Mar 19, 2021 | LIFE | By Emma Logan | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
If we have all internalized one thing during the lonely months of quarantine at home, it is the reign of the streaming service. Whether it be seen through the immense financial success of “Trolls: World Tour” in April, or the long-anticipated release of “Mulan” in September, online subscription services have answered the call to provide much-needed entertainment within the last year.
However, COVID-19 can’t take all the credit for this boom, as streaming services have been releasing original content to critical acclaim for a long time. Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu dominated the 2021 Golden Globes with popular titles such as “Borat,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “I Care A Lot.”
The same can be said for the award shower circuit as far back as 2017 and 2018, when titles such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (an Amazon Prime Original) and “Handmaid’s Tale” (a Hulu Original) garnered multiple Emmys and Golden Globes within major categories.
While it is clear that streaming services deserve their spot alongside mega-motion picture dramas and prime-time cable television shows, there is a genre of content that streaming services have not only contributed to, but practically perfected: the romantic comedy.
Even before the pandemic, streaming services reigned supreme in the feel good rom-com industry. In Oprah Magazine’s “20 New Romantic Comedies to Have on Your Radar in 2019,” eight were produced and released on online platforms, primarily Netflix. While 40% may not seem very like a dominant percentage, it confirms the quality of these works and the ability of their online producers.
The romantic comedy has long been regarded for its ability to turn a middling movie into a “cult classic” and attract some of the most dedicated fan bases in the film industry. From “Roman Holiday” (1953) to “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) to “Love Actually”(2003), viewing after viewing, these movies never seem to get old. It was the emotional magic of laughing and crying, time after time, that made the romantic comedy so powerful.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, however, rom-coms seemed to lose their spark and lose sight of the true lovability of light-hearted films. One of the most regarded “romantic comedies” of the last decade, “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), attempted to fill this void but frankly — it’s a bummer.
However, movies such as “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018), “Set It Up” (2018), “Alex Strangelove” (2018), “Always Be My Maybe” (2019), my personal favorite, “Someone Great” (2019), “Happiest Season” (2020), and “Palm Springs” (2020) brought back the true joy of the romantic comedy, and often provided more racial and queer representation than any that came before them.
All of these films were released as either Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBO Max Originals, and it shows. The legacy of the romantic comedy is rooted in its ability to be casual and hopeful. It makes you remember that there is always a home to go back to, couch to cry on, a tub of ice cream to devour.
Nothing captures that quite like haphazardly turning on Netflix and choosing the first cliché title that catches your eye.