"An unlucky in love everyman and his attempt to satisfy his insatiable beastiality by mounting the mare of his dreams atop the Empire State building. Tom Hanks and Shebiscuit Jessica Parker in: Sleepless In Seattle Slew."
-- Pajiba commenter "John Denver's Wingman" parodying the "high-concept" pitch formula that likely crapped forth Did You Hear About the Morgans?
And now, just for the hell of it because it's a holiday week and I'm all about cheap and easy content, here are my two most popular (read: patently offensive) takes on the entire romantic comedy genre.
From "Bride and Prejudice" (Originally Published, 4.30.08)
There's no point debating why it is that "chick flicks" generally fall into one of two categories -- they're melodramatic, celluloid psychotherapy aimed at dredging up dormant mother/daughter issues, or Prince Charming fantasies designed to fuck women into an orgasmic frenzy with the gargantuan penis of unrealistic expectations. Either way, the endgame is generally the same for the men and smart women forced to suffer someone who's adopted the belief system of these movies as gospel: indulge her when possible, pity her behind her back and hope that a new and better girlfriend/friend comes along at some point to replace her and her neuroses forever (thereby confirming her latent suspicions that she's "not good enough"). If you're a man, you don't want to be anywhere near someone who plans to drop ten bucks on Made of Honor. In fact, a love of Patrick Dempsey and the desire to see this movie might function as a sort of litmus test to weed out the women you should run screaming from -- the ones whose hopes and dreams involve crap you'll never care about. As for the XX-chromo opposites of the rom-com crowd -- the sharp, funny, worldly women who represent the brass ring within the American gene pool -- you'll probably need to avoid the Dempsey fans as well, since I can't see a smart girl wanting to listen to a man-crazy basket case whining to her on the phone at 3am because her one-night-stand hasn't called back or her boyfriend won't ask her to marry him.
From "The Princess Diarrhea" (Originally Published, 2.6.09)
Needless to say, I caught a lot of crap for (the above) opinion -- and now I'm willing to admit that I was, in fact, wrong.
There's actually a third formula that I completely overlooked -- one that's really nothing more than an offshoot of the Prince Charming fantasy but has become a cynical cash cow in its own right.
Let's call it the Designer Princess premise.
Movies like The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City and now, of course, Confessions of a Shopaholic, fit into this category. They're stories that suggest to women that independence is something that can be bought and worn like a kind of couture merit badge; that Prada is pride; that superficiality is success. Whereas the Prince Charming fantasy will undermine the relationship (to say nothing of the sanity) of any guy unlucky enough to be involved with a woman who subscribes to it by creating an unachievable emotional standard, the Designer Princess narrative will make the man go both crazy and broke trying to satisfy the materialistic lifestyle which the woman buying into it has come to believe she's entitled to. What's more, can the label-crazed heroines of these movies (and the novels from which they're adapted) really be idolized and emulated considering the state of the economy? I mean, can you honestly enjoy the fashion-tastic antics of Carrie Bradshaw -- even as escapism -- when your home's about to be foreclosed on and your neighbor's eating Alpo for dinner? Who the hell wants to watch a bunch of self-pampering wanna-be socialites get exactly what they want right now?
The answer: nobody you want to know.