The New Yorker ran an excerpt from Mindy Kaling's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, in which she discusses how women are portrayed in romantic comedies. Her stereotypes — the Klutz, the Ethereal Weirdo, the Sassy Best Friend — ring true, but here's what really grabbed our attention:
…What I'd really like to write is a romantic comedy. This is my favorite kind of movie. I feel almost embarrassed revealing this, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years that saying you like romantic comedies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity. But that has not stopped me from enjoying them.
I like watching people fall in love onscreen so much that I can suspend my disbelief in the contrived situations that occur only in the heightened world of romantic comedies.
Let's just reiterate: She likes watching people fall in love. It's not that she wants to be a charmingly clumsy magazine editor who trips into the lap of a handsome but commitment-phobic architect, or that she wants to imagine herself being pursued by the hunky leading man. The love story is the draw. Seeing people happy! And some of the most wonderful, classic films ever made mix romance and comedy: It Happened One Night. His Girl Friday. The Princess Bride. When Harry Met Sally. Annie Hall. Sixteen Candles. Moonstruck. And there are other non-comedy classics — Casablanca, The English Patient, Gone With The Wind — in which a love story carries the film.
Here's the catch: Story is the operative word in "love story." Creating a believable narrative — in which you can see the characters grow to feel for one another, and understand why — requires skill in the craft of storytelling. Part of the reason romcoms have been "degraded," as Mindy calls it, is because there's been some shitty story structure on the big screen. So how do we make the crappy romcoms stop, and keep the funny love stories coming?
Flick Chicks [The New Yorker]