Duplicate Stories and The End of Romantic Comedies

Netflix’s new selection of original rom-com trilogies have introduced a stereotypical formula that they will try to recycle for ages. And Here’s the hard part: It’s going to work. 

Netflix recently released sequels to both rom-com franchises To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth. Neither film warrants a watch, due to the lack of genuine performances or realistic casting choices (there must be a day where Hollywood admits that 28 year olds cannot play teenagers). However, the largest and most predictable takeaway is—drumroll please—they’re the same movie. 

In the sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, our protagonist (a young woman in high school) faces conflict with the boy she fell in love with in the previous film. She faces trust issues after seeing him with another girl. She later becomes conflicted when a new, ethnically ambiguous and musically talented love interest shows up at her community service job. The film sets the audience up to forget what they loved about the boy from the first film, and root for this new prodigy. By the time the newcomer has won them over and shared a kiss with the protagonist, she discovers the love she was looking for was right there all along in the boy from before. Which makes one wonder, in the two hours it took to watch this film, did nothing in this story change? We end where we began, and we haven’t learned anything new except not to trust the protagonist’s narration. 

The sequel to The Kissing Booth follows (you guessed it!) a young woman in high school, facing conflict with the boy she fell in love with in the previous film after seeing him with another girl. She becomes conflicted when the new, ethnically ambiguous and musically talented kid from school starts flirting with her. The audience falls in love with the new guy, and as soon as they share a kiss our protagonist discovers that she can learn to trust her boyfriend. Once again, no change.

The importance of this structure for a sequel being so blatantly reused is how it’s going to affect the future of the romantic comedy industry. Are these films being made purely for streaming money and advertising? Will this genre of modern romance ever get to step out of its own box? Slowly, Hollywood’s creativity for this category of storytelling is declining, and these films are only proof that the speed at which we’re losing imaginative takes on this age-old story is declining. While the majority of rom-coms are classics and forever adored stories, it becomes more difficult not to compare new glamour films to ones we’ve seen before. These sequels being released within six months of each other begs the question: Is this the end of original takes on romantic comedies? Streaming networks are the next generation’s movie theaters, and if this is the content they’re pushing to the front of the crowd, what’s left?

Unlike the 2013 romance fantasy film About Time, the latest movies in this genre seems to lack authenticity. At least About Time dabbles in time travel and second chances, these latest productions dabble in hormones and actors aging out of playing students. 

The third and final films in these trilogies are set to release later this year. Hopefully, the film industry can turn around what feels like an inevitable end to originality in a specific genre. Until then, enjoy the inescapable Groundhog Day experience The Kissing Booth 3 and To All The Boys: Always And Forever, are likely to be.

— by Hudson Flynn ’21