I love romantic comedies. I so openly adore this often laughed at genre that I can’t even consider it a guilty pleasure.
I have practically been raised on late 90s to early 2000s rom-coms from the legendary 10 Things I Hate About You to the iconic Clueless. When I am sick She’s the Man works just as good as medicine. When I am stressed and procrastinating, Legally Blonde all but convinces me to apply to Harvard Law School.
Rom-coms were always a happy medium between my mom and I. She liked drama. I liked fantasy/sci-fi. Picking what to watch on family movie night was always a debate that lasted a few hours but the two of us could never say no to a nice romantic comedy.
I have always found comfort in this type of story and as of late there haven’t been many new ones to enjoy.
When it comes to modern rom-coms I generally have been disappointed. There seems to be a shortage of the genre; almost as if Hollywood is burnt out and doesn’t feel the need to cater to the teen/young adult female market in this way anymore.
Dystopian movies like the Hunger Games and Divergent are crowd-pleasers among Gen Z and fantasy/sci-fi are taking center stage. (As a lover of both I’m not complaining, I just wish there was a wider range of movies I felt I could relate to.)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Love, Simon both stand out as exceptions to the teen rom-com drought. Both films were sweet and fun, they added something new to the genre. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before focused on more than just the lead’s love life; it also heavily explored her relationship with her family and how she has dealt with the passing of her mother.
Love, Simon on the other hand is one of the only modern movies I have seen that features a gay protagonist. It not only highlights a queer relationship but shows a large audience what it can be like to come out in high school.
Crazy Rich Asians is another great example of a current film that adds something to romantic comedies. While it doesn’t remind me of the movies from the late 90s and the ages of its characters make it more adult than young adult it attempts to examine how socioeconomic and cultural differences can impact a relationship. While it has its flaws it certainly gives the average rom-com lover a new story to enjoy. This is not the case with He’s All That.
The Original (She’s All That)
She’s All That is one of the few movies I was introduced to much later in life. I saw the film three years ago and had already seen countless narratives that depicted the nerdy girl changing for a guy only for said guy to realize she had been beautiful all along.
I remember watching She’s All That and thinking that it was nothing new or exciting. What I later came to realize is that it was one of the first of its kind. I didn’t love the movie but I learned to respect it.
The Reboot (He’s All That)
When I first heard they were making a reboot of She’s All That I was excited. Even though I didn’t love the original I thought I would have the chance to see it again in a new light. Boy was I wrong! Watching He’s All That not only made me lose faith in Netflix’s ability to make a good romantic comedy but it made me question if they even understand my generation at all.
The biggest difference between the reboot and the original (besides swapping the gender of who gives who a makeover) is that it heavily focuses on what it is like to be a social media influencer.
While I feel empathy for famous teenagers and young adults who have to deal with online harassment, making this a central point of the movie made it feel vapid and completely unrelatable. Netflix’s attempt to humanize the female lead by making her “poor” was easy to see through and did not sit right.
I felt second-hand embarrassment throughout the whole thing and kept asking myself if this is really how others view Gen Z. If this film is to be believed we are all just a bunch of elitist kids who will do anything to be perceived as popular and pretty. The fact that the movie ends with the main duo becoming a famous Instagram couple sums up what Netflix thinks about how Gen Z forms relationships.
Movies like He’s All That are one of the main reasons people dismiss romantic comedies. It’s evident that it was made to give Netflix lots of attention and not to be a good film.
I cannot emphasize enough how painful it was to watch this movie. It was clearly a cash grab and watching it almost made me feel a little sad. Watch at your own risk!