The world of romantic relationships is changing: more people are living alone, cohabitating (maybe or maybe not marrying in the long run), and more women are obtaining college and graduate degrees than men. So when will romantic comedies reflect this?
I bring this up because I recently saw The Five-Year Engagement. This movie tackles the latter two issues I mentioned above: the couple lives together roughly 3-4 years before they get married (there is a clear period when they live separately). Also, the woman is working on a post-doc in social psychology at the University of Michigan while the man is a chef who has taken some classes as a culinary school. They end up having to try to compromise between their two jobs but little is mentioned about the relative status of the two professions. (A side note: how many people seeing this movie even know what a post-doc is? Is this mainstream? Also, I am undecided whether the film makes the field of social psychology look good or bad.) Yet, in the end, the couple still gets married. In fact, much of the plot of the movie is driven by the idea that the couple wants to get married but circumstances keep getting in the way. Additionally, the other main couple in the movie gets married quickly after they find out the woman is pregnant.
In the future, can the genre of romantic comedies survive without marriage at the end? Marriage is a nice plot device to end the film: they invariably show happy couples finally going through a marriage ceremony. It wraps up the story nicely. However, fewer American adults are married (51%) so are these films now more aspirational than ever and/or do they reflect the interests of a shrinking subset of the population? This also reminds me of the film (500) Days of Summer where marriage is not in the cards for the couple involved but movie viewers probably don’t get the same happy feeling at the end. I suspect romantic comedies will subtly or not so subtly change in the coming years to reflect these new realities and still try to provoke happy feelings even if marriage is not seen as much as the end goal.