The deteriorating romantic comedy genre

Published: Thursday, Feb. 9 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

“And that was clearly an attempt to also draw in young male audiences,” Henson added — a move she suggested could alienate the traditional rom-com audience rather than increase box-office gross.

Mulderig referenced the 2010 film “The Switch” to make a similar point. The opening scene features the main character in a diaper-changing mishap.

“We’re treated to an extremely crass experience for him — and for us,” Mulderig said.

“There’s a tendency in general that as taboos fall, it becomes harder and harder to find a taboo that you can break for supposedly comic pay-off. ... Since they’ve gone about as far as they can go in bedroom matters … they have to turn to other things to try to make themselves seem pioneering — in all the wrong ways.”

More alarming perhaps than the onscreen sexcapades and gross-out gags is the sex-before-love trend, Mulderig says. The recent films “No Strings Attached” and “Friends With Benefits” come to mind.

Mulderig called it an unsettling premise, “with characters trying to forestall romance in favor of an uncomplicated ‘physical relationship’ which obviously would be exclusively sexual.

“I think that’s kind of a disturbing premise for anyone who holds traditional values."

Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in the Media, pointed to the "lax attitude" of what intimacy means.

“It’s much more acceptable now to hook up right away before there’s any kind of relationships in romantic comedies, and that’s definitely a result of our pornified culture," Hawkins said.

Hawkins believes this attitude leads to the belief that women are objects, that sex is emotionless and physical intimacy should be on short-order in any relationships.

“I think it forces a lot of relationships to take place much quicker and faster because this is what happens in the movies,” she said.

Indeed, these movies have often been blamed for their various negative effects on women and their view of relationships.

Henson said many past critics of the genre have blamed the movies for giving girls and women unrealistic, “prince charming” expectations.

She agreed that may be a problem, “but I think that’s not necessarily a bad problem to have if the alternative is girls who accept men who treat them with disrespect, who don’t act like gentlemen, who are boorish or behave like some of the men in these more recent romantic comedies. That’s not a standard we should allow our girls to accept, I think.”

When asked if today’s rom-coms are generally family friendly, minus just a few exceptions, Mulderig’s answer was a solid no. But aside from content and themes, Mulderig said, the genre is simply failing in quality.

For one thing, he said, romantic comedies are extremely popular. Filmmakers have caught on to the “built-in money maker” of the date movie, Mulderig said. They seem to think that if they follow the basic rom-com recipe, they can’t go wrong — despite lack of quality in acting and writing.

Mulderig, Henson and Hawkins all suggested that parents be wary of films' content, and Mulderig suggested especially paying attention to ratings. He said that while he can sometimes justify a teen watching an R-rated drama with necessarily gritty content key to a meaningful plot, an “R” is a “definite red flag” in this genre.

Henson suggested pointing boy-crazy, rom-com-loving daughters to the classics like “His Girl Friday” or “Bringing Up Baby.” For slightly more recent fare, the likes of “Return to Me” and “While You Were Sleeping” have very little problematic content, she said.

Henson hasn’t lost hope for the genre.

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