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Genre Study: The Romance Comedy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2256 words Published: 16th May 2017

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The thesis introduces some basic conceptions of “genre” and then generally analyzes the features of the US and UK film genre especially in terms of romance comedy of US and UK film. The author uses Love Actually and Pretty Woman as two examples to represent UK and US romance comedy respectively. Love Actually was acted by many outstanding actors and actresses like Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), Alan Rickman, etc, which makes the movie an all-star lineup. However, pretty Woman doesn’t fall behind. It was acted by Hollywood movie star Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. By comparing the two representatives, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that UK romance comedy is more realism while the other is more idealism. I believe it more or less has something related to their different cultures and national characters. British people are more conservative than Americans so their romance is closer to life, it’s better for audience to find the real love in reality because some plot of the movie just like a familiar one happened in neighborhood. It reflects some true situation in real life. Pretty Woman is a bit like the realization of American Dream to American people; the movie makes the fairy tale dream become true. That’s why these two movies are excellent learning materials for romance genre study.

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When talking about film genre, there is no reason not to mention the etymology of genre, which comes from French (originally Latin) word meaning “type” or “kind”. With the word genre coming into use of English, it is not hard to come across “literacy genre”, “genres in painting” etc, however, this paper mainly emphasizes on film genre. How we define genre is depending on our purposes. Film genre is closely connected with the aspect of audience’s common knowledge and their expectations, that is, how audience recognizes and understands movie. As Alastair Fowler said that “readers learn genres gradually, usually through unconscious familiarization”, I put forward the idea that audience use genre to distinguish a particular movie and it makes a genre a code between producers and viewers in the text of a specific movie.

When I start to analyze US film genre, I can’t ignore the impact of Hollywood, which produces a large amount of blockbuster through the whole world, to name but a few, Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, Titanic, The Lord of the King, Avatar… In Hollywood movie, the leading genres are action-adventure, comedy, science fiction, teenpics, war films, westerns, melodrama and so on. It is universally acknowledged that love is indispensable in human’s life,so it’s always the source material for literature and art creation. There is no doubt that love is always the eternal theme of movie, that’s why the box of romance story is on the glory trail for long years. In some other film genre, romance is supposed to be the sub-genre, which makes romantic thriller, romantic drama, action romance and romantic comedy. And even in Titanic this kind of disaster film, romance is an important element which runs through the whole movie. At different time people’s outlook of love reflect their moral value at that time. The production of movie is usually based on the characteristic temper of an age to highlight the theme of the time. During the Second World War period, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls are popular films because they shoot at the real background of the society, which reveals the changing life brought by the war. While in the period of 90th century, You’ve Got a Mail, Message in a Bottle, A Walk in the clouds these new time romance come into the big screen. Especially in You’ve Got a Mail internet has become a bridge between the hero and heroine, besides that the film also reflects cyber romance in real life. As it goes to nowadays romance, it becomes much more incredible and extraordinary just like Across the Universe, Sliding Doors, twilight.

When I continue to analyze the UK film genre, there are three main characteristics going as follows. First of all it inherits and develops the realistic tradition of English drama. For instance, Gandhi, A Passage to India, Gosford Park represent the introspection of the history and culture of colonial domination; the Bridge on the River Kwai, the Private Life of Henry VIII, the Queen criticize the corrupt customs of old value and national characters; the Land Girls, Love Actually promote the standard civilization of mainstream society; Four weddings and a Funeral, Mr. Bean advocate the optimistic attitude towards life. Secondly, UK movie is keen on the artistic characteristics of English drama, leading to the high artistic value in either shooting or performance, especially the “gentleman style” in acting. It also explains why many English films win the Academy Award such as The English patient, Shakespeare in Love. The last but not least, it adapts some literary masterpiece and many of them stay famous with the original work. Tess is revised from Hardy; Oliver Twist is revised from Charles Dickens; Sense and Sensibility is converted from Jane Austin. When all the above-mentioned factors are taken into consideration, a conclusion could be drawn that UK films are more traditional and retain some features of English drama.

Hereinafter I will illustrate Love Actually and Pretty Woman to analysis the features of UK and US romance comedy respectively and compare their similarities and distinctions. Love actually is one of the most successful English romance comedies which breaks the record of Bridget Jones’s Diary and wins the top-grossing movie release in ever. It is made up of ten separate stories but also there are small connections among those stories at the background of traditional festival-Christmas. In fact the name of the movie “love actually” means “Love is actually around”, so the whole melody of the movie is immersed in warm and love. The beginning and ending part take place at Heathrow Airport where passengers part or reunite with their family or friends. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husband and wife, boyfriends, girlfriends and old friends, they smile, embrace or kiss each other, making the airport cozy beautiful place. Love is found everywhere. Our eyes do not show a lack of sense of love, but lack of observation. This film reflects different kind of outlook of love in UK society. Love is around no matter who you are and what social class you come from. Even you are the prime minister of the United Kingdom; you may fall in love with your assistant. The director just suggests that there is no hierarchy, no stratum in love, everyone is equal at the front of love; love makes people closer to each other and makes them come together no matter what their identities are. Love is around no matter which country you are from and what language you are speaking. Love has no boundaries. The little boy confesses his feelings to the African-American girl at the encouragement of his stepfather. Love is brave, there are neither skin colors nor races in love, and we all cheer for the little boy because of his braveness. Totally there are ten stories and everyone can find some touching details in some stories because they are closely related to our life and I believe that’s why it’s not the same as Hollywood romance comedy, its special gentleman style humor and lightly moving plot are not like a raging flame but can still give us warm and power. It makes audience feel comfortable and full of confidence that love is everywhere. Be generous and gratitude to life because love is always around us. It is a movie but it is also like what happened in our own life. Apart from the romance story in the film, we can find the epitome of British politics and the relationship between British and American. “A friend who bullies us is no longer a friend.” Bring out their opinion that they don’t want to be an attendant of America. We can still catch the satire that Englishman used to show disagreement with American and their pop culture. They laugh at American’s arbitrariness and their open culture. Satire is one way of English humor. As is known to us, comedy is very influential in English film industry because the nation feels proud of their sense of humor. Mr. Bean has become the stereotype of comedy and Rowan Atkinson’s face represent funny and humor. When he showed up in a movie we can predict that something interesting will happen. So even he shows up several minutes in Love Actually, he still creates happiness to the audience.

On the other hand, Pretty Woman is a typical Cinderella Hollywood style romance comedy. Hao Jian claims Pretty Woman is a romantic film and studies how this movie leads the audience to enjoy the visual and ideological pleasure through inserting typical movie language. He argues the director’s use of movie language and the like “zero cut” is a strategy to remove barriers between the characters and the audience. (Hao Jian,2002) Since there is no denying that characters are the souls of movie, this paper mainly focuses on characters’ personalities to conclude the genre features instead of the angle from shooting methods like montage etc. Edward represents prototype of the upper class while Vivian represents the working class in US. From my point of view, American romance comedy is more idealized just like a fairy tale and a wonderful dream because girls are eager to encounter her prince of charming like Edward and boys want to be successful and have the social status as Edward. That is to say, American romance story is more idealism so that the heroes and heroine are so glorious that audience wish they could become them. Vivian, the pretty woman in the movie, though she doesn’t have a decent occupation, she still has her own qualities, which attract the perfect hero and win his love. I analyzed the heroine and find she has four qualities that makes she become the princess. To start with, she is frank and honest, so that she always expresses her feelings directly and doesn’t hide her opinions. Next, although she is a prostitute, she still has self-respect. When she lives a comfortable life provided by Edward she still prepares to leave because all she wants is not just material things. Thirdly, she is a lovely woman, which can be drawn from her cute actions and innocent dialogue. At last, she creates her own idealism when she is a street girl and luckily her dreams come true. In real life it’s hard to imagine a millionaire falls in love with a prostitute, but just because of the mode of Cinderella and the prince of modern time makes audience’s wish come true, the film becomes a very popular one even until today. Pretty Woman still makes sense in our society; the vision of love differs in our time. Now it seems that status, fortune and appearance have become some “necessaries” in matching love. Love is no longer pure love; people become together with clear intensions, for instance, the insurance of life, the standard of consumption…It seems that people now regard marriage as a “relationship” instead of an “institution”. In the movie it tells us that family background, job, features are not so important, the most important thing is one’s inner world, pure soul and warm heart. Pretty Woman inherits the traditional mode of US romance comedy, which contains handsome man, hot figure woman and happy ending story. However, this movie also praises female while some other US film would show sympathy of female like Thelma and Louise, the Color Purple and so on. All in all, Pretty Woman is a very classic Hollywood movie which is beneficial for us to study film genre of romance comedy of American.


Through the further discovery of genre study, it helps us obtain some fundamental conception of film genre in terms of romance comedy. Film genre is a long journey that in this paper I only underline a small aspect of film genre. As far as I am concerned, romance comedy is so popular that this film genre can always attract audience’s attention and sit in the cinema to enjoy the movie. However, Love actually and Pretty Woman are just two stereotypes of romance comedy. There are numerous films of this type, if we want to draw more conclusions we always have many options since If Only, Five first dates, Sleepless in Seattle,etc, are classic romance story worth watching.


UK Film Council. http://sy10.ukfilmcouncil.ry.com/Default.asp

An introduction to genre theory. Daniel Chandler.

American Film Genres: Approach to a critical theory of Popular Film. Kaminsky, Stuart M.

Media Semiotics: An Introduction. Bignell, Jonathan. Manchester University Press. 1997

Film Genre Study. HaoJian. Beijing University Press. 2002

The Film Genre Book. John Sanders. Auteur Publishing. 2009

Film Genre 2000:New Critical Essays. Wheeler Winston Dixon. State University of New York Press.2000

Film Genre:Hollywood and Beyond. Barry Langford. Edinburgh University Press. 2005

Romance Fiction: A guide to the genre. Kristin Ramsdell. Englewood,Colo. 1999


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