After a busy week, yesterday I retreated to the warm and fuzzy black hole that is my couch with a serious case of the sniffles and popped in a few of my favorite movies – among them, my ultimate favorite romantic comedy, “You’ve Got Mail.” And now to go along with my cold, I have a serious case of the 90s.
With this post, I know I risk echoing Mindy Kaling’s rom com-obsessed character on her new show, “The Mindy Project” (which is awesome, by the way.) And I realize that nostalgia fills us with a deceptive longing for times gone by: Although we’d like to think so, music, movies, TV shows, etc. probably weren’t really any better back in the day, as much as we like to think so. Ascertaining that the pop culture of the past is better than today’s gives us a sense of superiority over more fledgling generations.
Despite this, I would like to argue that rom coms were, in fact, better in the 90s (at the risk of sounding like an old fart).
1. Meg Ryan
First off, I love Meg Ryan’s rom coms. I know that type-casting her in these roles probably cost her other, more challenging roles, but she is the quintessential 90s rom com heroine. Although “You’ve Got Mail” is my favorite, other adorable movies with her are “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Kate and Leopold,” and probably also “When Harry Met Sally,” which I admittedly have never watched (although I want to, just haven’t gotten around to it). Kathleen Kelly is beautiful, a bookworm and a career woman. She owns her family’s book store, Shop Around the Corner, and has aspirations to write children’s books. When her privately owned bookstore is threatened by the big, bad chain store Fox Books (ironic from today’s perspective since even those have been trumped by Amazon), she “goes to the mattresses” to try to save her business. Ultimately, she must gracefully close the Shop Around the Corner, but she emerges from this journey as an even more ambitious, self-motivated woman. Kathleen Kelly is a smart and strong leading lady, and “You’ve Got Mail” itself is as witty and intelligent as rom coms come. And of course, the dynamic between Ryan’s character and Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox is utterly adorable. Other pluses: Dave Chappelle plays Hanks’ bff, and Greg Kinnear’s technophobic Frank Navasky owns about a zillion typewriters.
2. The 22-Year-Old Cocktail Waitress
In case you were born circa 1995 or so and aren’t familiar with the sheer awesomeness that is “You’ve Got Mail,” the title of my post derives from one of Kathleen Kelly’s quips in response to finding out Joe Fox’s true identity: “‘Joe’? ‘Just call me Joe’? As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? ‘Hi, I’m Kimberly!’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice!’ Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.”
Although I have nothing against the rom com actresses of, ahem, my generation (I am in twenties), there is something lacking in more recent rom coms. Sure, they’re cute…I would watch “How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days” and “Letters to Juliet” more than once. But others, like the disappointing movie version of Sophie Kinsella’s witty book “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” depicts the main female character as the vapid, materialistic cocktail waitress suggested by the quote above. And, as much of a fan I am of the rest of the franchise, the second “Sex and the City” movie catered to a very similar idea. Gone are the ambitious career women who are able to balance work, life and love; in their place are ladies whose penchant for buying shoes they can’t afford isn’t really that funny anymore. And no, it’s not really Isla Fisher’s fault, but a combination of crappy writing and gearing of script towards an audience they believe exists due to the shenanigans of those around my age who are in the public eye (I’m looking at you, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian).
Or maybe it’s Sunday night, I’m still sick and hopped up on cold medicine and thinking way too deeply about this.
So, what do you think of 90s (or even 80s) rom coms versus those of today? Which are your favorites, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!