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Rom-Com Revisited

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | February 5, 2011 |

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | February 5, 2011 |

I enjoyed the hell out of Prisco’s post of not long ago, “What do you want out of a rom-com?” I, too, decry the tired tropes and plotlines of movies like … well, they know who they are.

And then a day or two later this story showed up in the sports section of my newspaper.

It was about two college-age people who grew up in Italy (an exotic locale!). They became world-class target shooters (the quirky job!). They knew of each other and didn’t like each other (80 minutes of I-can’t-stand-you-and-neither-can-I!). She grew up near the Austrian border and spoke largely German, he spoke mostly Italian (the contrived barrier!). Because they didn’t speak to each other much, each thought the other was arrogant (the Big Misunderstanding!). They both end up at the same American university that happens to have an NCAA-championship-level rifle program (the meet-cute!). He helps her find her way around the admissions process, and they become friends (the last 10 minutes!).

Are you gagging yet?

The only thing they have to do is fall in love and wind up competing for the same goal — NCAA championship, Olympic team, fuck-all — and presto! gold. I see them reaching the finals and each deliberately missing shot after shot so the other can win …

I told all this to a colleague at work and she said, “Call it ‘Shot Through the Heart.’ “

There you are. True story, just needs a little finish, and I even gave you the title. You crank out the script and find two attractive leads and you’ve hit the fucking rom-com jackpot, and everyone at Pajiba (including me) will loathe it because it follows every fucking rom com convention there is. (You’ll also owe me 5% of the $100 pajillion it will make you.)

It made me think that perhaps the problem with decrying the rom-com tropes is that every day real people, real ATTRACTIVE people (if I may flatter myself), with real quirky jobs meet real cute and overcome real contrived obstacles and misunderstandings and fall in real love and get real married, while we complain that “real” people aren’t represented in rom-coms.

Here’s another example, and if you remember that I’ve told this story before just shut the fuck up and fill in the tropes as you go along:

I met the future Mrs. Tater at a Christmas party she didn’t want to go to but her mother made her, because it was her cousin’s party. Her cousin’s two sisters also attended. I was there with several miscreants and ne’re-do-wells of my acquaintance (I was considered to be one myself by the co-host of the party, who warned the future Mrs. Tater not to associate with me; the other co-host was a co-worker, a jolly fat fellow who liked to drink and carry on) who spent most of this party groping the two sisters. This pissed off Co-Host 1 to the point where she sat down on a chair in the middle of her own party and read a book. I hit on the future Mrs. Tater, who denies to this day that she pulled my hand to her breast and made me grope her, sort of a hate grope for Co-Host 1 who was acting so petulant, and of course the future Mrs. Tater didn’t want to be there in the first place. Long story short, I asked the future Mrs. Tater for her phone number and she gave it to me as a challenge, figuring I would never call her (because I was the Bad Boy). I accepted her challenge and called her, and we started dating.

She worked at a AAA (the Triptik people) and I was a one-man sports department at a tiny newspaper. Our “dates” sometimes were me taking her to basketball games and wrestling matches I was covering. I’d get her in free by telling the ticket-taker she was my photographer.

Married 28 years, motherfucker. Write THAT script, every word is fucking true, and it’s rom-com trope after trope after trope. I think we hit them all.

So maybe the rom-com formula succeeds so well because THAT’S HOW MOST PEOPLE HOOK UP, and the audience recognize themselves as people who just wound up with their S.O. through pure fucking stupid accident. Maybe it succeeds not because it isn’t true but because it IS.

I’m betting I’m right. I bet a lot, maybe even most, of Pajibans’ hookups came right out of the rom-com playbook of quirky jobs, meet-cutes, contrived barriers, hate/love and all the rest. I’m betting heavily.

Tell me I’m right.

Don’t let me down.

To suggest a diversion idea or leave Tater a fan letter, you can reach him by email.

Unworthy Actors, Worthy Actresses, Melissa Leo and Kunislingus | I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.