Whether it be the lovable best friend, or the handsome stranger from the café, romantic comedies have, for generations, developed the ideal prototype of the “perfect man”.
They are lovable, yet flawed, funny, yet sensitive, and charming yet goofy. What a perfectly constructed concoction of everything women adore… until the credits role, and we are back to reality. Though underlying ideals and characteristics of the “male love interest” has inevitably shifted with the times, making men more in tune with gender equality and basic respect, the core ingredients have not altered. This has become somewhat of an influence on a women’s idea of who their “soulmate”, or “perfect match” (if you believe in that sort of thing) should be, and how they will meet.
Whether he be the Patrick Verona to your Katarina Stratford, or the Paul Varjak to your Holly Golightly, this myth of meet-cutes and moments that take your breath away have skewed peoples grip on reality. It has also, more dangerously, skewed women’s grip on romance. Men are not part of a mould, pushed off a conveyor belt, and wrapped in a tailored suit, and sexy 5 o’clock shadow. They are more-than-likely the best friend of the leading man, the Jack Black to the Jude Law, or Seth Rogen to the Henry Golding. The idea of the “everyman” has become just not quite good enough.
So where did this ideal come from? Well the whole concept stems way back from the 1930s, when the Golden Age of cinema was underway. This is where the popular idea of the romantic hero started, with the likes of the Clark Gable and Fred Astaire. The 1940s brought with it James Stewart and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story, and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. At this point, we can see a pattern developing. The leading man is suave, charming, well groomed, and well-dressed. Always confident, but also lovable. They could have their dorky moments, but still remain cool. This archetype didn’t change much throughout the 1950s, with the likes of Gregory Peck and Gene Kelly leading the pack.