The XX Factor

Watching Loathsome People Find Love

Demonstrating yet again why I love them so, the Onion AV put together a video to support a month-old listicle of that most unfortunate of cinematic trends, romantic comedy characters who are obnoxious and unlovable and whom we are supposed to cheer on as they seek love. Characters who are selfish, stupid, nearly sociopathic, lying, shallow, uptight, or misogynist are offered up again and again, and we’re supposed to find it to be a happy ending when these loathsome people find true love. On its surface, it’s one of the most confounding movie trends, and certainly makes movie critics long for the golden era of romantic comedies centered around attractive, witty people bantering their way into marriage.

But I think, after reading the startlingly long list of horrid romantic movie characters, I’ve formed a theory as to why Hollywood just keeps cranking out one story after another of ugly-on-the-inside people falling in love and settling down. Look, these movies do make money. Clearly, this is what audiences want. And I suspect audiences like these movies because they give you a nice, superior feeling to the people onscreen. When you offer up beautiful, witty people with hearts of gold, modern audiences don’t enjoy the fantasy so much as burn with envy and resentment. But with a modern romantic comedy, you can tell yourself, “Hey, if these losers can find love, so can I.”

It’s the same thing that sells everything from gossip magazines that show pictures of famous women sporting cellulite in public to Fox News trying to drum up resentment of Wisconsin school teachers for believing they should make middle class incomes. Ours is not an aspirational era so much as an era of dragging people down.