I have a piece at Thought Catalog this week, about why so few rom com heroines have Master’s, PhDs, or other advanced degrees:
For the last three years, I’ve been writing my doctoral dissertation, on romantic comedies. I’ve watched more “chick flicks” in the last few years than even the most devoted of rom com enthusiasts will in a lifetime. I’ve watched The Ugly Truth more times than I can count, partly because watching The Ugly Truth attacks your brain cells to the point where you can no longer count.
Part of the goal of a romantic comedy is to make the audience imagine that this story could happen to them. They could find the love of their life just around the next corner — watch out, you’re going to bang into that unusually handsome man and spill coffee all over him! In order for audiences to relate to the characters in that way, we have to be able to see ourselves in them. Kate Hudson/Drew Barrymore/Meg Ryan/Jennifer Lopez is just like me! Except, none of these characters is like me. In fact, one of the strangest things about getting my PhD in romantic comedies is the realization that very few romantic comedy heroines have PhDs.
The two most highly educated Hollywood rom com heroines both appear in movies that are over a decade old. First, we have How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’s Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson), who has a Master’s in journalism. Throughout the movie, between trying to get Matthew McConaughey to dump her, Andie is frustrated by the frivolous, limiting assignments she is handed at the women’s magazine where she works (Composure? Really? That sounds like a brand of adult diapers). Eventually, she takes an out-of-town interview for a “real” journalism job, where she’ll be able to write about war and politics and other serious topics — you know, men’s stuff. But she never makes it, because McConaughey chases her down on his motorcycle and declares his love and blah blah blah. Basically, Andie’s attempts to move into more “serious” journalism are, it’s implied, abandoned, because she has to stay in New York City with the love of her life. A life that she’ll spend wasting that Ivy League Master’s — again, her implication, not mine — at a women’s glossy.
You can read the whole thing here.