Rainbows and Roses

The problematic reinvention of Rom-Coms about queer characters

Reed Washington

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With Valentine’s fast approaching and us lonely saps wondering why we celebrate a holiday that’s only purpose is to force people into the social convention of treating the person you are in a relationship with like you care about them, it is brought to mind how exclusive romanticism is made out to be. More specifically how exclusionary Rom-Coms (Romantic Comedies) are against the LGBT+ community. While I hate to continue this pattern of exclusion, the vast majority of the following will be focused on Gay and Lesbian tropes simply because the nature of romcoms has yet to spread to other areas of the LGBT+ comunity in a way consistent enough to be considered troupe, though there will be some overlap in the topes mentioned.  

As a quick aside, I feel it important to mention that when i refer to rom-coms I am not specifically referring to large studio films, because for the most part LGBT+ representation in blockbusters has been as comic relief or a way for the CisHet white heroine to follow the plot of the film. Save one or two films of course, however, that claim is not completely outlandish. Also let it be said that I will not be focusing on representation in sheer numbers and more how representation is executed because, it is all well and good to claim you have three eggs until you find out that all three are past their expiration date.

The first and perhaps most harmful trope in any LGBT+ film is “Bully Turned Lover”, while this trope is more centralized around Dramas it is not completely quarantined to them. This trope begins with a set up usually quite lengthy where we see a small (typically very over-the-top) out queer person asaulted both verbally and physically on numerous ocassions by the same person until they snap. Upon the out person snapping it is revealed that the bully is in love with the aforementioned queer person (usually through sex). can be extremely problematic for a plethora of reasons, to begin with it gives off the idea that assault is ok and something that should be taken lightly as opposed to the serious offense that it is. Next is that it causes queer people to romanticise assault in unhealthy ways, beyond just general stockholm but believing that all bullies are just lover’s in disguise and causes young queer people to accept assault as a way to find love. Lastly, the use of sex as something that represents love and intamcy perpatuates the idea that sex and love are the same thing or should be in anyway associated which, with the dark history of sex related afflictions in the queer comunity, is a little bit ridiculous.

Hated by all but the All-American Rejects, next is the “Dirty Little Secret” Troupe. This troupe centers around at least one closeted character in a secret relationship with another character. For one motive or another this causes a harmful dynamic because it places a large amount of power on the person in the relationship who wants to stay hidden. While it is understandable if a character is unable to come out because they are unsafe, in which case it is a different story, however it is down right abusive to treat the person you are in a relationship with like they are undesirable or not worth it. Perhaps the worst part of this trope is that they rarely resolve the conflict in any meaningful way, typically making it seem like the characters just forgot it ever happened.

The last extremely toxic and outwardly prevalent trope is pedophilia, though typically not so literally it has been done literally before. I am referring to the “relationship” between two characters with a substantial age difference, whether that be an adult and a minor or an old adult and someone barely at the age of majority. This is problematic for a multitude of reasons even when between two consenting adults because, there is an inherent pressure placed on a person when asked to do something by your senior, giving of a feel very similar to that of statitory rape.

Now that we have explained the bad tropes I feel it timely to mention that tropes used for CisHet Rom-Coms don’t fall apart when applied to LGBT+ characters, nor does every story have to center around homophobia. LGBT+ people can also realize they are in love with their best friends, fall for the person at the coffee shop, and even fall in love with royalty on some corny and zanny adventure. Basically, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to produce a Rom-Com about a minority group.