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Author Topic: My problem with Romantic Comedy
philnotfil
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It isn't with Romantic Comedy as a whole, but there is a sbugenre that puts people in uncomfortable and even unpleasant social situations and then laughs at them. It is supposed to be OK, because in the end everything works out. I am finding myself increasingly unable to sit through these movies as I get older. The two that come to mind as examples are "While You Were Sleeping" and "Meet the Parents."

I'm not sure why this is happening. As I get older am I getting better at empathizing with others? Are the movies getting worse? Is the general sense of humor changing and mine is going some other way? What is happening to me? [Smile]

Again, it isn't all Romantic Comedy. I loved "The Wedding Singer." I didn't mind sitting through "Sleepless in Seattle.". I don't watch movies much so I can't think of any others I have seen in the past couple of years that would qualify, but I do know that I don't dislike them as a genre.

(it just seems to be the ones that my wife likes the most [Smile] )

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TomDavidson
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Some people are amused when they see other people humiliated. Some people cringe.
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Ivan
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Well, I think part of it is message, part of it is movie quality. SiS The Wedding Singer are both good movies. Corney at times, sure, but good, heart-felt movies. The people in them are fundamentally good, likeable people (well, not the bad guys, and I'm just not a fan of Drew Berrymore, but anyhow...) who don't do bad things.

I think what we're seeing more of is the leads in these Romantic Comedies doing deplorable, bad things and then see them get laughed away as "but they did it for LOVE so it's OKAY!"

One that comes to mind immediately is the recent Hillary Duff flick where she basically steals a guy's identity and woos her mom with it. She causes thousands in property damages and puts her mom through what could be a very tramatic emotional experience (woudldn't want to ruin the end for you. [Roll Eyes] ) for her own selfish desires. Desires which are actually quite understandable when you look at how selfish her mom is. The mom picks up adn moves accross the country whenever she gets dumped, which is apperantly a more-than-annual experience. This means that er kids haven't spent a year in the same school. Mom does this out of insecruity. She isn't willing to face a town where she was dumped long enough for her kids to complete a full school year. And we're supposed to be okay with that kind of selfishness because it's amuzing. We're just supposed to laugh it off as quirky and funny. Given how self-absorbed these characters are, you'd think it was going to have some kind of tragic ending where they realize how their horrible, selfish deeds have ruined the lives of others. But nope. Happy ending, everyone "gets a guy", and that's a wrap. (Hmm. Guess I did spoil the ending....)

The notion that we're supposed to accept this type of character, that gets away with every kind of foul deed because, in the end, they fall in love and are happy is what's wrong. These characters have been sapped of responsibility for their actions by the Hollywood ending. At least in Sleepless they had to work for it in the end....

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Everard
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"t isn't with Romantic Comedy as a whole, but there is a sbugenre that puts people in uncomfortable and even unpleasant social situations and then laughs at them."

I HATE this type of movie or TV show, romantic comedy, or seinfeld.

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Kit
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I agree with the dislike for the 'embarassment' genre.

For some reason though, I never put 'While You Were Sleeping' in that category. Not sure why. I'll have to think about it.

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TCB
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The romantic comedy is dead. Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte KILLED IT.
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LoverOfJoy
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quote:
Some people are amused when they see other people humiliated. Some people cringe.
I don't know about humiliated, but I BOTH cringe and am amused when I see a fictional someone go through some bad coincidence that reminds me of something I myself went through.

Have you ever had a day when one thing after another went wrong to the point where you finally had to laugh about it? I laugh at myself and the crazy things I've gone through all the time. I think it's the only way I get through it all.

I remember my teacher telling me about a time he went to go visit his girlfriend's family for Christmas. They were going around one by one opening presents with the whole family watching and he realized that his present for his girlfriend had gotten switched with his roommate's present for his roommate's girlfriend. It was some lingerie and he was desperate to keep his girlfriend's parents from seeing it. So he finally pointed out the window and shouted something like, "Look at that!" and quickly grabbed the present and tried to hide it. Then he looks over at what their whole family was looking at out the window. It was a couple of dogs humping.

I remember laughing so hard at that as a teenager. One reason was because it was surprising to hear a teacher confess it. Another was because I could imagine how embarrased I'd be. I could think of much lesser embarrassing situations that later I have to laugh about but this beat all others I'd had up till then. At no point was I laughing BECAUSE I like to think of my teacher or others being humiliated. When I hear an embarrassing story or really sad coincidence I picture myself in it and that's what makes me laugh.

I've seen movies that have gone over the top and they stop being funny. Maybe I start rooting for something bad to happen to someone ELSE. Maybe I just think the bad things were too unbelievable. But particularly in movies, I can OFTEN both wince and laugh within a ten second interval based on what bad thing happened.

One example of a movie that I found funny BECAUSE I pictured myself in it was "What About Bob." There's this guy that doesn't mean to be annoying but he drives his psychiatrist crazy (literally). The way his psychiatrist responds only makes things worse and worse. While I've never experienced something that extreme, I felt to some extent like I'd been there. I've met annoying people who weren't trying to be annoying and at first I'd try to help them, be friendly, etc. but over time I'd let it get to me and the more worked up I got the worse it became. I laughed at it because I could relate to it not because I was in any way happy to see somebody ELSE get it. The same is true with what little of Seinfeld that I've seen. I've known characters like the ones they've portrayed and I can remember how I responded to them and it helps me imagine how it might have been if I responded to them in the way those characters did. For whatever reason, that makes me laugh.

In real life, do I laugh when someone gets embarrassed or hurt? No. At least not in the moment. The pain is too real and too fresh. If they can tell the story later and laugh about it, though, then yeah, sometimes I will laugh about it after the fact (WITH THEM).

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drewmie
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quote:
TCB wrote: The romantic comedy is dead. Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte KILLED IT.
I wish. Unfortunately, the glut of saccarine-laden crap that continues to spew from Hollywood contradicts you. IF ONLY more romantic comedies were like "I Love Trouble," which basically refused to pander to the lowest common denominator of sniffling women.

Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a very good movie. But for once, it actually went somewhere besides treacle-town. When it did do "formulaic" things, some people criticized it for doing them badly. Duh! That was the point! A romantic comedy that made fun of pathetic romantic comedy formulas!

I'd like to think the "new" romantic comedy (at least its the one actually worth mentioning) is Punch-Drunk Love. It takes all those embarrassing and mean formulas and sticks them in our face. We are FORCED to accept how truly cruel those embarrassments are. We are forced to empathize with how painful and paralyzing the awkward situations are.

Yes, there is humor, but it is not the humor of laughing at the buffoon. We cringe along with the characters. We are HONESTLY angry at his cruel sisters, rather than merely shaking our heads at his wacky reaction like we do at Ben Stiller in "Meet the Parents." No, Adam Sandler's character never gives us a hint of that reaction. He never lets us off the hook, an emotional hook that gradually digs into us, just as it has for him over the years. We don't just want to helariously tell off Robert DeNiro into a webcam. We feel as trapped as the character does, and don't know what else to do other than breaking a window or smashing up the restaurant restroom.

When love comes in this film, it isn't a foregone conclusion. It is truly the recognition of a soul mate in a world that could have made him a serial killer or a suicide casualty, if not for a woman who saw his plain picture and had to meet him. They know they're weird, and not in a way that has ever made their lives more jovial. It has only brought pain and lonliness. And it only makes their relationship more sweet and satisfying, and something they'll never take for granted.

That's what love really is, and what more romantic films should be. That kind of love really doesn't happen every day, and is rarely that appreciated by those who don't recognize it for the gift it is. In fact, most people who have never felt that kind of long-term alienation just thought Sandler's character was nuts. Well, there are a lot more of us out there than you think. Some of us (including yours truly) have really found something that great and rare.

Where most romantic comedies are about naive or ignorant -- but basically perfect -- people finding perfect love, the truly great "new" romantic comedies are more like As Good As It Gets, where the one guy who can truly touch you is an older, pudgy, bigoted obsessive-compulsive who can barely function. Hey, the woman might be strong and beautiful, but she's a basket-case too. A basket-case that only this offensive man TRULY GETS, after years of tiring of "normal" guys who are of no long-term use.

And who is the one who actually helps the post-traumatic gay man? His sensitive, enlightened friends? Nope, only this overwhelmingly homophobic jerk and this addicted-to-misery woman. That's something special, and something only fools throw away... There are a lot of fools in the world, and their failed romantic stories tend to have a first half like the wacky, laugh-track-laden garbage in our beloved, formulaic romantic comedies.

[ January 17, 2006, 01:52 AM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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RoseAuthor
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As a female; romantic comedy is a waste of time. I hate it 99% of the time. I don't relate to it. Maybe I'm too masculine?

I liked the original 'THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER" with Jimmy Stewart. (re-made as, "You've Got Mail.") However, I liked it for different reasons than what was reintroduced as Romantic Comedy. Perhaps because it was an original idea and the latter was a waste of my time?

As it is, "while you were sleeping," was a waste of my time. Most of these sappy stories seems to suck the life out of me rather than add anything to my reality.
Either I'm living a very boring and predictable life or they are useless drivel.

Not everything will be your cup of tea... it's OK! 80% of the population likes this garb! Count yourself among the rarities!.. TEE HEE.

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Sunil Carspecken
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uh, Brendon, one more thnig. have you seen George?
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Kit
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Rose,

your question about "too masculine" reminded me of one of my al time favorite movie scenes. It is from "Sleepless in Seattle". Tom Hanks (widower father) is talking with his friends (married couple) about this situation about wanting to meet on the Empire State Building. The wife talks about how its like in this old movie and starts crying and talking about how beautiful it was. The two guys are just staring at her like she's gone nuts. She gets mad and asks them if they haven't ever felt like that. Then the two guys launch into this tear-filled rececitation of the end of "The Dirty Dozen" (guns, death, grenades, etc) and finish by wiping the tears from their eyes and declaring "it was so beautiful".

The wife just stares at them with this confused/unbelieveing/incredulous look that is just perfect.

That scene alone is worth watching the movie for.

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Jordan
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Kit! Blimey, yes!

I also liked Sabrina (I've only seen the 1995 film, not the earlier versions). "The world's first living heart donor…" [Big Grin]

My grandmother's all-time favorite film is Murphy's Romance. Which is available on DVD.

In the US. [Mad]

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EDanaII
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I thought the original Sabrina was best, but, then, I'm prejudiced since I saw it first. That's not to say the Harrison Ford version was bad, it WAS Harrison, after all.

Murphy's Romance was good too, but... it needed MORE explosions! [Wink]

Ed.

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drewmie
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Sleepless in Seattle, Sabrina, and Murphy's Romance are all very good. All three poke fun quite a bit at our formulaic expectations of romantic comedies, as do Frankie and Johnny, Amélie, and I'll Do Anything (one of the best misunderstood and unappreciated romantic comedies ever). And Woody Allen has made a career of satirizing the romantic comedy formula.

But in the end, there are far too many drooling theater bums who want pretty people, simplistic plots and problems, and happy endings tied up in a familiar little bow.

[ January 17, 2006, 07:39 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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RoseAuthor
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Kit: You killed me! (cracked me up!) LOL Seriously, I liked the Dirty Dozen! I think there's WAY too much law enforcement and military in me!

Gosh, I need to get into more feminine jobs!

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Mormegil
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I'll tell you what I hate, romantic movies where the people who are supposed to fall in love are with other people, and start seeing each other or flirting etc while still with those other people.

I can't stand the idea that you should be with somebody, until somebody better comes along and you can trade up. If the person you're with isn't for you, then break it off and be alone.

I *especially* hate it when the man has to stop the wedding to confess his love to the bride, and she then leaves the jerk she was going to marry for the man she truly loves.

Apparently her attitude is that it's better to be married to a jerk than to be alone, because if they hero hadn't shown up, she would have gone through with it! I wouldn't *want* a woman like that.

Funnily, it wasn't until my 3rd viewing of Spider-Man that I noticed Mary Jane was *totally* two-timing Harry, the worthless cheater. (Before that I guess I had been focused on the action, and it's not like she and Harry got a lot of screen time together.) Once I realized that, I hated the Mary Jane character (in the movies) and all I could see in Spider-Man 2 was MJ continuing to be a two-timing jerk. Apparently she's only happy when she's cheating on someone.

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vulture
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It does seem to be an unpalatable staple of RomComs that one of the main characters has to be involved in another relationship already, but that their partner has to be obnoxious in some way so that it's [o]okay[/i] that they cheat on them before running off with someone else.

Of course, if they made the partner a decent, likeable person, it wouldn't really be a RomCom, since it would lack a certain light-hearted quality.

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PlaydoughBoy
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quote:
Of course, if they made the partner a decent, likeable person, it wouldn't really be a RomCom, since it would lack a certain light-hearted quality.
The movie Serendipity has just such a scenario. The lead man is going to marry a perfectly normal beautiful woman whom I think the audience can sympathise with.

quote:
I can't stand the idea that you should be with somebody, until somebody better comes along and you can trade up. If the person you're with isn't for you, then break it off and be alone.
Serendipidy also has this scenario. I won't go on to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it.
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drewmie
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quote:
Mormegil wrote: I'll tell you what I hate, romantic movies where the people who are supposed to fall in love are with other people, and start seeing each other or flirting etc while still with those other people.

I can't stand the idea that you should be with somebody, until somebody better comes along and you can trade up. If the person you're with isn't for you, then break it off and be alone.

You should watch She's So Lovely, a film that isn't shy about dealing with the very hard consequences that occur when people leave their families for their "true love." It doesn't pass obvious judgement on the characters who do it, and doesn't make a saint out of the jilted husband. It just shows the characters honestly, all of whom we both dislike and empathize with. Difficult to watch (it's NOT a romantic comedy), especially for those of us with children. I was constantly muttering "selfish jerks" to the screen, but only because I felt guilty for really empathizing with the characters.

[ January 18, 2006, 07:14 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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Praetorian
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Phil,

For me the reason I detest romantic comedy is that I dislike the tension and angst that the characters go through. Whatever the situation, I don't like watching people struggling through emotional issues all that much. I suppose it's because I know I've had to do the same, and once you've lived it...it's not entertainment anymore, it's a reminder. And while I may laugh at situations I see on movies or t.v. I remember laughing when these types of things were happening to me. Laughter being the only tool I had to fall back on, what else are you going to do when you've hit the botom of a relationship? I laugh at me and her. But it's dark laughter and not really all that funny.

Relationships are hardly funny particularly when they're all jacked up.

So maybe this is why. Empathy? Perhaps that's part of it, but I still stand by the once you've lived it, it stops being entertainment line.

On a related note, I find that war vets have a hard time watching things like Band of Brothers. It's no longer entertainment when they've bled by their brothers in some hell kissed soil in a foriegn country.

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javelin
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quote:
On a related note, I find that war vets have a hard time watching things like Band of Brothers. It's no longer entertainment when they've bled by their brothers in some hell kissed soil in a foriegn country.
I love Band of Brothers - but I don't find it "entertaining" - I find it enlightening, and soul expanding.
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pickled shuttlecock
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quote:
Originally posted by Praetorian:
So maybe this is why. Empathy? Perhaps that's part of it, but I still stand by the once you've lived it, it stops being entertainment line.

There's a theory of humor out there that says most laughter arises from an immediate dual (or multiple) interpretation of events.

What's green and red and spins 100 MPH? A frog in a blender.

1) The literal interpretation: Yup, by golly, that's green and red and spins at 100 MPH.

2) The contextual interpretation: Aw, sick. A frog?

A key feature of such humor is that the observer has to have some moral stake in at least one interpretation, but not too much. What if, by some weird coincidence, you had a pet frog as a kid that your nasty older brother popped into a blender and chopped up? What if you worked in a trauma center and regularly saw nuns walk in with javelins stuck through their heads?

On the flip side, what if you didn't know what a frog was, and your best guess was that it's some kind of toy?

(And then, after it's explained, it's still not funny because the dual interpretation isn't immediate.)

I'd say that's what's going on here. I cringe at movies and television shows where a character is subjected to too much public embarrassment. I really don't enjoy them much at all. I find it too easy to empathize, so I suppose I invest too much moral stake in the events. On the flip side, if I didn't have enough life experience to understand what all the ruckus is about (like my kids), I'd find it unfunny for the opposite reason.

Comedy necessarily treads this moral line. If I were feeling pessimistic, I'd say the reason so many recent romantic comedies and sitcoms are more cringeworthy than their predecessors is that it takes more cringes nowadays to get a laugh. Maybe, as a culture, we're losing empathy.

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Jordan
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The best example I've ever seen of "cringeworthy humour" was a show called 3 Non-Blondes. It should have been called 3 Minutes Before You Lose The Will To Live and Curl Up Into the Fetal Position. Watching it is literally like constipation for the brain, you can't possibly laugh because you're too busy hoping the world will vicariously swallow you up.

As an example, one episode features a woman pretending to be a radio producer who can't say long words—such as "multicultural"—while trying to interview someone. And she doesn't just get them wrong! She gets them wrong really badly, and agonises over with her producer while she rehearses with a member of the public. And, finally, when the live broadcast supposedly goes on air, she messes up again, stuttering over it like a car out of fuel. And that's a more viewable example from their vast ouevre of why-are-you-doing-this-to-me comedy.

OSC is right. The Office walks as fine a line as possible between funny and excruciating. Any further and sympathy intervenes. [Frown]

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RoseAuthor
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Personally, I like thought provoking and emotional movies. Example: "CRASH"

This wasn't romantic however it was emotional, mental and personable. Most people can relate in one form or another.. (most intense move of the century!)

For me, romance is very personal/intimate issue. Rarely has this been exemplified in any movie. This lack of reality in movies has made romantic comedy a waste of any sort of emotional investment. (My own life story is enough to fulfill this need?!)

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drewmie
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And it doesn't even have to be literal "reality." It just needs to be EMOTIONAL reality, which even a fantasy/sci-fi film can pull off... but which, as you noted, is especially rare among romantic comedies.

[ January 19, 2006, 08:00 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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witless chum
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"Punch-drunk Love" is one of my favorite recent movies, period. And it's better than "Boogie Nights" in the P.T.A. filmography.

Best romantic comedy I've seen is "Say Anything" see also "Chasing Amy" and "Roman Holiday"

"One that comes to mind immediately is the recent Hillary Duff flick where she basically steals a guy's identity and woos her mom with it. She causes thousands in property damages and puts her mom through what could be a very tramatic emotional experience (woudldn't want to ruin the end for you. ) for her own selfish desires."

The Onion had a story awhile back headlined "Romantic Comedy Behaviour gets real-life man arrested"

Drewmie hits it right on the head with "emotional reality." Now I can more coherently explain why Joss Whedon's TV shows are the coolest ever.

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canadian
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"Maybe, as a culture, we're losing empathy."

Not sure I can get behind this sentiment. We donate more time, money and effort to our fellow man than ever before. That's not bad. Just watch a few episodes of "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy". We haven't really changed that much in half a century. And surely not for the worse.

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RoseAuthor
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canadian; I have to disagree. I think we've replaced romantic comedy with sexual comedy. (In general; romance has been replaced with sex.) I've also see that creativity has been replaced with gratuitous sex and violence.

In someways, I think that the heart of a human-being is longing for something with depth, curiosity, mystery and a certain respect that comes with those romantic comedy of our day and of days pass.

So perhaps, sex and violence sells, but the soul is still moved by this notion of magical romance?

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canadian
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Sorry, RoseAuthor.

The only reason the movies in the thirties to fifties weren't more blatantly sexual was because of the restrictions placed on filmakers. In the 20's, it was common entertainment for men to go see nudies, etc. at theatres. After the sexual revolution, filmakers started 'getting away' with more sexual content. But look at Animal House and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That was 20-25 years ago!

Porky's??

Anyway, my point is that we're neither less virtuous, nor more cruel in our comedy than the generations that preceeded us.

Heck, we can time travel back to the Greeks and witness plays about men murdering their fathers and marrying their mothers. Many of the plays and much of the art that you won't see on the Discovery Channel was in fact extremely pornographic.

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