“To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Rom-Com or Rom-Con?”


Steven Zhou and Erin Chun

It’s a Rom-com:

Erin Chun, Senior Staff Writer

Let’s be honest: absolutely nobody is above a good, cheesy rom-com, and Susan Johnson’s 2018 film adaptation of Jenny Han’s beloved book series “To all the Boys I’ve Loved before” is a quintessential example of a modern day teenage love story. 

The film snobs and bored boyfriends who pride themselves of their self-proclaimed hatred towards this genre are the same exact people you can find huddled under their blanket covers at night, snacking on junk food while their faces glow blue under computer light as they count down the minutes until the release of the film’s sequel. All of the reasons why the haters claim to dislike this film — and all romantic comedies, for that matter — are actually the very reasons why this genre is so incredible. The plot of girl-meets-boy, girl and boy create a secret pact to pretend to be in a relationship but vow to never actually be together, end up falling in love and getting together at the end of the film as they share a kiss on a field (a lacrosse field, but nevertheless still a field), is exceedingly predictable, yes, but still manages to be enjoyable. And I get it — these types of films tend to use impossibly attractive actors to portray their highschool characters. However, the entire premise of rom-coms revolves around an unrealistic romance that is clearly fictional and impossible to actually obtain. These stories are fantasies created in order to satisfy a mass audience. Will you ever get to date Lana Condor? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. However, you and every other viewer do have the opportunity to watch the two fall in love on screen and live vicariously through Noah Centineo during the two hour film.

Formulas exist because they work. If nobody would ever dare question the Pythagorean Theorem, or refuse to acknowledge the fundamental theorem of calculus simply because of the predictability present in their set principles, why do we as a society have to feel the need to dismiss romantic comedies entirely for their cliche storylines? I did not watch “To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before” to have my jaw dropped from a shocking M. Night Shyamalan-type plot twist, nor did I watch it for its enriching social commentary. I watched this movie because I had a long day at school, and I was tired, and I remembered reading the book my freshman year of highschool as I stumbled across the recommended movie box, and it turned out to be one of movies I had enjoyed watching the most in a long time. This book-to-film adaptation was a heart-warming, unapologetically tropey, and light-hearted teenage romance story that was successful in creating an entertaining romance from a narrative I had been exposed to countless times before. “P.S. I Still Love You” gets officially released on Feb. 12, but until then, I will be sunbathing in blue computer light under my bed sheets rewatching Peter and Lara’s first love story. 

It’s a Rom-Con:

Steven Zhou, Senior Staff Writer

Before anyone throws any shade at me, I’m not above a good rom-com movie nor the rom-com genre as a whole. Heck, one of my favorite movies of all time is “Love Actually,” a Christmas-themed rom-com anthology following the lives of several people as they experience the joys and struggles of love. However, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” sadly falls short of anything beyond average.

I get the appeal of this type of rom-com to some extent; sometimes you just want to kick back and relax with an incredibly digestible movie that doesn’t require you to google an explanation about afterwards. And to be fair, after watching this movie twice, I still wanted to give Peter a hug after Lara Jean reminded him that “we’re just pretending.”

That doesn’t change my opinion though that “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is any different from the scourge of high school themed rom-coms featuring an attractive white boy designed to milk every penny out of impressionable teens (or adults). In fact, it seems to hit just about every marker of a teen rom-com with factory-produced precision. Girl waking up to a cute boy’s face? Check. Inflammatory message written on the main character’s locker? Check. Misunderstanding caused by a jealous ex that leads to temporary break-up? Check. This is a hastily directed rom-com so I expected there to be at least a few stereotypical tropes but when the movie becomes one cliché after another, there comes a point where one has to wonder: were they even attempting to try something interesting with this movie? The most remarkable thing about this is that instead of some quirky white girl being the titular character, it’s a half-Korean girl that — since we’re on the topic of tropes — ends up with the white boy.

While formulaic movie-writing will continue until the end of time, that doesn’t make it inappropriate to call these movies out for their laziness. Like ordering from a McDonald’s drive-through, cheesy rom-coms like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” are cheap to produce, quick to release, and broadly palatable, but we could probably get by with much fewer of them. If you feel compelled to watch the umpteenth twist on the “platonic friends become lovers” concept, go ham. It’s a free country. But I think we owe it to younger audiences — especially young women — to evolve beyond movies with girls fighting over who gets the guy.