Media & Communication Studies
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. With this formula it seems that romantic comedies are actually meant for men instead of women. If this is the case, then why do women watch these films? The repetition of female stars like Katharine Hepburn, Doris Day and Meg Ryan in romantic comedies allows audiences to find elements of truth in their characters as they grapple with the input of others in their life choices, combat the anxiety of being single, and prove they are less sexually naïve than society would like to admit. In 1999, a character struggles with her career and love life being the subject of newspaper headlines. In 1959, an older single woman repeatedly interrupts and mocks a playboy’s wooing via a telephone party line, while fending off unwanted suitors of her own. In 1934, a female character uses her leg rather than her thumb to hitchhike, which embarrasses her male guide. Hollywood romantic comedies from the coming of sound to the present address these themes in their details rather than their structure, allowing the female character to shift with each changing decade. However, in each of these films, there are moments of “knowing,” where the female characters or the film undermine the assumed male-dominated structure creating sites of recognition and identification with the audience. It is these moments, which focus on expressions and anxieties of womanhood that mark the films for women and enable us to read the man as an irrelevant narrative device.
Scharaga, Jordan A., "Female Moments / Male Structures: The Representation of Women in Romantic Comedies" (2016). Media and Communication Studies Summer Fellows. 6.
Available to all.
Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.