10. We’re so fiercely independent that the only thing we need to be happy… is a man.
Post-second wave feminist romantic comedies rely on the Sheryl Sandberg boilerplate: upper-middle class, successful career woman with an impossibly huge apartment in big city stuffed with everything she could ever want. (See: Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.) The genre gives the image one slight twist: our heroine is secretly one step away from cultivating her very own cat collection. (See: Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.) True to Hollywood fashion, who better than the big, strong male superhero to fly in to save the day?
9. But we’re so wound tight that we don’t realize how truly desperate we are for love.
Just ask Margaret Tate, Sandra Bullock’s character in The Proposal. She’s so determined to hold onto her prestigious career in America that she “forces” her hot guy assistant, Ryan Reynolds, to marry her so she can obtain American citizenship. Conveniently, she just happens to fall in love with him! In her roles in Miss Congeniality, Hope Floats, and Two Weeks Notice, Sandra Bullock became the neurotic trendsetter, playing bizarrely uptight women who need a man to take the edge off.
8. Even though we’re completely jealous of our relatives and friends who are in love.
The little green monster will, of course, drive us to the point that we’ll connive to ruin the happiest day of our loved one’s life in order to ensure our own sense of joy remains intact. This could mean waking up and deciding you were in love with your best guy friend all along, and you just didn’t get a chance to tell him before his wedding day (Julia Roberts, My Best Friend’s Wedding). Or, it could mean suddenly agreeing to being Friends with Benefits (Mila Kunis) despite the well-known fact that casual sex will ruin your relationship.
7. And we will go so far as to pay for a date or travel halfway around the world just to prove we’re completely secure in who we are.
Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) had no problem plunking down $5,000 plus expenses for a date to her sister’s wedding in England. It was an investment in herself to prove to her family and friends that she finally got over the guy who broke her heart… by getting a new “boyfriend” in The Wedding Date. Georgia (Nia Vardalos) was so happy with her decision to move to Greece and return to her roots that she needed a hot Greek bus driver to steer her away from the edge of a mid-30s crisis.
6. We’re all white. Except for the maid.
Meg Ryan set the tone for romantic comedy casting for nearly three decades: perky and pale. You could try to make a case for Latinas with the Jennifer Lopez rom-com trilogy (The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, The Back-up Plan), but 99% of romantic comedies revolve around the lonely but perky, innocent but sassy, urban or country (or both, in the case of Sweet Home, Alabama) white chick.
5. And we only ever date white guys.
See Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, and Alex O’Loughlin, Lopez’s three very white co-stars, along with the cadre of Tom Hanks-imitators who embody the rom-com’s ideal perfect man: a catalog model’s looks with a good sense of humor and a great ability to imitate every guy who came before him. His only fault is his inability to develop a good tan. And if there is an interracial romance involved in a Hollywood rom-com, the white guy is still in the hot seat (Ashton Kutcher, Guess Who).
4. We love bad boys who have a heart of gold…
Liz Hurley may disagree, but the best thing that ever happened to Hugh Grant was Divine Brown. After he got caught with a hooker, the British fop went from naively sweet to deliciously dirty, becoming the archetypal rom-com crush. Just ask Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), Drew Barrymore (Music and Lyrics), Toni Collette (About a Boy), Sandra Bullock (Two Weeks Notice), and Sarah Jessica Parker (Did You Hear About the Morgans?).
3. …In fact, we’ll probably sleep with so many of them that we’ll wake up one morning in our mid-30s and wonder why we haven’t found “the one.”
As Anna Faris proved in What’s Your Number?, the modern American woman is too busy having fun to keep track of the notches on her bedpost, at least until her younger sister decides to get married (see #8). Suddenly, she’ll go into overdrive, combing through her past conquests in order to find what she obviously missed the first time around: true love. Little will she know that it’ll take one more guy, a bad boy with a heart of gold (see #4) who turns out to be rather, well, dorky (see #2) to prevent her inevitable total meltdown.
2. Which is when we’ll finally settle for the dorky good guy.
And if the dirty but hot one doesn’t wind up becoming a dork for love (Patrick Dempsey Made of Honor), we’re obviously supposed to go for the other guy in the room. He may be wearing an awful Christmas sweater like Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, Bridget Jones’s Diary) or he might just be the incredible best friend that you never even noticed (When Harry Met Sally), but don’t count on us being smart enough to go for him every time (John Krasinski, Something Borrowed).
1. Because we become much more pleasant, down-to-earth human beings after we get laid.
Rom-com women promote the myth that even the most successful and self-actualized among the female gender require sex in order to be bearable human beings. Before they get the guy, they’re self-involved, anxious, jealous, unfulfilled, and, at times, neurotic. After they get laid they morph into modern day Donna Stones, pleasant and perfectly confident in their ability to face the world.
It could be argued that the stereotypical rom-com woman is so popular because, out of the top 200 grossing comedies from the past decade, women have directed only nine of them. Then again, seven out of those nine female-directed films happened to have been rom-coms that fit the stereotypical bill, leaving audiences to question when, exactly, feminism will begin “leaning in” to the silver screen.