Dora Guo

Danny is a charming, successful plastic surgeon with one goal: get girls. But, once he meets the beautiful 23-year-old Palmer, everything changes. Determined to be with her, Danny fabricates a web of intricate lies, all centered around a fictional ex-wife. As Palmer becomes insistent on meeting his ex, Danny is left with no choice but to arrange a family vacation including his children. There’s only one problem: Danny doesn’t have an ex-wife or children. With his lies spinning out of control, Danny enlists his assistant and longtime friend, Katherine, to play the role of his crazy ex. But, of course, the vacation does not go as planned. Danny and Katherine quickly realize that their years of friendship have transformed into inexplicable feelings for one another. They’re falling in love. 

This is the world of the romantic comedy: the world that defies time and place, that knows no politics or history, that survives solely on our shared human love for watching other humans fall in love. In case you want to watch Danny fall head over heels for Katherine, the movie is titled “Just Go With It.” It’s one of my personal favorites.

When I was a little girl, I used to watch rom-coms all the time with my mama and my younger sister. We would turn off the lights and sit on the sofa, my sister and I wearing colorful fuzzy socks and matching oversized sweaters. I remember thinking it was strange that my sister never cried during the movies. Neither did my mama. 

I did. I still do. At the part when that stunning journalist realizes she’s falling in love with the subject of her newest story. And the part when that handsome school-teacher admits he’s crazy about his best friend from childhood. And, of course, that part when the busy single mother finally decides to follow her heart, traveling halfway across the country to find that mystery man she met on a holiday vacation years ago. 

This is the world of the romantic comedy: the world that makes me cry at the most predictable endings, that makes me laugh at the most stereotypical characters, that makes me think love and life were always meant to be perfect. 

I know it’s an unrealistic thought. Perhaps it’s an unrealistic movie genre. 

Or, perhaps our definition of realism is flawed. Why must it be considered so unrealistic that everything ends happily ever after? That we chase our long-time lovers to the end of the Earth? That we get down on one knee in the middle of freezing Antarctica and ask them to be ours forever? 

I will admit that it’s tempting — and incredibly easy — to blame the rom-com for all our less-than-perfect romances. For all our devastating heartbreaks and our failed Valentine’s Day dinners and our scary messy breakups. 

They say that the world of the rom-com romanticizes love, creating something so magical and fabulous and out-of-this-world that it could not possibly ever exist. Still, when I was a little girl, I decided I wanted to fall in love like Katherine falls in love with Danny. I wanted someone to travel halfway across the world to admit their feelings for me, to chase me through the airport and get down on one knee, to drop everything and tell me they were obsessed with me. I wanted it all. Call me crazy. 

Call me crazy because I believe that the flaw with the romantic comedy is not its predictable endings or its stereotypical characters or its simple plotlines. The flaw with the romantic comedy is not its romanticized portrayal of love or its unrealistic depiction of marriage or its magical characterization of romance. No; the flaw with the romantic comedy is its audience — an audience trying too hard to convince themselves that the world of the romantic comedy is oh so very different from the world of real-life, unwilling to imagine themselves as the main characters, unwilling to believe that perhaps all their heartbreaking divorces and disappointing anniversaries and messy misunderstandings are part of some bigger, better happily ever after.