How my Favorite Rom-Coms Dissillusioned my Twenties
It's no secret one of my favorite movies is 13 Going on 30, closely followed by How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Maybe the iconic Jennifer Garner movie secured its spot in my top five because it was the first PG-13 movie I watched at the young age of seven, or maybe it was the movie soundtrack with iconic 80's songs. While I'm not entirely sure, I didn't realize until my junior year of college that both movies feature a female journalist as their main character right in the middle of completing my journalism degree.
Upon further reflection, I realized that most rom-coms feature the main character as a journalist. Think about it, Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed, Becky Fuller in Morning Glory, and of course, the iconic Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City are all journalists.
In a Twenty & Trying episode featuring Alyssa Hickey, a clinical social worker specializing in DBT, we chat about rom-coms and how they distort our view of success and what our twenties should look like. We also theorize why movies use the female journalism trope, probably for the costume department to have a job, especially when the leading lady works for a fashion or women's magazine. The female journalist's job is also exciting and probably a fun career for screenwriters to portray. Major media outlets are often located in big cities, offering a great escape for viewers.
Being a sucker for punishment, I chose to revisit some of my all-time favorite romantic comedies, just as I did last year while writing a similar article. But this time, I decided to watch it through the eyes of a recent college graduate who is actually applying for the jobs reflected on screen. Unfortunately, I found myself disillusioned and wanting more.
While some of these movies are far from reality ( let's be real, most of them are), I always thought there were at least a few elements of truth, but in truth, they just distorted my way of thinking. In Never Been Kissed, Josie is a 25-year-old copy editor for a major market newspaper whose article later moves the entire city of Chicago (show me a newsroom where this would fly). In The Devil Wears Prada, Andy is a recent Northwestern University graduate who wins a job as junior personal assistant to the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, a job I would be one of the millions applying for.
But do filmmakers actually do these women justice? Many of the women start the movie loving their jobs, eager for something more career-wise. But instead of the happy ending being a promotion or self-enlightenment, it is a kiss with a man. These characters' jobs are a means to an end instead of the journey. The women listed above sacrifice their careers for men in their lives (Jenna reverts to a teenager, Andie sacrifices her interview for a dream job, and Becky gives up working for the Today show.) Their work as journalists is just a path for them to achieve happiness, and happiness in these movies is the man.
Within the past few years, society has seen a reconning within the media industry. Bombshell, a fictionalized account of the Roger Ailes Fox News scandal, barely scratched the surface of what female journalists are subjected to within their work environment and male-driven industry. While I understand I chose to reexamine rom-coms and to hope these movies point out the injustices in the system may be a little too much to expect; I found myself either upset at the female lead, greatly upset with the "luck" these characters happen to have or frustrated with the final "work" these journalists produce.
Never Been Kissed uses the predatory teacher trope but misses the mark on exposing a teacher falling for a student, instead opting to flip the switch having Josie take the blame for the situation. The title character in Bridget Jones Diary quits her job at a publishing house and lucks into a role as a reporter. And then there's Andie, who at 23 years old already has a senior position at a glossy magazine. I am 23 and nowhere near any senior-level position. These movies paint a picture in our youthful minds that we can achieve anything by the age of 25, and I am calling BS! These movies forsake the depiction of failure in anything but love. I want to see a movie where the female character is in their twenties trying their hardest and still falling short in something other than love.
Rom-coms, you may have somehow inspired my degree choice, but you need to do better.