10 Rom-Com Clichés That Need to Die

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By Brenden Gallagher

Just like any genre, the romantic comedy has its clichés. Because so many rom-coms release each year, and because the genre is typically rooted in a more realistic world than, say, Game of Thrones or Insterstellar, these clichés stick out like a sore thumb. In rom-coms, people talk like real people talk and people walk like real people walk, yet they have certain behaviors that make no sense.

As lovers of rom-coms, we have a simple request. Help save our beloved genre from itself. Make a few changes, dispense with a few tired clichés so that our beloved meet-cutes may live on. It is time to get rid of these 10 worn-out ideas in romantic comedies so that the genre may survive and thrive in a new generation.

  • The leading lady is just so clumsy!

    Miramax Films

    The existence of this cliché makes total sense. Our star is a beautiful woman. Beautiful people don’t easily earn our sympathy because we are well aware of just how much easier life gets when you are lovely. How do we make our normal-looking audience feel for our sexy star? Give her a flaw. Clumsiness, unlike, say, cannibalism, is a flaw that we can forgive and pity pretty easily. So, make sure your lady is unable to walk in high heels or just can’t hang onto that stack of papers, and we’ll be putty in her arms. Hey, it’s worked for Bridget Jones Diary, Miss Congeniality, The Wedding Planner, Just Married, Leap Year, The Princess Diaries, and even The Mummy (OK, that last one isn’t exactly a rom-com), so there’s no reason it can’t work for your hackneyed romantic story.

  • She’s in love with an architect!

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Artists love making art about themselves. Unfortunately, audiences quickly tire of work about writers, filmmakers, and other Hollywood liberal artsy-fartsy types. What is a tortured artist to do if they can’t put their struggle directly on screen? You could try writing about something other than your own experience, but that would be pretty difficult. Another option would be to find a kind of creative job and let that stand in for the art you actually want to talk about: hence the architect.

    As is often the case, Cracked already wrote up a great run-down of this trend in which they call out offenders of this architectural trend in cinema, including 500 Days of Summer, Last Kiss, Sleepless in Seattle, Love, Actually, You, Me, and Dupree, There’s Something About Mary, and Jungle Fever (and a number of non-romantic films like The Cable Guy).

  • She wants to open a cute little bakery!

    Universal Pictures

    It isn’t enough for her to find her perfect man. She should want her perfect job, too. Hey, we’re all feminists here. We can get down with that. You go, girl! At least that’s how you feel until you find out that she wants to open a GD bakery.

    Girl, there are enough cupcake shops in every major city in this country to end hunger in Africa. Do we really need another bakery? Where’s your business plan? How do we know this is going to accomplish anything except run through that small business loan you guilted out of your uncle?

    Just as in real life, the fictional baking space is incredibly saturated. Bridesmaids, Chocolat, Waitress, Stranger Than Fiction, Two Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, The Muse, The Perfect Man, and Life As We Know It have already flooded the market, so keep your character’s baking ambitions in her diary, where they belong.

  • They have a meet-cute in a bookstore!

    Universal Pictures

    The free market might have already taken care of this one, but it was so prevalent in the ’90s, it deserves to be called out like so many other of this country’s past mistakes. Notting Hill and You’ve Got Mail, two classic rom-com titans, are set in bookstores. Perhaps the greatest rom-com of all time, When Harry Met Sally, includes a scene set in a bookstore as well. Before Sunset, the second chapter in Richard Linklater’s excellent indie rom-com trilogy, gives a bookshop some major play. You’ll also spot bookstores in Dan in Real Life, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Manhattan.

    Even though bookstores are closing all over the country, they are still popping up on our screens. The brilliant rom-com TV series from Amazon, Catastrophe (which you should all go watch if you haven’t yet), manages to set a couple scenes in what is likely one of the last bookstores in England. Time to close the book on this one.

  • She’ll win him over just as soon as she gets a makeover!

    Miramax Films

    Not only is this one tired but it is, as the blogs would say, problematic. While many of these movies involve women being loved for who they are, they also get makeovers that help them get loved for what they look like along the way. This game is as old as Cinderella and maybe it’s time we gave it a rest. Any ’90s kid has vivid memories of Rachel Leigh Cook ditching her overalls in She’s All That. Those overalls are part of a tradition that includes, but is by no means limited to, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Pretty Woman, Never Been Kissed, Miss Congeniality, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Grease, The Princess Diaries, Dirty Dancing, The Devil Wears Prada, and Clueless.

  • Someone will be left at the altar!

    Paramount Pictures

    Love can’t come easy. For every person who finds true love in a rom-com there tends to be at least one person who misses out. These losers in love tend to be sacrificed at the marriage altar, humiliated in the grandest way possible. The list of jilted rom-com characters is longer than the guest list at your townie cousin’s wedding. You can see these fictional characters experience this greatest of pains in The Graduate, The Wedding Singer, Serendipity, You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner, Sweet Home Alabama, The Princess Bride, 27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Wedding Crashers, Maid of Honor, and Along Came Polly. Of course, if you want an evening chock full of altar-leaving, you can watch Runaway Bride.

  • This whole thing might have been a bet!

    20th Century Fox

    This trope is as old as Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline, etc.), but we could stand to use it a bit more sparingly in our rom-com plots. People just don’t bet on that much stuff that isn’t football and when a modest bet gets in the way of potential romance, most reasonable people would call off the bet. Though we wish all bets were off, the bets are definitely on in She’s All That, American Pie, My Fair Lady, Hitch, 27 Dresses, How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, Wedding Crashers, Never Been Kissed, and Ten Things I Hate About You (which, to bring things full circle, is based on Taming of the Shrew).

  • They kiss in the rain!

    New Line Cinema

    Kissing in the rain is pretty hot, but maybe we could save it for a special occasion? There are so many other types of weather that one could kiss in. It’s 2015, if you want to show off the bodies of the stars kissing, just have them kiss naked. That never goes out of style. The list of rom-coms in need of an umbrella includes Four Weddings and A Funeral, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Notebook, Dear John, Match Point, A Cinderella Story, Chasing Amy, Step Up 2, Little Women, Sliding Doors, Great Expectations, Sweet Home Alabama, Garden State, Enchanted, and, of course, Singin’ in the Rain.

  • They’ll catch them at the airport!

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    In 2015, with our myriad ways to reach each other, we should be pretty much done with this cliché. A call, a text, a tweet, or a Facebook message are all a lot easier than crashing your girl or guy’s terminal before she or he leaves forever. And by forever, we mean until they decide to purchase a ticket back. If you’re really into the interior design of airports, feel free to check out Garden State, Life As We Know It, Love, Actually, Good Luck Chuck, The Wedding Singer, Like Crazy, Up in the Air, She’s Out of My League, The Holiday, Only You, Boys and Girls, Bend It Like Beckham, Valentine’s Day, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Summer Catch, the granddaddy of them all, Casablanca.

  • But maybe she can’t have it all!

    CBS Films

    One annoying movie trend that popped up in the aftermath of women joining the workplace en masse was the rom-com where career women realize they’ve been putting off their love life. These movies begrudgingly admit that women can have it all, but apparently only after an eleventh hour compromise and a ridiculous quest. Films that involve women navigating that tricky space between the boardroom and the bedroom include The Back-Up Plan, Baby Momma, Picture Perfect, Friends with Benefits, Fever Pitch, One Fine Day, Baby Boom, Morning Glory, The Devil Wears Prada, The Proposal, Sex & the City: The Movie, and I Don’t Know How She Does It.