


Courtesy of Prananta Haroun

Romantic comedies could be struggling to adapt to modern movie-making. 

Hannah Scott

Romantic comedies have been a staple in cinema for decades, but their popularity has dwindled as time has gone on. While many individuals still enjoy a good love story or a cheesy rom-com, more and more, it seems that studios are looking to dramas and action films to be their main projects.

With the genre being so popular for many years, the question stands: why have romantic comedies lost their popularity and relevance in Hollywood? 

“What goes on in society often affects film genres because at the end of the day, they’re a commodity, and they have to make money,” said Erin Wilgenbusch, a professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State. “Movies are driven by economic trends which are driven by social values.”

While going to movies used to be a more casual occasion for many viewers, after a worldwide pandemic, it seems as though many are looking at going to the theater as more of a special occasion. Whereas before, it would have been quite easy to sell audiences on going to see the newest comedy with Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts just for fun, now individuals are deciding that they want their time in the theater to be more of an experience.

Most people are willing to spend more money to see some of their favorite superheroes on screen than they are to take a chance on a film that they may not enjoy.

“I can pay $20 to get access to ‘Marry Me’ for my husband and I, but if we were going to the theaters it would be more expensive,” said Wilgenbusch. “I think people are more comfortable with watching comedies and mid-budget movies in their living room on a Saturday.”

Mid-budget movies are generally comedies or romance films that don’t have huge storylines and have generally been seen as more accessible for many years. However, in the past, we have seen studios lean away from these types of productions.

“When it comes to economics, the industry has stopped making mid-budget movies because they can release something like ‘The Avengers’ and it will be a guaranteed hit,” said Wilgenbusch. “It’s also hard to get those kinds of movies made because Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are now making their own and those services are well suited for creating those kinds of films.”

When looking at romantic comedies in specific, it seems that not only has the industry turned away from them but that the average viewer may not be as interested in the genre.

While plenty of love stories have become classics in the past decades, it seems that more and more, it is being realized that you can only tell the same story so many times.

“So many romantic comedies have been known for the ‘boy meets girl, then misunderstanding, then it gets resolved and there’s a happy ending’ type of story,” said Wilgenbusch. “We’re now starting to look for newer and different stories.”

With individuals looking for films to tell more diverse stories about realistic characters, it seems that the old archetype of romantic comedies may not be working for today’s audiences. Although there is hope for the genre, it seems that representation and diversifying mediums could be the best chances of success for these productions.