would I like romantic comedies more if they weren’t about straight people?

Burning up the corner of the Glee fandom that I play in is this fanvid that edits the Kurt/Blaine storyline together like a movie trailer (note: I have to keep changing this link as it keeps disappearing and reappearing in various places — so hopefully you’ll click on this and it will be useful). It’s very well done (but, understand I’m addicted to movie trailers in general and would watch them all day, so I may care more than the average bear); it’s also, I suspect accidentally, full of commentary.

Since Glee has gone from having one queer kid on it (Kurt) to five (Kurt, Blaine, Karofsky, Santana, Brittany), there’s apparently been (I’m new here, so I’m just reconstructing the Internet drama as I see it) a certain degree of “I love Kurt, but man, why is every plot-line a gay plot-line lately?” To which most of the queer fans are like “huh?”

As queer folks, we don’t get a lot of stories about us, not in mainstream media, and when we do, they are usually along the lines of “issue stories” or “when _______ met _______.” The queer narratives on Glee certainly don’t stray far from this, although it’s less obvious on Glee because their set in high school and most of the narratives for all the characters tend to hit those sorts of notes.

Anyway, this fan-made trailer didn’t actually hit me over the head with how adorable I think Kurt and Blaine are. It hit me over the head with all the stories that don’t exist about people like me and how narrowly formulaic the ones that do exist tend to be. It also made me wonder if my intense disinterest in most romantic comedies (Love Actually being one of a few exceptions for me) is genre-based or about their usually intense heterosexuality? Would I like the genre better if it were about people like me? No idea, really (and I suspect, truthfully, that I just don’t have the receptor sites for the genre), but it’s an interesting question.

Mostly though, I want to show this thing to all the Glee fans who complain that the show is all gay all the time now. This vid is one way a queer-centric story could look. Glee ain’t it. And if that has to be okay for the queer fans (and it always does), then it would be nice if that were okay for the straight fans too.

16 thoughts on “would I like romantic comedies more if they weren’t about straight people?”

  1. fwiw, there are an awful lot of slash stories that rework familiar tropes in a nonheteronormative way; granted some slash is awful/fetishising, but quite a lot isn’t. (My own fondness for slash is largely to do with eschewing heteronormativity, rather than any particular interest in penises.)

    1. I would argue that text romance narratives and romantic comedy films are very different both in terms of content and societal import. We’re far farther along in “anyone can be a publisher” than we are in “anyone can be a movie-maker” especially on the distribution end of things that gets stuff in front of non-specialized eyes.

      I would also argue that slash, while often eschewing heteronormativity and not always fetishizing, still isn’t very often about actual gay people. It has its place in the discussion and it’s position in a spectrum and is certain involved in making lots of lines blurrier in a good way, but how often it fills the “people like me” gap is highly debatable even in my own head. I have yes days and no days and “I don’t really care where’s the good fic” days on all this stuff.

  2. I watched said “trailer” 5 times yesterday. And kept thinking – why isnt this movie out?? The story itself is formulaic – Person A is lonely, outcast, but still striving for more (see Kat in 10 Things…), Person B is right place, right time and becomes friend then more. Movie culminates with big romantic scene of joy. Its Disney. There is nothing groundbreaking about this story. But throw matching chromosomes into it, and suddenly its a big thing.

    I personally used to love romcoms, but more and more am annoyed by the lack of decent movies that represent me at all. I fell in love with Glee because I saw myself in it, even before the storyline became Kurt-centric. I fell in love with Who and Torchwood because they acknowledged me.

    Perhaps Chris Colfer in his brilliance will next pen a simple, fluffy, PG13 rom com about two boys or two girls, or whatever. Or, maybe one of your (clearly talented) group (or you! hint!) will write the story.

    I mentioned to wife the other day how I was remembering the BIG GAY KISS on Will and Grace, and how it was such a big deal. And how I sobbed when Blaine and Kurt kissed, not because it was touching, but because I knew at that moment that there were kids all over the country who finally felt validated and acknowledged. And thats huge. Straight people take that for granted daily.

  3. My distaste for romantic comedies centres not just around their incessant heteronormativity / heterosexuality, but also the fact that they showcase the fact that straight people are allowed and even encouraged to be petty and stupid in their personal relationships in ways that queer folks just aren’t. The assumption of exclusivity without a discussion about that, the assumption that you have a right to know all of someone else’s business, the assumption that you have the right to control who your partner/prospective partner spends time with, the assumption that friends of the gender your partner is attracted to are a threat, the assumption that exes should be off limits as friends even if everyone involved is firmly grounded in the realisation that it didn’t work before and it wouldn’t work now for the same reasons…yeah. Add to that the fact that in heteronormative relationships one gender is usually assigned an unfair share of responsibility for various aspects of relationship and the other not so much, and well…

    I have often wished I weren’t so attracted to men, because it means that I usually end up dating straight men, and they have such weird ideas about what they should get out of relationships. On the other hand I have problems all across the board with people who expect that femmes will be submissive, somewhat maternal and want to take care of people rather than actually being assertive, somewhat dominant, princessy, and not interested in people who aren’t relatively self-sufficient.

    Your average romantic comedy plotline always seems to revolve around some issue involving jealousy or suspicion or misunderstanding that could be settled with a few minutes, maybe even an hour, of simple, honest communication. This may be why I enjoy romantic stories more when the principals are teenagers or living in the distant past and/or both; a lot of the time, I just can’t fathom modern adults behaving that way. I have had some truly epic fucked-up relationships. And yet, none of them has ever foundered on the rock of me not knowing how to ask someone if they are seeing someone else, or who that person I or someone else I know saw them with is. Possibly because I think “are you seeing someone else” is a question I have a right to ask, provided I don’t phrase it in such a way as to imply that there’s a commitment which hasn’t actually been established, and because I have reasons other than pure suspicion for wanting to know who someone I like is hanging out with (i.e., is this someone that I would like, too? is this a member of their family or family of choice that I will need to get on with?) and am generally pleased rather than suspicious to learn that my partner or prospective partner is hanging out with old friends they’ve not seen in a while.

    (They have foundered on the rock of someone lying with intent to deceive in response to questions like those, but that’s different.)

    I would like to see gay (and straight) romance on television that did not make me cringe, but I have something of a reputation as a complete anti-romantic in fandom because generally any hint of romance between male and female leads turns me off. It doesn’t have to be that way, it’s just that the way those things are written always irritates the living shit out of me. If the female character doesn’t go Stepford somehow, the “idiot ball” will make an appearance and the characters involved in the romantic polygon will play catch with it.

    I adore Kurt and Blaine but I also worry about them because Kurt is the kind of character who would be easy to write in the infuriating way that women are often written in romantic TV and movies, and they’ve done a little bit of that before. (90% of the reason I continue to watch Gossip Girl despite the fact that so many of the main characters are privileged near-sociopaths is that Blair and Serena may be horrible sometimes, but they never abandon themselves completely in order to be what some guy wants or needs and they ALWAYS have their own agendas. Now if TV writers would let women who aren’t at least somewhat evil hold onto that degree of self-possession, I might not be the person everyone assumes is a misogynist het-hater because I truly loathe canon het on TV about 90% of the time…)

    1. “Your average romantic comedy plotline always seems to revolve around some issue involving jealousy or suspicion or misunderstanding that could be settled with a few minutes, maybe even an hour, of simple, honest communication.”

      Exactly. That’s what annoys me about romcoms. No honesty, no trust — why would I buy into that relationship?

  4. When I was younger (10 or 11 years old) I would sneak around my parents house and read my mom’s romance novels. I would steal them from her bookshelf and hide them in my closet and devour them under the covers at night. Mostly I did this because I was and am a veracious reader and I didn’t have books of my own to read but part of it was because I was lonely and looking for something. I didn’t find it in the romance novels, unfortunately. I didn’t dream about my wedding, think about my future children, want to be kidnapped away from my loving family, have any desire to start time traveling, and was pretty sure I would always be alone because the books all but said I would be.

    I never saw a single book that had queer characters, even as secondary characters, and I had *no clue* what the hell was going on because I thought the books were meant to represent me. Then I found slash fiction and while it isn’t perfect, it was closer to what I was looking for. I wanted stories that I recognized myself in, stories where things weren’t assumed (exclusivity, etc) and sex didn’t necessarily mean commitment. I saw *myself*.

    This same rational is my thought behind rom-coms. I don’t watch them often because I feel otherized by them. They always seem to slap me upside the head because nothing that I want out of life is represented and everything I don’t want is there, highlighted for the world to see. This same rational is why at the age of 28 I still go into book stores and buy queer young adult books (the good ones and the bad ones) because I need to see representations of myself staring back at me on the page. Stories about kids that went through what I went through, who are still going through it, who had it easier or harder or the same. Threads I can recognize and respect.

    I’m pretty sure that’s why I have such a high regard for Glee because it does have 5 queer characters on it. And they aren’t the same! Now, if only we could get an asexual/aromantic character. Then I’d feel *really* represented.

  5. I tend to dislike traditional romcoms because too often, the woman takes the brunt of the jokes more than the man. Sure, sure, he’s got some lesson to learn, but SHE has to be brought down a peg, humbled. A classic example is “The Shop Around the Corner” and it’s various iterations (including the Judy Garland musical “In the Good Old Summertime” and the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle “You’ve Got Mail”), in which a boy and girl (co-workers in the first two, competing bookstore owners in the third) who fight endlessly face to face have, unwittingly, are each other’s anonymous pen pal. In every version, the guy learns this first and starts playing mind games with the girl, and also coincidentally gets a leg up professionally. It’s barely tolerable in “Shop” because, hi, Jimmy Stewart; it drives me *berserk* in “Summertime” and “Mail” — I always hope Judy and Meg will punch their fellas in the balls instead of falling into their arms.

    To get back to your question, would this story would be as irritating when played out by a gay or lesbian couple? Probably. I’d love to find out.

  6. Have you tried GLBT romcoms?

    I mean, unfortunately, a lot of them have to spend more time dealing with OH NOES WE’RE GAY than just being a romcom, but I still find them enjoyable. For all it’s flaws, Imagine Me and You is one of my favourite feel-good movies. Friends and Family, I will hold, is one of the best movies OF ALL TIMES, and then there are others. I don’t want to list them all only because I assume you have already tried them? But I am a (good)romcom lover, at heart, so I tend to be delighted by lgbtq ones, if they are done well.

    1. eeee I love Imagine Me and You. I also have one called Saving Face, which doesn’t have the “omg am I gay??” focus, it’s just a quite sweet story about two Chinese women (and the mother of one) and the bumps on the road to happiness. I want more movies like that!

      Of course what I actually want is more non-romcoms that have incidentally queer characters, but one step at a time.

  7. I would like to have some intelligent comment to this post but my immediate response is pretty much OMFG HEARTS IN MY EYES MOST AMAZING VID EVARRRRRRRRRRRR. I would watch that movie so hard. I UNDERSTAND THE KLAINE NOW, OKAY. EVEN IF I WON’T WATCH THAT SHOW. *believer*

    Also, Love Actually is the exception for everybody, it is magical, also Emma Thompson is in it.

    1. I am so relieved you now understand why I was like “I’M SORRY I CAN”T TALK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE RIGHT NOW?” for like that week there.

  8. That trailer is a masterful piece of work. I would totally go see that movie, even though I dislike most of the rom-com world as a whole. But it might be exciting to see this played in a totally different world. I hate most of the genre because it is so totally irrelevant to me – I didn’t look like that, I didn’t desire like that, I didn’t live like that. A lot of them have the sophistication and subtlety of a twelve year old. On one hand I crave seeing people like me and people like my friends engaged in the ordinary business of living, and on the other I want them to make rom-com movies that aren’t stupid so I’ll actually be interested. Love, Actually remains the single exception in my film library too.

    While the film distribution network is a harder nut to crack for independents and self made folks, I have a lot of hope that we’re going to see those avenues open up too in the future. (I’m thinking of the massive work my local Alamo Drafthouse does to show things we might never see on big screens due to distribution/scale/dollars/etc.) Internet based distribution will lead the way, but there are still an awfull lot of people living without the internet who need this too.

    We need someone to make a decent budget, glossy screen rom-com that rakes it in at the box office so the desperate script pools in Hollywood will fill up.

  9. The “trailer” looks like a terrifically cute teen romance. I’d see it if I were a teen 🙂

    It seems a lot of formula hetero rom-coms pair unlikeable people: both embody their genders’ stereotypes of jerkiness, and I’m at a loss as to why they’d be attracted to each other and why the audience should care whether they get together or not. I also echo a lot of what Tiferet says re: showcasing of dysfunctional relationships. I get that narratively no conflict = no story, but does it have to be the boy-girl dance over and over?

    I’m not opposed to romantic comedies if they show two likeable, interesting characters getting together, and that transcends genders of the people involved. I’d love to see more QUALITY LGBTQI (quiltbag?) romances on tv and the big screen, but if all writers can seem to come up with and all producers will back is dreck, I question whether I want them entering the genre at all.

    Having said this, there are some good indie/foreign. I’ve loved all of the adapations of Sarah Waters’ novels.

  10. Besides not being able to imagine my queer/trans/disabled/radical/dorky self in those worlds, a lot of the times my main problem with romantic comedies is the fact that most of the “conflict” that fuels the plots could be solved by five minutes of clear communication and maybe some checking of the privilege/entitlement. I did actually like both Juno and Wristcutters but 1) exceptions make the rule and 2) independent quirky (romantic) comedies.

    Also, I had been resisting watching that vid, but you finally convinced me and now I’ve watched it five times in the last hour and long so much to be able to watch the movie it promises to be over and over until I’m sick of it and then show it to future every queer kid I meet in the next twenty years so they will know they’re not alone. I think that’s part of why I’ve enjoyed both your meta and fic about this pair.

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