The RomCom Power Imbalance

Image © Can Stock Photo / oorka

To begin with, I am not a scriptwriter, nor am I someone who writes romance for a living. I have no idea about what sells and why. That said, I have encountered more than my fair share of Romances and RomComs that depend entirely on one or more parties being a complete idiot at one or more points in the plot.

That, and I’ve noticed some interesting glaring talking points over the years. Including the fact that just about every single RomCom made since the mid-eighties has basically the same plot. Or the idea that RomComs are a message aimed at women by men. But those aren’t my talking points today.

Today, I’m talking about the power imbalance in the average RomCom. You might not think there are any or believe that I’m talking out of my arse, but let me ask you a few questions..

  • What gender is the character we see first(aka the Main Lead)?
  • What gender is the Love Interest?
  • How quickly are they forgiven during the third act?

Your average RomCom starts with a business-oriented, success-driven man who is the Main Lead. He’s soon thrust into circumstances that put him at odds with the Love Interest and you get some initial combat, followed by both parties warming up to each other. Then you get the Betrayal in which the Love Interests finds out something that the Main Lead has been trying to conceal. However, after some introspection and on-screen crying about it, the Main Lead does One Redeeming Act and all is forgiven, tra la la.

In your not-so-average RomCom where the Main Lead is a lady… things are a little different. Her Redeeming Act has to not only be grand, but also she has to show proof that she’s actively working on being a better person.

In RomComs that feature a makeover, it’s always the girl who scrubs up. The boy of the on-screen couple can pretty much remain exactly how he started with only some minor attitude adjustments as ‘growth’.

One Grand Gesture is all a Male Lead needs, but the Female Lead? The audience has to see her work for that prize. And then they kiss, credits roll, and the audience is allowed to assume that it all goes happily ever after.

As long as there’s a happy ending, the larger audience doesn’t seem to care about this. I’m of the opinion that they should.

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