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Breaking Up With The RomCom

I have been a fan of romcoms since it became possible for me to choose what to watch. I rejoiced when the Romedy Now channel showed up on my set. A 24 x 7 channel dedicated to funny, hopeful stories, YAY! But of course. The romcom is the fairytale of our times. And it is with a heavy heart that I concede that this so-called ‘modern’ fairytale is just as oppressive and problematic as the Snow White/Rapunzel/Dainty Princess-Prince Charming narrative I was fed as a child.

I find myself wincing during rewatches of films that I loved the first time I saw them. How could I not have spotted that stalker-masquerading-as-hero character? How did I think this entitled mansplainer was an ideal man? What on earth did I find funny about that misogynist tirade?


Topping the list is HITCH, a film that I loved for this sassy dialogue and the utterly droolworthy Will Smith. Not to mention its nonchalant diversity (both lead characters being people of colour without the film making a BIG deal out of it). In hindsight though, isn’t it a story of a pick-up artist actually helping other males prey on women using every manipulative technique he can think of? Oh of course, it’s charming Will who ‘actually likes women’. And yes of course, it’s because his heart was broken when he was younger. Notice how that is ALWAYS used to excuse away men’s misogyny on screen? Right down to our desi misogyny frontrunner — PYAR KA PUNCHNAMA.

There’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY checking off all the boxes on toxic masculinity and utterly horrible relationship models. “A man and a woman cannot be friends because the sex always gets in the way”?

That was being challenged by Bollywood in the 1980s and by (of all people) Salman Khan. Who lost. Not to mention being copied scene-for-scene in the noughties. Down to excusing the male Im-a-screwup-so-love-me storyline. Boo.

Shall we think about female characters? After all, romcoms did follow the chicklit trend of the 90s/00s with women as protagonists. A hot topic was to address ‘her real problems’. Let’s look at how that turned out. We have 27 DRESSES and BRIDGET JONES DIARY to thank for telling us that being single means we are antiseptic martyr/prudes or alcoholic hot messes. Just until the right man comes our way, of course. And even if he’s a stodgy, dull, boring ‘Good Boy’, he kisses like a dream. Ugh, thanks for setting us back on all the sexual empowerment Sex And The City did (the TV show, not the movies but more on that later).

Oh and thanks, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING for showing women can be ruthless bitches when it comes to not getting what they want. Feminism definitely is about letting us get off the pedestal of being picture perfect. I just wish Julia Roberts’ character hadn’t ended up being shown as the villain. Reverse the genders and the story of a guy who will do anything at all to land the person of his dreams (including lying, seducing an already attached person, gaslighting their significant other)— does that sound like a villain? No, it sounds like Shah Rukh Khan.

Then there’s HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, an absolutely appalling story even at its time, about two nasty people setting traps for each other. A side character neatly sums up the story in her line, “Sounds needlessly vicious.” A man making a play for a woman to get her to fall for him, so that he can land a client account. A woman torturing a guy with ridiculous behaviour (Apparently this is what women do wrong. Uh no, this is what someone who never learnt how to be a human being does.) so she can write a magazine article about it. What is either funny or romantic about this story? And let’s put that through the gender filter. The story assumes that they’ve each done equal bad to the other. Is that so? Does seducing a person under false pretences compare with interrupting their boys’ night out? Can I get a Hell, #MeToo here?

I won’t bother talking about the Sex And The City movies because I’ve already done so when they each came out. And now here’s a rather disappointing analysis of why romcoms may not be that popular anymore. It’s time for new fairytales. Hey Classic RomCom, you and I are done.


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Taking a cue from an ex- who believed in indulging the pain to make it go away, I have invested in a whole lot of movies on the far chance that I’d need to drown our pain in someone else’s sorrows. Actually it works.

So I watched ‘Bridget Jones’ diary’ last week for the second time in a month. I have several favorite moments in this movie (most of which include the delectable Firth in the frame) but I really lurrrrve the song underscoring the bish-bashing scene between Firth and Grant.

It’s raining men…hallelujah!

This might be my theme song at the moment…oh probably has been for a very long time indeed. Dreamcatcher wondered sometime back if it mightn’t be just men that are comittment-phobic. I tend to agree with her. I suspect I might actually be enjoying the rush of testosterone that seems to have engulfed my world this year.

But men, oh men, men….

The one I really like either does not know I exist or doesn’t care that I do.
The one I respect and do not treat as lab specimen, wonders why I don’t flirt with him.
When I say I’m leaving, they sigh in relief
And then look around in bewilderment with “What, you actually left?”

This species causes much mirth…and heartache too.

And having said all that, I have a song that I will sing (from the rooftops if it ever happens!) to the one who will finally be THE ONE.

There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem’ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them.
In my life I loved you more.

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them.
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

Thank you John, Paul, Ringo and George for singing my soul long before I was even born or learnt to feel. This is really how I will feel…and I know it even before it can happen (if it ever will…but ah, we’s optimistic). And when it happens, I’ll be out in the streets singing. And it won’t be about the weather, this time.

Soul sisters

I finished reading “Bridget Jones’ diary 2- The Edge of Reason”. I could identify with the protagonist. Just like I could identify with Ally McBeal and the characters of Sex and the City. I read an article in the newspaper today, about the status of urban, upwardly mobile, independent single women. That’s the one reading BusinessWorld on the bus, the one with a nose ring browsing the high-end mobile phone section, the party animal at the pub on Friday night. We exist in every continent, every culture that allows us access to technology, independence and the right to our own minds. The Modern Woman. I am not alone.

At 26, I’m worldly enough to know how to have my way, how to look good, how to impress and influence. I’m smart enough to have an informed opinion and independent enough to voice it without having to worry too much about what other people think. I also suffer loneliness, guilt, confusion, stress. I lead an unhealthy lifestyle….no exercise, too much of junk food, not enough sleep. Thankfully I don’t smoke that much but well, living in this city is as good as being a chain-smoker.

I worry incessantly about my job and my looks and I think nothing at all about my family. I drift in and out of bad relationships and the only man I can stand for longer than a few days is someone I know I’m ‘just good friends’ with. My conversations with my girlfriends are a chaotic mix of bitching about men, agonizing over our looks, obsessing about our work and complaining about the lack of time, money, clear roads, decent guys, good beauticians and tasty, healthy food. So much for simple living and high thinking.

The generation gap has become an un-bridgeable chasm. At 26 my mother had been married for three years, become a mother and made the transition from the spacious house in downtown Delhi to the cubbyhole flats in suburban Mumbai. She was running a household, tending to a hyperactive preschooler and battling in-law issues. I, on the other hand, have rash-driven through the entire spectrum of bad relationships (abusive, neglectful, power-obssessive, shallow, cheating, rebounds…take your pick), struggled through courses I didn’t want to study, had 4 jobs, quit mysteriously and jumped in and out of crazy split-second decisions. Recently I announced that I was considering moving out. The reaction was explosive to say the least. Amid other things, there was “We are Indians! We don’t do things like that! What did we begrudge you???” I hate this. This having to be the model daughter…the definition just changed from ‘good home-maker’ to ‘smart professional’. All this while not getting the freedom that goes with taking responsibility for one’s life (and others). While still being seen as less-than-complete because I’m single (God, how I hate the word ‘unmarried’ as if being married is the natural state for a 20-something to be and anything else is an aberration)

I have few real friends who are women. The others are all married. Most of them have settled down into matrimonial bliss and the joys of parenthood. Which is fine. I have no objection to anybody being happy. But why are people so insistent that theirs is the only way to live life? Smug Marrieds as Bridget Jones calls it. The few others who manage to be not so smug, seem almost wistful when they look at my life and how carefree they think I am. It’s a bloody catch-22….no peace for my generation.

There’s always work of course. After suffering male chauvinist professors (“Why don’t you stay home and learn to cook, madam?”) and jealous peers (“Opportunist bitch, I bet you slept your way up”), welcome to the world of the Boss Lady. I’m not even going into the horrors of having a female boss. I’m going to be one of them soon.

These issues are big on my mind all the time. Hell, I write a blog about them! There are no answers. Yet, there’s solace in the fact that I’m in good company.

The bitch brigade takes a bow.

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