New Romantics

Students reflect on whether media in the holiday romantic comedy genre has made progress in representation and inclusivity.


Georgia Goldberg, Assistant A&E Editor

Scrolling through the ‘New & Popular’ section on Netflix, Samuel Hines ’24 said he stumbled upon “Single All the Way,” a new holiday romantic comedy about a biracial gay couple. Looking at more of the latest holidays films, he noticed more racial and sexual orientation diversity. 

“I see many people of color playing very large roles in these romantic comedies, and I think we have come a long way,” Hines said. “I think there’s a lot more diversity on screen, especially in these holiday romantic comedies.”

Last year, Forbes called 2020 the Hallmark channel’s “most diverse year yet” following its latest release of holiday films. Ava Weinrot ’23 said the genre’s latest steps towards inclusivity don’t have much of an impact, though, because the newer films receive far less attention than the older films. 

“The most diversity that I see in these rom-coms is in the newer ones that come out on Netflix,” Weinrot said. “No one really watches those, though because they look so terrible. All the classic ones that everyone knows and loves have no diversity.”

Grace Hudson ’23 said the diversity in these movies often feels forced. She said it feels as though networks and streaming services include underrepresented groups for the sole purpose of appearing more inclusive. 

“I think in recent years there has been more diversity but not enough,” Hudson said. “When they do have diversity, it just feels like they’re checking boxes off a list. It feels very insincere, like the diverse character’s only role is to be diverse.”

Similarly, Ofek Levy ’23 said queer people and people of color seem to be given leading roles in order to meet diversity quotas rather than to offer genuine representation for marginalized groups of people. 

“I feel like the romantic comedies that have diverse casts don’t necessarily have diverse storylines,” Levy said. “It’s the same old movie, just a different person in the role. It really makes me wonder, ‘Are holiday rom-coms even the right place to share underrepresented stories at all?’”

 Levy said he does not want to see an increase in Hanukkah movies because he believes the representation would feel disingenuous to Jewish people. 

“I personally don’t really want to see Jewish representation in holiday romantic comedies,” Levy said. “I would rather see it in more meaningful movies. Holidays that I see as more important to my Jewish identity are not a part of media as often as Hanukkah is.”

 On the other hand, Chloe Appel ’23 said as a Jewish person, she would appreciate more Jewish representation in holiday films. 

“I like holiday rom-coms, but I think they are kind of repeating the same storyline,” Appel said. “I feel like more Jewish holiday movies would help negate this repetition, and it would be good to see more Jewish stories being told.”

 Mia Karathanasis ’22 said these films may lack diversity, but they still effectively draw in audiences of different groups of people. 

“You can have a ridiculous love story that can apply to almost any group of people and all cultures and identities,” Karathanasis said. “I think that’s partly what makes the genre so relatable and appealing to everyone.”

Karathanasis said as streaming platforms release more and more holiday inspired movies, storylines are bound to repeat; however, she said the repetition is part of the genre’s appeal.

“I think these [storylines] might be overdone, but I don’t think that means they’re not still entertaining and enjoyable,” Karathanasis said. “People still love them and watch them for a reason, even if they’re completely ridiculous to a certain extent.”

 Similarly, Hudson said the consistent recycling of storylines is not necessarily detrimental to the genre.

“I absolutely love holiday rom-coms, but I think they’ve just become so predictable,” Hudson said. “I feel like I’ve seen the exact same story in five different movies, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love each and every one.” 

Karathanasis said she always enjoys these movies because watching them with her friends and family excites her for the holiday season. 

“These types of happy-go-lucky rom-coms [are] all about getting together and being grateful for what you have,” Karathanasis said. “I think that’s always important, even if it’s presented in a pretty surface-level way, because that’s what the holidays are all about.”