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Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy

Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy (photo)

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In her column at the New York Times today, Maureen Dowd tag teams with film writer Sam Wasson to bemoan the state of the romantic comedy. It’s a not-uncommon complaint (and a variation on the larger “there are no good movies anymore” one trotted out by Joe Queenan last week) that usually goes something like this: “Romantic comedies used to be awesome, but they totally suck now, don’t they?” “Totally!”

While Dowd runs through the usual questions — “How did we get from ‘Two for the Road’ to ‘The Bounty’ and ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’?” — Wasson, the author of recent making-of-“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-tome “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.,” makes an important point:

Even the studios that are run by women aren’t run by women. They’re run by corporations, which are run by franchises. Unfortunately for us, Jennifer Aniston is a franchise. So is Katherine Heigl and Gerard Whatever-His-Name-Is, and even when their movies bomb, their franchise potential isn’t compromised because overseas markets, DVD sales and cable earn all the studio’s money back… The worst part of it is, from Hollywood’s point of view, it ain’t broke.

Butler, sir. That would be Gerard Butler. And what is the incentive for studios to do a better job with potted rom-com movie product when enough people seem perfectly content to watch the ghastly things they churn out? Other than pride in artistry, something presumably beaten out of most movie execs by years of fear, bottom-line thinking and market testing.

What I personally find disturbing about the current state of the rom-com — more so than the general dismal quality, the frequent lack of chemistry between the leads and the absence of anything resembling sparkling repartee — is the underlying hostility many of these films seem to have for their female characters. Back in the Times, Manohla Dargis, reviewing a recent Whatever-His-Name-Is vehicle, noted:

One of the lessons of “The Ugly Truth” — beyond the obvious one that a desirable, desiring woman can never, ever, be happily single and sexual in modern Hollywood — is that holding to your hard-won ideals is of no consequence, at least when there’s a guy to be hooked.

And that’s been true of a fair amount of recent mainstream romantic comedies, from “The Proposal” to “Leap Year” to “He’s Just Not That Into You.” The battle of the sexes, the I-can’t-stand-you-let’s-make-out that’s been a standard of screwball romance for ages, has gotten awfully one-sided, becoming more a question of a woman getting humiliated and punished until she gets over herself and learns to appreciate the man in front of her. If that’s what’s become of escapism, no wonder “Twilight,” in which a girl’s mere existence is enough to make (supernaturally powered) guys throw themselves at her feet, has become so successful.

As a palate cleanser, a taste of a grown-up romance with prickly, interesting dialogue, though it’s not a multiplex one:

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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