A few years ago I was invited to give a talk at another university and the lady who invited me offered to put me up for the night. That night, as I settled down on her sofabed, I looked through her DVD tower by the tv. All of her DVDs seemed to heavily feature the colour pink, with pictures of male-female couples, often in contrived silly poses and I realised her terrible secret - she was a romcom addict.
I shouldn't feel superior about anyone's film choices. I've pretty much lost count of the number of times I've shown one of my favourite films to someone at the start of a friendship, which has ensured they never invite me round again. Just coming out of the closet ? The self-hating gay men of Boys in The Band will send you right back in again! Fancy a fun lesbian romance? How about the kidnapping and religious rancour of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit? Are you recently pregnant? Well I'm sure you'll enjoy the abortion jokes in drag queen epic Girls Will Be Girls. Do you hate horror films? Well don't worry, retro-cult movie The House of the Devil isn't that scary at all. I'm sure you'll like it and not go upstairs halfway through, never to return.
It's only when I watch such films through the eyes of my friends that I realise that awful scenes of people being horrible to each other are not necessarily "read" as camp and hilarious but can be quite upsetting.
And actually, I'm not that picky when it comes to films. Despite a natural liking for some of the films I've listed above, as well as lowbrow nasties like Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, I'm also happy to watch something in Italian with subtitles, a rousing war film, a spaghetti western, a Disney film, a Bond film or even a romcom.
Although with romcoms they have to be enjoyed on two levels - first, as the creators would have you watch them - getting swept along by the story, caring for the characters and shedding a few tears when they finally get together. But also on a much more cynical, detatched, look how they are manipulating me level. All romcoms follow a formula - which can be reduced to: a heterosexual couple encounter various obstacles to love, then get over it and live happily ever afer.
My favourite romcom is 27 Dresses. As Stefon from SNL would say "It has everything!" I think it might be the most perfect romcom ever. You can tick off the bits of the formula.
There can be variations on a theme - poor old Julia Roberts ends up all alone (apart from her sassy (gay) best friend Rupert Everett in My Best Friends Wedding (there's two variations for you!) And I always like it when the romcom does "foreign" which means that the American characters wind up in London (as happens to Debra Messing when she hires a handsome male escort in The Wedding Date). It's a London that I have no experience of - everyone live in huge houses, goes to even huger country houses for the weekend, the males are all sporty and ruddy (sometimes they play rugby and wear rugby shirts constantly), it never rains and there are no poor people or black people anywhere. But really, Jane Austen wrote the original romcom - and give or take something disastorous happening with a pair of big pants, the winning formula hasn't changed since then.