Let’s face it, romantic comedies have been in something of a lull lately. Go through the list of last year’s “best” rom-coms and the landscape is nothing short of grim. Simply put, it’s a graveyard of quality, full of played-out tropes and stories that a 12 year-old with basic movie knowledge would write in their sleep. Hollywood has stagnated in the realm of romantic comedy, and it’s largely centered around the unspoken gender roles that each respective movie is pretty much expected to adhere to.
Judd Apatow has made a career off of subverting the classic story structure of rom-coms, and in many ways has completely remade the genre. With his most recent Amy-Schumer-written project, that subversion has been taken to the next logical step. Unfriended opened over the weekend to a solid $30 million, but the tale isn’t all in the money it made. Schumer wrote and starred in what can only be described as a complete 180 on the way gender roles are typically dolled out in a romantic comedy.
Before we can dig into that though, it’s worthwhile to outline the tropes as they currently stand. Your classic rom-com formula: A career-oriented man who thinks he has it all working somewhere unbelievably cool (your architects, magazine editors, and PR mavens) is convinced to give up his life of sleeping around when he finds that one, quirky girl worth settling down for. At some point during the story, there will be a falling out based around Career-Oriented Man regressing into his former lifestyle of sleeping around. A tearful reunion will follow, and then everyone lives happily ever after.
Trainwreck switches everyone’s places though. Schumer is instead the monogamy-averse career-oriented lead, led to believe in love by her encounter with a carefree and quirky opposite. To put a woman in a largely empowered role usually occupied by men shows us that the tropes we’ve become accustomed to are far from set in stone. Gender roles have limited the potential of romantic comedies for years now, and with the genre having gone stagnant, now is the time to change things up in a big way.
Given the fact that Judd Apatow has never not had a hand in the script for a movie he directed, it should speak volumes that Schumer had complete control over the screenplay. Apatow has never handed over that level of control before to anyone, sending a message loud and clear to Hollywood: It’s time to tear town the conventions of rom-coms. There’s no better person to lead that charge than Amy Schumer, a comedian who’s made a career off of subverting gender stereotypes. For a genre of movies that’s been bogged down by cemented gender roles, Unfriended is the vehicle for a new age of romantic comedies.
There’s a reason you can’t open up your Facebook feed without seeing someone talking about Amy Schumer. She’s everywhere right now because what she’s doing defies convention. We haven’t seen genuine movement for gender equality in the film industry for a long time, and it’s only been this year that the necessary conversation concerning this has followed virtually every major blockbuster. The final piece of the puzzle may very well be the creation of a new kind of romantic comedy, ushered in by none other than Trainwreck.
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