Modern-day humans probably like to think of themselves as people who don’t believe in movie stereotypes: the girl gets a makeover, and then the guy likes her; the best friend works up the nerve to tell the other she likes him, and they wind up happily ever after. However, Netflix has taken those stereotypes, turned their viewers around in a circle, and shown them the same thing with rom-coms they churn out every few months. For example, we laugh at The Breakfast Club for transforming Ally into a “girly girl” because it’s a stereotype from the 80s that that’s the only kind of girl that guys like. Still, when Jodi gets a makeover and becomes “beautiful” in Tall Girl, we love it because it shows female empowerment. Of course, girls can have a makeover and want to feel beautiful and still offer female empowerment, but what we, as the audience, don’t realize is that we’re being blinded by the few steps forward Netflix has taken. This article will focus on the harmful aspects of newer Netflix rom-coms, specifically, the terrible takeaways that we get from these so-called “modern” movies. Here are the four complex rules of romance in Netflix rom-coms:
First, always prioritize love over friendship. This is a tale as old as time that your companies should always come second to whatever love you’ve got going on. Whether spending more time with your significant other or ignoring concerns from your friend, this is very easy to spot in many rom-coms. Case in point, The Kissing Booth: a fabulously strange rom-com about a girl named Elle who is crushing on her best friend Lee’s older brother Noah. She wants to date Noah, but she and Lee have a “friendship rule” that prevents it - another strange aspect of this movie. Eventually, she winds up dating Noah, and Lee finds out, becoming extremely upset. Elle and Lee have been best friends since they were born, and - supposedly - the reason why they’re still friends is because of this list of rules. Elle is risking years of friendship for this hot guy, and the audience goes along with it because it’s fun to sneak around and have a secret relationship with a twenty-something-year-old with abs. And, of course, Elle and Lee make up in the end, and Elle still gets to date Noah. Hence, not only is Netflix glorifying putting your friendship at risk for a romantic relationship, but they’re telling you that you can pull it off and everything will work out in the end.
Second, men and women can’t be friends; another oldie but a goodie. It’s pretty straightforward: if you are a man who is attracted to women and want to be friends with a woman who’s attracted to men, that can’t happen. There is no way that the two of you can be friends without wanting to rip each other’s clothes off because you clearly can’t control yourself around members of the opposite sex. For this one, I present Candy Jar: an often overlooked Netflix movie about a guy named Bennett and a girl named Lona, who are co-presidents of the debate club and argue about everything. The meat of this movie is that the two have to work together to win the debate tournament to get into their respective Ivy League school of choice. But of course, they have to wind up going to prom together and having a happy romantic relationship even though both of them are going away to college a few months later. This is more evidence that Netflix treats its characters like they have no self-control. According to Netflix, teenagers can’t help but fall in love with their friends and their relationship becomes inevitable. Of course, high schoolers are hormonal and going through changes, but regular people don’t instantly want to be in a relationship with every person they meet. This also doesn’t account for any queer people because the main characters are always straight.
Next, pretending to be in a relationship, or pretending to be someone you’re not, is a great way to trick someone into liking you. This promotes the idea that you are not fit to be in a relationship. Thus, it would help if you acted act like anyone but yourself. For this example, we turn to Sierra Burgess's is a Loser: a cutesy story about a geeky band kid named Sierra who starts texting this guy named Jamey when the evil popular girl Veronica gives him Sierra’s number as a joke. Jamey thinks he’s texting Veronica while Sierra keeps keeping up the facade. This stereotype isn’t necessarily as familiar as the others, but if anything, it’s worse. Especially with the rise of technology, kids, and teens have opportunities like this all the time. By creating this movie, Netflix is subtly planting these ideas in peoples’ heads about how they can use technology to their advantage, especially if they’re a “loser,” as the title suggests.
Finally, apologizing and making a grand gesture will make anyone forgive you. If there’s only one thing that rom-coms are famous for, it would have to be this. Whether it’s running and stopping a plane or getting up on a stage in front of lots of people, rom-com love grand gestures where people either pronounce their love for someone, apologize, or, more often, both. But the part of this section that I want to focus on is even more specific: the trope of pronouncing your love to someone after they hurt you. In rom-com, it is widespread for one of the characters in the couple to hurt the other in some way, usually involving trust or cheating. The other character will get very upset and break up with them, but another character, often a parent or best friend, will make them realize they can’t lose the other character. Then the character agrees and makes some substantial grand gesture to win them back. The two characters wind up together, and both apologize, but the apologies are so brief and lead right back into getting back together that they barely discuss what happened. There’s no talk of what went wrong and how they should do things differently this time. And this is precisely what happens in The Perfect Date: a movie about a guy named Brooks who runs this dating service based on an idea a girl named Celia gives him. Long story short, they pretend to date, and it goes badly because Celia catches feelings, things get messed up, and then they both apologize, ending in a huge party. These movies show the most immature relationships because they show no growth. When characters get back together after they mess up, and they always do, the film ends immediately. There’s nothing in place that would prevent the same thing from happening again and again and again.
Of course, Netflix and romantic comedies aren’t meant to be realistic, but the scary part is that their messages will get engraved in your brain. However, if Netflix changed these things about their movies, they would just become different movies; Netflix does-com do hold a special place in my heart, so I don’t think we should ultimately change them. Audiences do know that these movies aren’t supposed to be based on real life; it’s just an unfortunate side effect of them that their ideas reach your subconscious. It is fun to experience these fantasy worlds, do your best to check yourself a little bit and ensure that when you’re temporarily stepping into that world, you can get back out.
Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe
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