Thought Catalog: Why I’m getting a degree in stupid stuff that everyone hates

Thought Catalog: Why I’m getting a degree in stupid stuff that everyone hates

I have a piece at Thought Catalog this week, about why I study rom coms:

Whenever I tell people what I’m writing my doctoral thesis about — romantic comedies — I expect, based on three years of experience, one of two reactions. The first is some variation on, “Oh my gosh, how fun!” Which is not the f-word I usually employ when describing my doctoral dissertation. The second reaction is less enthusiastic, and is often accompanied by an eyeroll. “Ugh, why?” is something that I’ve heard a lot in the last few years, and as much as it makes me want to roll my own eyes – because it’s often followed by a sneering comment about how Christ, you really can get a degree in anyfuckingthing these days, can’t you? — it’s not an entirely unreasonable question.

Why study romantic comedies? They’re formulaic and predictable and light and fluffy. Everyone knows how they’re going to end. They don’t mean anything. Why devote years of my life to them when I could be studying The Odyssey or David Copperfield? If I’m going to study modern texts, why not “serious” ones like Citizen Kane or Breaking Bad?

Well, for one thing, I’m interested in stories about women. And all those abovementioned stories, those stories we take so seriously, those “real” texts, are about dudes. In contemporary film, there’s only one genre that’s made for and about women, and that’s romantic comedies (and these days, many of them are made about men and with the men in the audience in mind). This is the only genre we get, so it behooves us to understand what it’s saying to and about women. And if it is indeed formulaic, predictable, light, and fluffy, a claim I don’t necessarily agree with, shouldn’t we try to explain why that is, so that we can make it better?

You can read the whole thing here.


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