Romantic comedy (also known as romcom or rom-com) is a subgenre of comedy and slice of life fiction, focusing on lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles. In a typical romantic comedy, the two lovers tend to be young, likeable, and seemingly meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference, a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally united. A fairy-tale-style happy ending is a typical feature.
Romantic comedy films are a certain genre of comedy films as well as of romance films, and may also have elements of screwball comedies. However, a romantic comedy is classified as a film with two genres, not a single new genre. Some television series can also be classified as romantic comedies.
The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two characters meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then ultimately realize their love for one another and reunite. Sometimes the two leads meet and become involved initially, then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes they are hesitant to become romantically involved because they believe they do not like each other. After all, one of them already has a partner, or because of social pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the characters are attracted to each other and that they would be a good love match. The characters often split or seek time apart in order to sort out their emotions or deal with external obstacles to their being together, which they eventually overcome.
While the two protagonists are separated, one or both of them usually realizes that they love the other person. Then, one party makes some extravagant effort (sometimes called a grand gesture) to find the other person and declare their love. This is not always the case, as sometimes there is a remarkable coincidental encounter where the two meet again. Alternatively, one plans a sweet romantic gesture to show that they still care. Then, perhaps with some comic friction or awkwardness, they declare their love for each other, and the film ends on a happy note. Even though it is implied that they live happily ever after, it does not always state what that happy ending will be. The couple does not necessarily get married or even live together for it to be a "happily ever after". The conclusion of a romantic comedy is meant to affirm the primary importance of the love relationship in its protagonists' lives, even if they physically separate in the end (e.g. Shakespeare in Love, Roman Holiday). Most of the time the ending gives the audience a sense that if it is true love, it will always prevail no matter what is thrown in the way.
There are many variations on this basic plotline. Sometimes, instead of the two lead characters ending up in each other's arms, another love match will be made between one of the principal characters and a secondary character (e.g., My Best Friend's Wedding and My Super Ex-Girlfriend). Alternatively, the film may be a rumination on the impossibility of love, as in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall. The basic format of a romantic comedy film can be found in much earlier sources, such as Shakespeare plays like Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Other romantic comedies flip the standard conventions of the romantic comedy genre. In films like 500 Days of Summer, the two main interests do not end up together, leaving the protagonist somewhat distraught. Other films like Adam have the two main interests end up separated but still content and pursuing other goals and love interests.
All of these go against the stereotype of what romantic comedy has become as a genre. Yet the genre of romantic comedy is simply a structure, and all of these elements do not negate the fact that these films are still romantic comedies.
One of the conventions of romantic comedy films is the entertainment factor in a contrived encounter of two potential romantic partners in unusual or comic circumstances, which film critics such as Roger Ebert or the Associated Press' Christy Lemire have called a "meet-cute" situation. During a "meet-cute", scriptwriters often create a humorous sense of awkwardness between the two potential partners by depicting an initial clash of personalities or beliefs, an embarrassing situation, or by introducing a comical misunderstanding or mistaken identity situation. Sometimes the term is used without a hyphen (a "meet cute"), or as a verb ("to meet cute").
The heyday of "meet cute" in films was during the Great Depression in the 1930s; screwball comedy films made heavy use of contrived romantic "meet cutes", perhaps because the more rigid class consciousness and class divisions of this period made cross-social class romances into tantalizing fantasies.
In the 20th century, as Hollywood grew, the romantic comedy in America mirrored other aspects of society in its rapid changes, developing many subgenres through the decades, such as the screwball comedy in response to the censorship of the Hays Code in the 1920s-1930s, the career woman comedy (such as George Stevens' Woman of the Year, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) post-WWII, and the sex comedy made popular by Rock Hudson and Doris Day in the 1950s-1960s.
In 1972 What's Up, Doc? was a success, although the film follows the conventions of the screwball comedy, as its tagline confirms: "A Screwball Comedy. Remember them?".The more sexually charged When Harry Met Sally had a successful box office run in 1989, paving the way for a rebirth for the Hollywood romantic comedy in the mid-1990s. 2b1af7f3a8