‘Romantic comedy is undeserving of its reputation for being ‘un-feminist’, since it holds a critical light up to romantic bargaining, the sexual economy and shifting cultural standards’. Discuss this statement in relation to two post-1990 Hollywood romantic comedies.
The aim of this essay is to discuss why romantic comedy is undeserving of its reputation for being ‘un-feminist’. This statement will be discussed by close analysis of two post-1990 Hollywood romantic comedies such as Something’s Gotta Give (Nancy Meyers, 2003, USA) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001, UK). Romantic comedy films which are also known as ‘‘romcoms’’, are a sub-genre of comedy films and romantic films which can be traced back from the ‘‘screwball comedies’’ in America and which became popular during the Great Depression era in the early 1930s until the early 1940s. As Deborah Jermyn states, ‘‘romcom’’ is the most durable genre of Hollywood, with Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934, USA) being the first of the genre to win 5 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Actress and Best Actor (2011). This hybrid genre has attracted numerous feminist critics due to its focus on women which have always played a key role in the narrative; women are also predominately the main characters and the films of this genre are targeted at a female audience with rare variations through time. The portrayal of women in romantic comedies has been influenced by feminist movements such as the Liberation of women also known as the decade of sexual liberation which influenced for example Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961, USA). The main themes of the film are freedom and belonging. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is a New York socialite with a commitment problem and who lives a life by her own rules: ‘‘I need money and I’ll do anything to get it.’’ Or ‘‘People don’t belong to people, I don’t want to be locked in a cage!’’. Produced in 2001, Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, UK) brings a new representation of women on screen. There is a clear distinction between the character of Holly Golightly and that of Bridget Jones who is yearning for commitment and love. The film brings a shift in empowerment and stability with a female character that is confident and financially independent. This new representation of women in films has become a stereotype in contemporary romcoms. Nonetheless, the female protagonists are still reliant on the men’s acceptance, still being subjected to the ‘male gaze’. Women’s representation can be seen as being both positive and negative, now that they appear to be reliant on men from a romantic perspective but liberated and successful from the financial perspective. From the classical Hollywood housewives to modern Hollywood’s successfully career women, the narrative of the romantic comedies has yet been restricted. Women are always in search of great, true love exposing themselves as vulnerable and weak. As stated by Deborah Jermyn and Stacey Abbott ‘the contemporary rom-com has less often been understood as one that continues to negotiate and respond dynamically to the issues and preoccupations of its time’ (2009: 3). Nancy Meyers is a successful Hollywood director and writer widely known for her use of women ‘of a certain age’ as main protagonists in her films. Living in a world of youth and beauty and with youngsters occupying our TV screens and cinemas, Hollywood has made it almost unbearable to be a woman. If you are young you need to meet the beauty standards imposed by the numerous models on screen; if you are a woman past your youth, than you are no longer supposed to be even in the audience. Older women appear on screen to be only someone’s mother or someone’s wife, but Nancy Meyers, a very successful director, writer and producer at Hollywood for over 30 years, has brought back in the audience the ‘older bird’. She casted the already established persona of the actress Diane Keaton...
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