The Rom-Com Conundrum

I just read an article on romantic comedies and sexism, The Astonishing Sexism of Hollywood and What it Means for Girls; it does a good job of spelling out what we already knew- the damage the classic romantic comedy female lead role does to young women and girls who watch these tropes and internalizing them.

As I read through it, I thought about the absence of race in this conversation which got me thinking. Do I even want women of color leading rom-coms?

On a basic level, I want to say yes, more diversity in media, plzkthnx!

The classic rom-com female lead is either a type-A (exerts too much control) or wild-child (frivolous and childish- manic pixie dream girl) trope, and white (typically blond). Women of color tend to fall into the role of the sassy best-friend or side-kick, giving sage advice to the misguided but adorable and  likable female lead while having no character development for themselves. More than that, even in so called “urban-targeted” films, we’re controlling, ball-busting or soul crushing- certainly not the adorable blond who needs to learn a lesson. No, we’re the harpy who needs to get taken down a peg or five. Do I want this, no need this to end? Hell yes.

On the other hand, I’m not only a black person, I’m a woman. Do I want to see women of color stripped of dignity and agency, made to be more vulnerable so that they appeal to an audience? Do I really want to see them perpetuate harmful stereotypes of women? Do I want to see them exist for the sole purpose of advancing a male character’s development? Do I just want a ‘whiter’ female character of color?

Certainly not.

Even as I argue for more diverse casting, I can’t ignore the inherent sexism present in the entertainment business. As much as I want to see more women of color going past the sassy best-friend token role, I don’t know if I could bear it if they jumped from one oppression to another. This sort of conundrum is why I scoff at anyone who ignores intersection in anti-oppression work. Not only must we completely disrupt the institutional sexism in Hollywood, we must at the same time disrupt the instituionalized racism, ableism, queerphobia, etc. We need to have romances that aren’t heteronormative, where the woman doesn’t have to be shamed/taught a lesson to be seen as relatable or appealing, where women of color can flourish as fleshed out strong characters.

I do want to see a woman of color leading a rom-com (my ambivalence to rom-coms as a genre aside, it is a significant part of the box office biz), but the rom-com role itself has to change.

Related Articles
Counting Colored Cash – POCs can make an impact—even though we’ve proven it time and time and time again—and will make the flimsiest excuses to justify why POCs shouldn’t be visible in the media and why our dollars don’t count. Excuses I’m about to debunk and with this post.

Open discussion: Rom-coms, Ars Marginal style – Why don’t we take on all the rom com bullshit? Let’s subvert the fuck out of what this cliche-ridden drivel shovels to us about sex, love, and romance!” Take something you hate about rom-coms, then flip the script and make it something awesome!


No, You Aren’t African!

Keep A Child Alive, you do good work, but…

Please quit with these “I Am African” campaigns!!

Painting yourself with “tribal markings”, and really what the heck does that mean and posing with the illusion of nudity does nothing to make white Hollywood heavy-hitters African, know why? They’re not. They have the ‘privilege’ (remember that word) of washing out those markings, putting on their thousand dollar clothes, and walking off the sets! Know what us Africans get to do, keep being African. Having DNA that can be ”traced back” to Africa doesn’t give you the first idea of what it means to be African.

And we don’t really appreciate the victimization either.

Oh, and the homogenization is getting old.

Manic Pixie Dream Girls As Explained By Anita Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian from the awesome blog, Feminist Frequency is doing a series of vblogs called Tropes vs. Women that “[explore] the reoccurring stories, themes and representations of women in Hollywood films and TV shows.” Her first post is on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a cute, bubbly, young (usually white) woman who has recently entered the life of our brooding hero to teach him how to loosen up and enjoy life.


Link to full transcript over here.

More on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl over here at TV Tropes. Warning, links lead to TV Tropes.

Miss Marple Reboot Casts Jennifer Garner

Actress Jennifer Garner at a press conference ...

Image via Wikipedia

Miss Marple.

Please tell me, for the sake of my sanity that when I give you a question like “Who’d you most like to portray Miss Marple in a major film” you don’t immediately think, “Jennifer Garner!”

Now this is not a post about Jennifer Garner; it’s about Miss Marple and why actresses like, oh I don’t know, off the top of my head, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Zoë Wanamaker, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, just to name a few, didn’t even get a chance because word is that “Disney has made a deal to revive the Agatha Christie mystery series staple character Miss Marple, but with one big difference: instead of the elderly spinster who lives in the English village of St. Mary Mead and solves mysteries as a hobby, the new configuration is for Mark Frost to script a version where Marple is in her 30s or 40s.”

Well then, I guess we should be glad we’re even getting a 40s option, no? Or couldn’t they have just acquired rights for Nancy Drew?

You know what, here’s a suggestion. Well alright then, she’s American and much younger now. Since they’ve opened that door, I’ll walk right through it. Why not cast a woman of color as Miss Marple? Arguments like staying true to the original source work don’t hold water anymore.

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