My family, like most people have been bitten by the Doctor Who bug (my sister has t-shirts, mugs, posters, etc.). I started to watch Doctor Who in 2006/2007, which I am pretty sure is well before the rest of my family got sucked in (though I think dad or mom watched it back in the 70’s or 80’s). My point here isn’t who got hooked first, because really it doesn’t matter, the fact is we all love it (as many people do). As soon as this year’s Christmas Special aired I heard mixed reviews (though most people seemed happy with it). First off I have to say, I enjoyed it. That being said I had a few problems with the episode. My first is that I think they tried to put too much into 90 minutes. In this Christmas Special all of The Doctor’s enemies and most of the major plot-lines converged, with a little extra. For most of the episode my brain felt like I was busy running around in a small enclosed space, with a million things to do, and not nearly enough time to do them in (much like The Doctor does in many episodes). I also found the bit about the clothing, or rather lack there of odd. Honestly I think it was as an excuse for people to see Matt Smith “naked”. Overall I enjoyed the show, but it left me wanting a little more explanation and a little less fan service.
At the end of September my mom asked me: “What are the 2013 movies to watch?” To which I responded: “That still have to come out? That are showing now? Or that have already been in theaters and are on DVD?” One of my old teachers said: “The 3rd choice”. An old classmate said: “Give us a list of each! Top five picks in each category”. My mother of course agreed with her. So after some thought and a little research here are the lists I came up with. The second and third could be edited even more depending on a wide verity of criteria, but I did the best I could.
Top 5 coming out in Nov. and Dec.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
3. Ender’s Game
4. Thor: The Dark World
5. 47 Ronin
Top 5 now playing
1. The Butler
2. Escape Plan
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Captain Phillips
Top 5 to rent
1. Star Trek: Into Darkness
3. From Up on Poppy Hill
4. This is 40
5. Wreck it Ralph
What is it about October that draws me to bad TV shows and movies? It is laziness after a busy summer? Is it that research proposal still hanging over my head? Is it the impending doom of winter drawing near? Who knows, but for some reason I’ve been watching a lot of bad TV.
What do I mean when I say bad TV? I mean its bad TV. The acting is poor, the plot line is as wholly as Swiss Cheese, and most of them have to deal with unnecessary drama that people add to their lives. Most of them also have to do with supernatural creatures… vampires… werewolves… fay (I’m sure you know which shows I’m talking about). I’m not saying that all shows or films about supernatural beings are bad, there are actually some that are quite amazing, but what I’ve been watching is overly caddy, poorly thought out and poorly executed.
So why do I keep watching them you ask? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I keep hoping that the acting will improve (Radcliff did well in the first 4 Potter films, tanked in the 5th, and did okay in 6 &7), the story will get better, or the plot will start making some kind of sense. But I should know to move on, and watch something more worthwhile. I could start working on that mini–series I keep telling myself I’ll write (but spec scripts take so much work and I’d have to look into a few things). Or maybe I could read a book, I haven’t read a book in ages (at least not one at isn’t related to my thesis). Speaking of my thesis, I should get back to work… or get lost in more bad TV since it is lunch time.
This week (or rather last few days) I have gotten sucked into what I have decided to call the Alpha bubble. I came across this amazing show on Netflix’s (exactly how I don’t remember, but I’m glad I did). The plot is very intriguing (though a bit like most crime shows out there) and the action keeps me (and probably others) glued to the couch. The first season introduces us to a team of Alphas (humans with special abilities) as they track down Alphas that commit crimes. Along with the villain for every show there is an organization that continues to make the Alpha’s life more difficult as the season progresses. There are unforeseen twists and turns throughout the first season, which even I (being trained in TV and Film formulas) did not foresee and keeps me interested in the show. There is a good balance of dialogue and action in every episode, along with an interesting story line. A few things about the show are rather stereotypical (the black guy is strong and the handsome guy is athletic), but overall the show is well thought out, fun (though I am a bit of a sucker for sci-fi), and action packed.
This fall I had the opportunity to go to the most amazing movie theater I’ve ever seen, the Moore Warren, in Moore Oklahoma. It is slightly disheveled after the tornado that hit at the beginning of the week, but is slated to re-open at the end of May/ beginning of June. If you are ever in the Moore, OK area take a trip there you will be delighted and impressed.
To a small town girl the Moore Warren was huge, easily the size of two football fields. The neon sign outside was impressive and almost daunting. I felt like I was going to a convention center, stadium or museum. We entered through a smaller door and walked into a retro diner. The staff happily greeted us in costume, though it was not quiet Halloween. Lunch was good, and the staff chatted with us as we sat on the retro stools at the bar. Like most girls I couldn’t finish my food so they boxed it up and we went to get tickets. As we walked into the lobby my jaw almost dropped; there is a tall vaulted ceiling and the walls have murals on them. One either side of the lobby there are stairs which leads to a balcony. I was told up there is a bar and fine dining. Up there are entrances to two auditoriums, which offer balcony seating and wait staff service (can you say perfect date night location!) We got our tickets and I took my leftovers into the luxurious auditorium (that’s right folks you can take your food from the diner into the auditorium). As we watched the movie in one of the 14 auditoriums (15 with the IMAX) equipped with Digital Cinema and THX technology, I munched on the remainders of my fries and wrap and wished there was something like the Moore Warren closer to home. After the movie was over we stuck around and looked around the theater. In the two main auditoriums is a smaller room that is encased with glass and wood. I was told the room was sound proof and meant for people with babies (yay! finally a place to put people with screaming kids). We ended our excursion with a walk down to the IMAX Theater, where I was equally impressed. For the IMAX there is a separate entrance that is staffed with intelligent and friendly people. I was told how big the screen was, how many seats there were and about the elevator that takes people to the top row; they said I could take a peek, but I didn’t dare. If I had I wouldn’t have wanted to leave, not that I wanted to leave anyways; I was the kid in the candy store, everywhere I looked was something unique or enjoyable about the Moore Warren.
The Princess Bride (1987) is an action-adventure; there are sword-fights, horse-back chases, and a treacherous climb. It is also filled with fantasy (there’s a princess, a prince, and a castle) and romance (kissing, a handsome man, and true love). There is also comedy; The Albino gets hit on the head so hard he become unconscious, Inigo falls face first into his food, and Fezzik and Inigo play childish rhyming games. The Princess Bride can be easily identified as a fantasy or an action-adventure through “easily identifiable elements and themes” (Bartfeld & Symons, 2007, p. 90). However action packed and fantastical the film is, the action and the fantasy are not the heart of the story.
According to McDonald (2007) “a romantic comedy is a film which has as its central narrative motor a quest for love, which portrays this quest in a light-hearted way and almost always to a successful conclusion.” (p. 9). The heart of The Princess Bride is the love story between Westley and Buttercup (Bartfeld & Symons, 2007). Since the heart of the story (the central narrative) is a quest for love and the film is filled with comedy – funny lines, exaggerated action, things that clearly are not real or are clearly staged – it makes sense to call The Princess Bride a romantic comedy. However The Princess Bride can fit into a specific sub-genre of romantic comedy, the neo-traditional romantic comedy. What follows is an account of the film (its creation and the basics) and why it fits into the neo-traditional romantic comedy sub-genre.
Plot and Premise, production details, etc.
Around 1970 William Goldman started to work on a book about princesses and brides for his daughters (Goldman, 1995; Bartfeld & Symons, 2007). The early pages were lost, but eventually he came back to the idea (Goldman, 1995). The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure is the abridged version (all the good bits) of a love story by S. Morgenstern, with contemporary comedic commentary added (Gehring, 1999). In the book Buttercup, a beautiful and fair maiden, is engaged to the repellent Prince Humperdinck (who also has questionable intentions), but is in love with Westley (a former farm hand turned pirate). Westley tries to save Buttercup from Prince Humperdinck, but all does not go according to plan. Goldman admits that he struggled with the story, but it eventually became the only novel of his own creation he liked (Goldman, 1995). Not only did Goldman enjoy his book, it became a “cult success” (Goldman, 1995, p. 278), and would eventually lead to film, The Princess Bride.
One of the Greenlight Guys from Fox liked the book so much, that Fox bought the book and asked Goldman to write a screenplay (Goldman, 1995). Goldman wrote the screenplay and the Greenlight guy liked it, but the Greenlight Guy was fired so Goldman and his screenplay were dropped from Fox (Goldman, 1995). Goldman bought his book back from Fox because he “didn’t want some fuckhead destroying” his best work (Goldman, 1995, p. 273). “The Princess Bride had a hell of a time being made… [it] bounced around Hollywood for a decade and a half” (Jacobson, 1987, p. 60).Other people liked the idea of turning The Princess Bride into a film too, but things always fell through.
Goldman knew Carl Reiner, Rob’s father, through theater and gave him a copy of The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, when he finished writing it. Carl gave the book to Rob, who was in his mid-twenties and he loved it (Jacobson, 1987; Goldman, 1995)! About dozen years after Rob Reiner read the book he was a director looking for a new project, he remembered the book and it became his quest to turn the book into a film (Jacobson, 1987; Goldman, 1995). Reiner and Goldman meet and discussed turning the beloved book into a film. In order to make the film Reiner and Goldman “beefed up the love story” (Jacobson, 1987, p. 60).With the love story beefed up the two men found money, a cast, and production of The Princess Bride began.
The film follows the book as best it can, with some deviations. Reiner (2007) says the film is good, but that it is not nearly as good as the book. Reiner (2007) says he captured as much of the book as he could, but that he believes he got feel and tone of the book in the film. The biggest deviation from the film is that a grandfather reads to his grandson, rather than the father reading the good parts to his son (Goldman, 1995). The movie opens with a young boy (Fred Savage) sick in bed (Scheuer, 1987). His grandfather (Peter Falk) comes to read him a story about ‘fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles …’ (Reiner, 1987). The story is about the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls in love with the farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes). Westley and Buttercup are separated and Westley is presumed dead. Time passes and Buttercup finds herself engaged to the odious Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Prince Humperdinck has Buttercup kidnapped, by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his associates – an accomplished swordsman, as Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and a super strong giant, Fezzik (Andre the Giant) – in order to start a war. The Dread Pirate Roberts (Westley, Buttercup’s love) stumbles upon the kidnapping and it is up to him to save the woman he once loved. Westley is successful in his rescue and the lovers are reunited. However Westley and Buttercup are captured by Prince Humperdinck. In order to save Westley Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck. The lovers are separated, again, but not for long. Westley joins forces with Inigo and Fezzik to stop the royal wedding. According to Gehring (1999) this fairytale does two things: “it reminds us that life is not fair and sometimes the wrong people die… despite this warning, it gives us a happy ending” (p.79). Gehring (1999) posits that Goldman gives the story a happy ending because “you are not going to get [it] in reality” (p. 79).
The Princess Bride was released in theaters in September 25, 1987. Due to miss-marketing, or as Goldman (1995) put it not knowing how to sell the film, the film did not become popular until it was already out on VHS. Scheuer (1987) called The Princess Bride delightful and urged people to both read the book and watch the film. In the fall of 2012 the cast got together for the films special 25th anniversary screening at Alice Tully Hall in New York (Murphy. 2012). Most of the cast did many interviews in which they talked about his experience with the film. In the fall of 2012 Mandy Patinkin did an interview with NPR to commemorate the 25th anniversary. Just after the 25th anniversary Cary Elwes was interviewed on Maltin on Movies to also commemorate the films continued love and success.
Argument of Neo-traditional
In McDonald’s (2007) view “the neo-traditional romantic comedy reasserts the old ‘boy meets, loses, regains girl’ structure, emphasising the couple will be heterosexual, will form lasting relationship, and that their story will end as soon as they do so” (p. 86). In The Princess Bride Westley meets Buttercup and they fall in love. Westley loses Buttercup when he goes to sea and becomes a pirate. Westley gets Buttercup back when he rescues her from Vizzini, only to lose her again when they are captured by the Prince. Eventually Westley saves Buttercup from the Prince and the two ride off together. The Princess Bride follows the narrative structure mentioned in McDonald’s definition perfectly. Maybe Reiner and Goldman take the narrative structure to the extreme for comedies sake – Westley does loses Buttercup twice, but each time he gets her back. Westley is a man and Buttercup is a woman – so the couple in the film is heterosexual – another point for Reiner and Goldman in following McDonald’s definition. In fact Westley is so masculine and Buttercup is feminine that Henry & Rossen-Knill (1988) call Westley the “Ideal Man” – he is “strong, intelligent”, and a protector – and Buttercup the “Ideal Woman” – she is “beautiful, submissive,” and “in need of protection” (p. 53). As The Princess Bride ends Westley and Buttercup have finally defeated Prince Humperdinck and we are lead to believe as they kiss for the final time that they will be wed and live happily ever after together. By implying marriage Westley and Buttercup have a lasting relationship, another point to Reiner and Goldman for following McDonald’s definition. At first glance The Princess Bride fits McDonald’s over all definition of a neo-traditional romantic comedy well. So it is time to look deeper to see if The Princess Bride contains some of the key characteristics common in neo-traditional romantic comedies.
According to McDonald (2007) there are five characteristics common in a neo-traditional romantic comedy. First, there is the use of romantic signifier’s in film titles (McDonald, 2007). Second, “a backlash against ideology of the radical film alongside a maintenance of its visual surfaces” (McDonald, 2007, p.91). Third, is “a mood of imprecise nostalgia” evoked in the film (McDonald, 2007, p. 91). Fourth, is the use of “vague self-referentialism” during the film (McDonald, 2007, p.91). Fifth, is a “De-emphasising of sex” throughout the film (McDonald, 2007, p.91).
Like many neo-traditional romantic comedies The Princess Bride has a romantic signifier in title. The word bride references the inevitable outcome, which is the princess will one day be a bride at her own wedding. Weddings are a common romantic motif in neo-traditional romantic comedies. As Henry and Rossen-Knill (1988) point out there are actually two weddings in the film. The first is the horrible wedding in Buttercup’s dream, and the second is Buttercups wedding to Prince Humperdinck. The title mentions both a princess and a wedding, which will attract the attention of many girls and women, who yearn for a fairy-tale and romance.
A common theme in The Princess Bride is True Love. According to Bartfeld and Symons (2007), true love is Westley and Buttercup’s ultimate goal. The concept of love or True Love and the desire to attain it is traditional in romantic comedies, neo-traditional or not. According to Henry and Rossen-Knill (1988) The Princess Bride give the audience two messages: the first is “Twue Rove is funny”, the second is “True Love is good” (p. 43).
According to Henry and Rossen-Knill (1988) Reiner and Goldman parody True Love through deferral, indirection and humor. The parody of True Love gives The Princess Bride most of its humor. When the clergyman calls True Love “Twue Rove” everyone, audience and characters laugh, because the man is so incoherent (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988). The scene is made even funnier because the marriage is rushed or incomplete, and the man ordained by god to sanction the union just goes with it (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988). Even when True Love can be said properly it can be funny. In the film Miracle Max says, “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world -except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe” (Reiner, 1987). Max’s line is honest, true, and funny as all get out.
Henry and Rossen-Knill (1988) also say that “The Princess Bride professes true love” (p. 47). It does so by highlighting scenes in which an avowal of love takes place (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988). When Buttercup finally finds out what Westley mean when he says “As you wish” the grandfather tells us what is happening as it happens on-screen. By showing the audience what is happening while an outsider comments on it draws attention to the scene. The contrast of avowal and disavowal highlights the concept (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988). At the beginning of the film the grandson objects to Westley and Buttercup kissing, which represents their love for each other. However about halfway through the film the grandson objects to Buttercup marrying Prince Humperdinck saying: “Hold it hold it grandpa. You read that wrong. She doesn’t marry Humperdinck, she marries Westley. I’m sure of it” (Reiner, 1987). The grandson has gone from disliking true love to demanding it wins. The contrast is great and highlights True Love importance well.
The second characteristic of a neo-traditional romantic comedy is backlash against radical films. In The Princess Bride this is done a number ways. The first way this is done is by clearly demonstrating the couples’ togetherness. Westley and Buttercup face Prince Humperdinck together, and are separated. But once they are separated they do everything in their power to get back together. Buttercup sends out letters to Westley and Westley defies death, again, and stops the wedding. The second is that the lovers face insurmountable barriers. When Westley and Buttercup first fall in love they are separated by the high seas for five years. Later they are kept apart, with Buttercup in the castle and Westley in the Pit of Despair. Finally, despite the barriers a couple forms and ends up happily ever after. By the end of the film Westley and Buttercup defeat Prince Humperdinck and at last they are together, forever. According to Bartfeld and Symons (2007) a “well-known convention of the romance, is the final embrace and kiss that confirms or consolidates the love of the hero and heroine” (p. 94). In the last few minutes of the film Westley and Buttercup sit atop their snow-white horses and kiss as the grandfather says: “Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind” (Reiner, 1987). With a kiss and evil behind them, Westley and Buttercup live happily ever after. The formation of couple and happy ending are essential to neo-traditional romantic comedy.
Neo-traditional romantic comedies also tend to be vaguely nostalgic. In The Princess Bride a grandpa reads a story to his grandson. Everyone watching the film has probably been read to, by a parent or grandparent. Thus anyone watching the film can relate to what is happening. Watching the grandpa reading to the grandson probably stirs up happy memories for many people. Giving the film a fairy-tale setting, in rural and beautiful medieval times can also make people nostalgic. They might think about how when they were young the pretended to be a princess or a prince. Or reminisce about their trip to the countryside and all the fun they used to have playing outside in the muck.
The Princess Bride is very self-referential, it barrows locations and characters from old Hollywood swashbuckler’s. For the cliff top duel between Inigo and Westley the “environment in the style of classic Hollywood swashbucklers” (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988, p. 55). There is a stone staircase and sandy ground. “The sheer excess is comic in and of itself”, both Westley and Inigo are masters with the sword, with both hands, and are amazingly agile (Henry & Rossen-Knill, 1988, p. 55). Westley “has been constructed from iconographic conventions” of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks (Bartfeld & Symons, 2007, p. 92).
The Princess Bride is also self-referential when its uses known actors. According to Scheuer (1987) “many of their faces will be familiar to you”, and indeed they are. Aside from Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin there are other popular film and TV stars. Christopher Guest plays Count Tyrone Rugen, the six-fingered man. Billy Crystal plays the hilarious and peculiar Miracle Max. Carol Kane plays Valerie, Max’s wife. There are even some British TV actors; Peter Cook is the Clergyman, and Mel Smith is The Albino (Dunne, 1992).
Another way that The Princess Bride is self-referential is that it is out of touch with reality. According to Bartfeld and Symons (2007) the film has a blatant “disregard for the rules of reality and science” (p. 93). Things happen throughout the film that are not or should not be possible, yet they happen, because what happens on-screen is just pretend. The first example of the fantastical could be Fezzik’s in human strength. As Barfeld and Symons says: “it would be impossible for anyone, even the world’s strongest man, to pull himself up a rope hung over a cliff-face many hundreds of meters high with the burden of four other adults. Yet… Fezzik comfortably achieves the task” (p. 93). Everyone knows this action to be impossible yet it happens, because it’s a movie. Everyone knows it is impossible for someone to come back to life. Yet “Westley is brought back from the ‘mostly dead’ with the aid of sorcerer Miracle Max’s power and the probably delicious, chocolate-coated magic pill” (Bartfeld & Symons, 2007, p. 93). A third disconnect from reality happens “when Princess Buttercup … jumps from a high window into the arms of Fezzik, she falls in slow motion, as characters do in movies not in life.” (Dunne, 1992, p. 102). This happens close to the end of The Princess Bride, thus reminding the audience that what they are watching is not real, but most defiantly pretend. When looking for Westley Inigo comes across the tree which serves as the entrance to The Pit of Dispair, however the door is hidden so “Inigo prays to his father’s ghost and discovers the secret through some sort of ESP” (Dunne, 1992, p. 105). Most people do not believe in ghosts and ESP, but it does not matter that they are not real, it is amusing and since this is a movie and not reality, it works. In the castle Inigo faces Count Rugen, the man who killed Inigos father and left him scarred. “After Inigo has been stabbed, apparently to death, by Count Rugen, he brings himself back to life by recalling his vow to revenge his father’s death. He grows stronger each time he says, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”” (Dunne, 1992, p. 105). Anyone who knows anything about anatomy knows that after the blows Inigo sustains to his shoulder, arm, chest and stomach, he would have bled out quickly. But Inigo must get his revenge, he’s one of the good guys after all. Each time he repeats the now famous lines, he grows stronger, is able to defeat Count Rugen and stave death off, permanently. Dunne (1992) states that “Reiner is making movies, not life, and he gives his audience credit for knowing this.” (p. 105). Reiner makes it obvious, through these fantastical actions, that what the audience is seeing is not real. And by doing this over and over he expects the audience to notice that he is mocking reality for their amusement.
One final bit of self-referentialism in The Princess Bride is the fact there is a story with in a story. “The film presents the grandfather reading from a book in his grandson’s bedroom and then proceeds to present the contents of the story that he reads, interspersed with occasional interruptions and commentary about the story” (Diehl, 2009, p. 23). It is the story within a story (media within a medium) and the comments about the story, made by the grandfather and grandson throughout that make the film self-referential. In the film the grandfather and grandson frame the principal narrative (Dunne, 1992). Sometimes the framing takes place as a fade (Dunne, 1992). Like at the beginning of the film, when it fades out of the grandson’s bedroom and onto the farm with Buttercup and Westley. Sometimes the narrative jumps from one scene to another by use of the grandfather or grandson’s voice (Dunne, 1992). When Fezzik finds Westley’s dead in The Pit of Despair, the grandson says: “What does Fezzik mean, he’s dead? . . . Westley’s only faking, right?” The audience is slingshot from the Pit back to the bedroom, a prime example of a narrative jump (Dunne, 1992). Jacobson (1987) calls The Princess Bride “a narrative wrap… featuring a kid and his grandpa reading the central story” (p. 60). This wrap showcases the fact that there is a story taking place inside another story.
The fifth and final characteristic of a neo-traditional romantic comedy is the de-emphasis of sex. In The Princess Bride sex is not mentioned even once, and it is not alluded to in any conversations. Westley and Buttercup are rarely alone, and when they are they are too busy fighting to stay alive, so the topic of sex or opportunity to have it, never comes up. Westley and Buttercup do kiss, a few times, but their last kiss is called passionate and pure. If something is pure, sex is not involved.
The Princess Bride is a neo-traditional romantic comedy. It follows the traditional romance narrative, complete with a happy ending. It is also self-referential and vaguely nostalgic. The title hints at the idea of love and marriage, and True Love conquers all obstacles. Reiner (2007) said The Princess Bride was the most difficult film he worked on, because he had to balance satire, romance, and adventure and be truthful. But he balanced romance, comedy and adventure well, the audience laughs, jumps, and cries with and for the characters. As testament to Reiner’s and the crews’ hard work and dedication The Princess Bride is still loved and quoted today.
Neo-traditional romantic comedies are the dominant romantic comedy type today. They are said to be popular because they follow the traditional boy meets girl, boy loses, girl boy gets girl back structure, but are more realistic. The couples in neo-traditional romantic comedies have problems, but they still get their happily ever after. Neo-traditional romantic comedies have also been popular for so long because popular culture is tied in, making them accessible to the audience years and years later. The de-emphasis of sex makes neo-traditional romantic comedies more family friendly, which could add to popularity. These personal connections draw the audience in, if they audience is engaged they will keep watching.
Neo-traditional romantic comedies follow the typical romantic comedy structure; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. However neo-traditional romantic comedies are more realistic than the romantic comedies of the early 1930’s. The couples in neo-traditional face what seems like insurmountable barriers or problems. In Sleepless in Seattle (1993) the couple faces a geographical barrier – Sam is in Seattle and Annie is in Baltimore. They also have a few problems to overcome – like the fact that Annie is engaged to Walter. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) the barrier is emotional. The couple enters the relationship with ulterior motives – Andie is writing an article about how to lose a man and Ben is trying to win a bet about making a woman fall in love. Since Ben and Andie are trying to get the opposite result a real relationship is very problematic. People love seeing real relationships with problems, our own lives are filled with both – relationships and problems – so films about relationships and problems are easy to relate to.
Happy endings, or as McDonald calls them the “Love Santa”, are huge part of the neo-traditional romantic comedy. Though couples in neo-traditional romantic comedies have problems and barriers to work through they always end up together. Sam and Annie’s relationship faces many problems, but they still end up together, hand in hand at the top of the Empire State building. Andie and Ben want opposite things from their relationship motives, but end up kissing on a bridge in the rain. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) the audience is left with the feeling that the couples are happy and will be together forever. People prefer happy endings. Why? I don’t know, but I can’t think of a person on earth who doesn’t want their own happily ever after. Is it because life is so full of problems we like the idea that things always work out in the end? Maybe.
Neo-traditional romantic comedies have a tendency to reference popular culture. In When Harry Met Sally (1989), Harry and Sally watch Casablanca. Sally also talks about how marriage and kids is different for men, as she said “Charlie Chapin had kid when he was 60”. In Sleepless in Seattle (1993) Annie watches An Affair to Remember numerous times, and the other women in the film talk about their love for it. Old movies and old movie stars, if those aren’t popular culture references; I’m not sure what is. You’ve Got Mail (1998), has to do with find the right person online. Kathleen says she and her are talking about cyber-sex to make someone go away. Online dating and cyber-sex started in the 1990’s, and only grew in the 2000’s. These references much like movies and stars carry over time. In Kate and Leopold (2003) when Kate first meets Leopold she calls him Sargent Pepper, because he’s in 19th century garb, and looks like one of the Beetles from the cover of the album by the same name. In Sweet Home Alabama (2002) Andrew proposes to Melanie by taking her to Tiffany & Co after hours to choose any ring she wants. Nothing quite says romantic proposal than the blue box with the white bow. By referencing popular culture the film becomes more accessible to the audience. With popular culture making the film enjoyable and accessible, it is no surprise that neo-traditional comedies remain popular today.
In the 80’s and 90’s with the AIDS outbreak and Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign people began to be more cautious about sex than they had been in the 70’s. Neo-traditional romantic comedies parallel the de-emphasis of sex. In The Proposal (2009) it is implied that both Margret and Andrew have had sex, and Gertrude looks down on Andrew when she hears he’s been sleeping around. Though they are the romantic leads Margret and Andrew never have sex with each other; they don’t even share a bed. In fact when Margret and Andrew see each other naked they both freak out. In Sleepless in Seattle (1993) Annie and Walter never have sex, even though they share the same bed and are engaged. Annie’s mother talks about having sex with Annie’s father and Annie blushes and says she doesn’t want to know. The lack of sexual activity and the fact that sex is hushed or looked down upon shows that sex in neo-traditional films is de-emphasized. This conservative representation of sex makes it more family friendly, which means more people, can and will watch the films. If more people watch these types of films the more likely it is that they will continue to be made.
Real relationships, happy endings, the de-emphasis of sex, and references to popular culture make neo-traditional romantic comedies accessible and enjoyable. Because they are accessible and enjoyable more people watch neo-traditional romantic comedies. The more people watch them the more they are produced. And if they are being enjoyed – like so many people who enjoy the typical Hollywood Three Act Structure – why change it?