The romantic comedy, gender stereotyping, and the Twilight saga

With the continued success of Twilight seemingly unending, Paul wonders how much longer Hollywood will appeal to mindless gender stereotypes…


The romantic comedy has been a staple of modern cinema, with inoffensive yet ever-so-saccharine vehicles such as Love, Actually and Valentine’s Day produced en masse to sate the casual moviegoer’s thirst for undiluted loveliness. The stereotype runs that the ladies can indulge in some light-hearted playfulness between the two suitably attractive leads, whilst the gentlemen accompanying them can rest comfortably in the knowledge that Hugh Grant will do all the necessary first date swooning for them. All they have to do is buy the popcorn.

The target audiences for such movies is mainly female, with only a few genre oddities straying from the mould by replacing the typically passive woman protagonist with a fat and useless male one (by this, I mean films made by Judd Apatow).

Indeed, the romcom’s inability to stray from the conventional ‘woman seeks man, man seeks woman, they have a misunderstanding and then they shag’ plotline has lead to it becoming a parody of itself, similar to that of the guns ‘n’ boobies action flicks that permeate our summertime viewing.

Whilst the latter is almost always more cack-handed in its approach to impress us with its buffoonery, they are both equally primitive and undemanding, revealing to us that our innermost desires are nothing more than a half-hearted tale of romance, a flash of nipple and then someone being shot in the face. Twice.

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The differences between both genres are glaringly obvious, but their intentions remain the same: target a sex and then exploit that particular sex’s innermost desires, in order to make a steady profit. This method can then be repeated in a barrage of sequels of unfaltering success, culminating in an unfathomably popular global phenomenon. This is where Twilight rears its annoyingly beautiful head.

Twilight and its sequel New Moon are both insanely popular considering they are films of relative mediocrity, propelled only by their ability to tick all the clichéd boxes when it comes to generic love stories. The dialogue is unforgivably clunky, drawing comparisons to that of Anakin Skywalker’s awkwardly tepid seduction of Amidala, whilst the protagonist Bella is a character of very little depth aside from her angst-ridden, self-important whines.

This, though, is where the magic lies. By introducing a world that is full of mythical, beautiful people and allowing them to be embraced by a one-dimensional teenage girl means that any female can slip into her shoes.

The unsubtle sexualisation throughout the Twilight saga also plays a huge part in its success. Throughout the duration of New Moon I was less concerned with the feud between Jacob and Edward than I was with the ongoing battle between every onscreen male actor and their t-shirts, each scene appearing to be some sort of high production Hollyoaks Hunks calendar with better lighting and a few werewolves thrown in for a laugh.

With so many naked torsos on parade, and Kristen Stewart’s incomprehensibly frequent orgasmic lip biting, my testosterone-addled brain led me to shout the same question at my television screen for the duration of its running time: “Are you lot gunna ‘ave sex or wot?”

But no, the end credits rolled and everybody managed to retain their virginity. This, I have come to conclude, is the secret to the Twilight saga’s popularity. By insinuating that there will be sex but then never actually allowing there to be any, the audience is essentially being teased. It’s like foreplay. For the mind.

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This is nothing that men tend to be interested in, for us men will clearly not even consider taking a second glance at anything other than big, bouncing lady parts and semi-racist alien robots that turn into Chevrolets. If there is a woman on screen, then it is immediately apparent that at some point she will be ravaged by a gun-toting neanderthal, equipped with one-liners that hit your eardrums with all the subtlety of a slab of frozen beef.

It’s the segregation of the sexes. Companies unwilling to take the risk of investing any hope in the viewing public and instead consistently relying upon gender conventions to make a profit. Yorkies, Snickers, Nuts and Zoo magazines, they’re not for girls. Glittering, effeminate vampires are.

But why does it have to be this way? Why do the demographics of which we reside have to be so presupposed? Why must females have the idea of sex dangled tantalisingly in front of them whilst men must have it wearing hot pants and gyrating furiously?

It has been proven that both sexes’ interests can co-exist intelligently in films such as High Fidelity, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and (500) Days Of Summer to popular and profitable results, so why not peddle films that can help nurture the intelligence of the viewing public rather than insult it?

Well, the answer is simple. Whilst those particular films succeeded, anything with any sort of cinematic credibility would never succeed as well as another Twilight instalment or Transformers 3: Rise of the Victoria’s Secret Model.

It’s sad, really. With the box office taking more notice of the 16-24 female demographic in the past couple of years, I expected that, women would have longed for something with more depth than the usual drivel piled upon us men.

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Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, and what we have instead is overly exuberant high schoolers prancing around, singing about their haircuts and vampires eerily watching 17-year-old girls as they sleep. Presumably after rifling through their underwear drawer.

If there is one insightful thing modern cinema tell us about ourselves, it is this: women are not from Venus and men are not from Mars. We are both from the same planet, wandering around and looking for sex, and until we take our hands out of each other’s pants, Michael Bay will continue to make movies.

There’s an incentive for you.