How Rom-Coms made a Com-back on Netflix summer
By Amana Abdurrezak
“As you wish.” – Westley, The Princess Bride
And don’t forget…I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” – Anna Scott, Notting Hill
Whether your favorite line from a romantic comedy came from 1987’s The Princess Bride or 1999’s Notting Hill, there’s no denying that the heyday of romantic comedies has passed. Behemoths like Marvel and Disney have figured out the formula to dominate every month of the year, leaving little room for romantic comedies to make a splash at the box office.
And that’s where Netflix comes in.
Netflix, the streaming service with approximately 137 million worldwide subscribers, hoped to expand its collection of original movies in 2018 with the “Summer of Love”, its initiative to revive the rom-com genre. Subscribers were treated to movies like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Set it Up”, a story about two twenty-somethings in New York City trying to trick their bosses into falling in love.
Of the six original movies that were released throughout the summer, “Set it Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” quickly became fan favorites. At Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college in the suburbs of Philadelphia, many students heard about Netflix’s newer rom-coms through word of mouth.
“A friend of mine told me about ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ during the summer,” said junior Valeria Aguilera.
In the movie adapted from Jenny Han’s book with the same title, the story follows high schooler Lara Jean Covey after five of her love letters are accidentally mailed to her past and present crushes.
After hearing about the plot, Aguilera was hooked and searched for it on Netflix. “It hadn’t been released yet, but I always had it in the back of my mind,” she said, “When some people on Facebook mentioned that it was finally released, I watched it.”
Though many heard about Netflix’s Summer of Love lineup when meeting up with friends, more heard about it online.
“Netflix sent notifications, but I also saw those movies on the ‘Movies that Are Trending Now’ list on Netflix,” said senior Ana Meta, “Everyone kept talking about it on Buzzfeed too.”
Much of the praise that “Set it Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” received from the media and students at Bryn Mawr stemmed from how the topic of love was tackled.
For Meta, movies like “Set it Up” weren’t revolutionary, but they were less problematic. “They still have a lot of the old elements and tropes…they’ve kept some of the old fuzzy feelings.” said Meta.
“But they’ve incorporated new faces. You tell that it’s 2018,” emphasized Meta.
In “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, Aguilera appreciated the diversity of the cast and the presentation of a different kind of family. The movie showcases a Korean-American family where the three sisters are half Korean and half white.
Usually romantic comedies are also very family oriented, but they’re very much a white stereotypical family,” she said, “But here it was a biracial family. The mother figure wasn’t there, and the father was taking care of the kids,” she said.
For Hannah Kim, a senior at Bryn Mawr, she felt like the author of the book and the screenwriter of the movie took a page from her own life.
“I have never watched a movie where the dynamics between the family was so similar to my own,” said Kim, “Both in sister dynamics and Korean-American dynamics.”
For Kim, as the oldest sister of her household, she felt like she could best relate to Margot, the oldest sister who leaves to study abroad early on in the movie.
“All of the main events that happen in the movie between the middle sister, Lara Jean, and the boys of interest happened when Margot was studying abroad. And when I was studying abroad, that was when my middle sister was having drama with the boy in her life,” she recalled with a laugh.
Though it’s rare for people to be able to relate with the plotline of a rom-com as closely as Kim did, the perspectives of Meta, Aguilera, and Kim may shed light on why Netflix’s rom-coms were such a hit this summer. Netflix is tailoring its stories to a sector of the market who would rarely find their stories at the box office.
In Netflix’s Q3 Earnings report released on October 16th, they stated that more than 80 million accounts watched one or more of the Summer of Love films globally. For those reasons, Netflix is already in the process of producing its next set of original rom-coms.
With the success of “To All of the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and more, it’s no surprise that more Netflix originals are in the works. Unlike Hollywood, Netflix has its ear to the ground.