“The Lovebirds” and the new age of rom-coms

Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

“The Lovebirds” brought about the nostalgic feelings of 90s and early 2000s romantic comedies, but with a diverse cast of characters and a hilarious, unexpected storyline.

The Netflix original, which came out in early 2020, started out with a perfectly adorable “meet-cute” between the main characters Leilani and Jibran, played by Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani.

The story fast forwards four years to the interracial couple bickering over whether or not they could win the hit TV show “The Amazing Race.” Their life has taken a complete 180, falling into the stage of feeling stuck in life and a failing relationship.

On the way to their friend’s dinner party, the two not only break up, but they also hit a biker with their car, sparking a fast-paced, lively, unexpected adventure with current jokes, unpredictable turns and the scheme of a bizarre cult.

Rotten Tomatoes rated this film a 66% on the Tomatometer, with audiences giving it a 51% rating.

“Although there are a couple of saggy jokes, this buddy cop-type comedy will bring some much-needed laughter – and reminds [us] that a good path to love is paved with listening, having each other’s back and lots of fun,” Lonita Cook from the KCTV5 News at 9 said.

Most romantic comedies that audiences have come to remember fondly, have a cast of all white people, with little divergence from the usual plot path.

“Love, Actually,” “13 Going on 30,” “The Proposal,” “Clueless” and “10 Things I hate About You” make up just a few of the thousands of adored classics. Though these movies are greatly loved and still have a cult following, they lack the diversity that media needs.

For a while, the romantic comedy genre fell out of popularity. Audiences grew tired of the same tired-out storyline. Usually, these types of movies start out with a career-focused woman who does not want or need a man. Then as the film goes on, the male of interest whittles down her cold heart until she agrees to love him forever. Throw in a scandal or two, and the occasional LGBTQ or POC best friend, and you’ve got the foundation for every iconic Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz movie.

According to an article written for ScreenRant by Mike Jones in 2020, the influx of action movies in the 2010s and the lack of diversity in romantic comedies led to the demise of the genre. Avatar led to the resurgence of 3D films that overshadowed other types of movies during this period.

Jones expressed that the traditional framework of romantic comedies eventually prompted its decline, especially the absence of diversified storylines.

“This lack of diversity was spread across class, race, and sexual orientation, ultimately leading to characters that wider audiences couldn’t relate to,” Jones said. “In its contentment with being a highly popular genre, rom-coms made few alterations to the ideas surrounding who could fall in love, what their life was like or who they loved.”

Also, the addition of LGBTQ characters almost solely consisted of gay men acting as the snarky best friend who gave fashion advice, which according to Jones was overly stereotypical and not sustainable.

However, recently, the genre has made a resurgence with titles like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Set It Up” and “The Lovebirds.”

Audiences went crazy for these modern takes on the classic tropes. According to Alex Abad-Santos in Vox, “Crazy Rich Asians” made $237 million worldwide, becoming the highest grossing romantic comedy in the last decade.

“Directors need to cast more BIPOC characters. There needs to be more BIPOC directors and producers. As more and more films like Lovebirds pop up, we’re on track to that future, said Rema Bhat for 34th Street.

The renewal of rom-coms has brought about a fresh slew of stories to tell with representation that draws in and excites audiences. “The Lovebirds” acts as a beautifully unique addition to this genre, which will hopefully continue to move in a representative direction.