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The rom-com is alive and well and breaking new conventions

Jenny Slate in the 2014 film "Obvious Child," directed by Gillian Robespierre.Courtesy of Independent Film Festival Boston

Sharing Tom Joudrey’s belief in romantic comedy’s potential for imagining cross-class coupling (“Inequality ruined the rom-com,” Ideas, Sept. 12), I’m pleased to point out that, contrary to the genre’s rumored death or ruination, the rom-com’s newfound willingness to wrestle with social reality is key to its recent regeneration.

My edited collection, “After ‘Happily Ever After’: Romantic Comedy in the Post-Romantic Age,” argues that in the last decade, romantic comedy has undergone a much-needed makeover. Beyond the couple of contemporary films praised by Joudrey, many compelling additions to the rom-com corpus have emerged, thanks in part to our “peak streaming” moment and the opportunities it creates for more diverse, unconventional storytelling.


Whether grappling with racial and sexual politics and gentrification (“Medicine for Melancholy,” “Obvious Child”), reconciling sex and romance with family obligations and cultural expectations (“Appropriate Behavior”), managing the monotony of monogamy (“Before Midnight”) or technology’s increasing control over our lives and libidos (“Her”), the resurgence of “radical romantic comedy” (as named by film scholar Tamar Jeffers McDonald) pushes the genre to grow and mature by treating romantic partnership realistically. The rom-com’s “vanishing from the 21st-century multiplex” that Joudrey cites is a product of Hollywood’s franchise-driven production model. But romantic comedy is flourishing outside the multiplex in modes that challenge its long-maligned reputation and dispense with Hollywood’s wish-fulfilling fantasies and “happily ever after” formulas.

Maria San Filippo


The writer is an associate professor in the department of visual and media arts at Emerson College.