How To Be Alone: When You’re Ill

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Since Tuesday I’ve been attended to by a nefarious visitor known as ‘The Flu’.

Let the record show, I despise being ill. I whine and I gripe and I call out for my mum and when she responds I can never articulate what it is that I want beyond ‘feeling better’, which she patiently explains she’d love to help with, but hasn’t yet found a cure.

But this particular bout of flu marks the first where I haven’t had a mother tending to my every need (merely because I now live in London, not for more wrenching reasons). I’ve had to go it alone. I’ve taken to the battlefield armed with nothing but Beechams and Vicks and Kleenex Balsam Tissues by the bucketload, and a steadfast determination to conquer the invasion of infectious micro-organisms.

The truth: It fucking sucks.

Looking after yourself means you can’t concede to every whimper of pain. No matter how achey/shivery/desperate for attention you are, only you can switch on that kettle and boil another hot water bottle. There’s no-one to butter you a slice of toast when that’s the most exciting thing you can bring yourself to eat, or rub Vicks on the back of your chest. (N.B. a spatula, it turns out, is not the most effective tool in combatting this woe).

I’ve demonstrated Brie Larson in Room levels of stoicism; though the irony of having to is that no-one can corroborate your emotional strength. Tuesday, especially, saw my contention with a very difficult obstacle. I’d decided to wear yoga pants, because they were somewhat warmer than my pjs, but in my heightened state of weakness when the time came to remove them, it presented a challenge. I literally didn’t have the strength to pull them from my ankles and had to take a couple of moments to –  in true Kate Winslet style –  gather.

So if ever you’re faced with having to face the flu alone, I impart my wisdom on how to make it through what feels like Armageddon…

Build yourself a flu fort. My bed has become a depot for all things alleviation-related. Strepsils, tablets, cough medicine and tissues are all within reaching distance (on the side where my clock also belongs, so I can monitor my dosages). My phone and laptop are also on standby for emergencies and entertainment purposes. This is where the Netflix ‘continue playing’ feature really feels like a stroke of genius. I powered through about 15 episodes of The Good Wife yesterday, because who better than Alicia Florrick to guide you through a rough patch. The woman is a machine.

The old saying goes ‘feed a cold, starve a fever’. But any advice with the word ‘starve’ in it, I’m likely to take with a pinch, or heaped tablespoon, of salt as I gargle away my sore throat. Eat often and eat well. I just bought a shit ton of broccoli and ginger soup, along with enough fruit and veg to open a grocery business. And one of the minimal plus-sides to being alone when struck down in your prime, is that no-one can see you chew your food with your mouth open when your blocked nose means you can’t otherwise breathe.

Stay clean. I don’t mean off-drugs; if anything you’ll be more drugged up than that time at uni you convinced yourself you were a baller and took two Hay-fever tablets before drinking 2 pints of cider. I mean, no matter how weak and unwell you feel, drag yourself to the shower a la Leonardo DiCaprio in any of his recent movies. You’d have thought that being alone meant getting away with not lathering up for a few days, but not only will the steam help with your sinuses, freshening up will just make you feel so much more alive than stewing in your, by now, germ-ridden flu fort.

Give yourself a break. The hardest thing to do when you’re off-sick is to not be hard on yourself. I felt like I was letting work down, like I’ve put a spanner in my Triathlon-training works, like I haven’t been able to attend goodbye drinks for a friend leaving the country. To reiterate my earlier sentiment, it fucking sucks. But there’s literally no-point in getting wound up about it, or trying to push yourself to the limit. This isn’t Mount Everest. The world isn’t watching. Just crawl into a hole for a while and wallow the shit out of this flu. This isn’t the time to be productive. Accept that and you’ll be much happier, if still incredibly snotty.

And if you’re feeling lonely? Ring your Mum. Ask a friend to give you a call. Hell, ask them to come over and join you in the flu fort if they’re feeling particularly immune. The more people you tell, the more people that care. And quite frankly, one of the best cures for the flu is sympathy.

Today I Experienced What It Felt Like To Be Sexually Harassed

I recently read Daisy Buchanan’s article over at The Guardian about the pressure to respond or be polite to harassers in order to be safe. I shared her indignation.

“We’ve all been bothered by persistent guys who pester us relentlessly, believing themselves to be entitled to our company and more. We’re under pressure to be polite and manage their expectations”.

Then something happened today, which turned my agreement to anger.

I was waiting for a friend in North London to begin a house viewing and decided to do so in the nearby park. On my way, a man and his friend approached me and asked if they could talk to me. I declined. However, one of the men continued to walk next to me and ask questions about my personal life and comment about my appearance. Eventually, I came to a garden and saw another woman sitting inside, so thought if I joined her, the men would be on their way. However, the particularly confrontational one of the two persisted and sat next to me, asking why I didn’t want to talk him and if it was because he was black. (Oh sure, because if a white man approached and heckled me, I’d be lapping that up).

I tried two tactics. Initially I ignored him, at which point he became aggressive. So I began to engage with his questions and literally used ‘stranger danger’ as a reason for not wanting to talk to him. He continued to posit the argument that for two people to begin dating they had to start as strangers (not only was he delusional about the future of our interactions, he had a beer in hand, so was on his way to drunkenness too).

Conversation, as well as intercourse, should be consensual and the fact that a stranger feels compelled to talk to you doesn’t mean you should have to respond. Especially if the topics of conversation are not only invasive but offensive.

The point at which he dared to touch my knee with his hand, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I got up and proceeded to walk back to the high street. This inspired the poor soul to launch a profane attack, my rejection of him clearly indicating my promiscuity and wanton ways (you can guess the types of slurs that were being shouted at me). And I mean shouted. I literally had to walk through a public space with derogatory comments echoing in the distance.

Initially, I had thought ‘how silly of me to walk into a park alone’. Yet during this incident I saw another two solo women, who were managing to go about their days uninhibited. The fault doesn’t lie with the women who dare to do something sans-companionship, it lies with the thinking that men somehow have a right to our attention.

Buchanan highlighted the issue that law enforcement is lacking and that “we need to spread the message that it isn’t flirting if it feels frightening. To create spaces where all women feel they are safe to look their harasser in the eye and say: “Leave me alone. I do not want to talk to you.”

And whilst this remains true, what happens if you tell the person bothering you exactly that and they prevail. After explicitly telling this man I didn’t want to talk to him and that he was making me uncomfortable, his mission to hassle me was only invigorated.

It was at this point I felt completely vulnerable. My voice and my concerns were not being heard and beyond that there was seemingly little I could do to restore my sense of safety. This man had intruded on my morning and I was unable to stop him.

In an era where the harassment of women is so common there’s over 75,000 entries in the Everyday Sexism Project, going out has become a game of roulette where we count ourselves lucky to be left unperturbed. Where walking along a certain street, at certain time is considered a risk.

It’s ridiculous that if a woman were to approach a man and ask if he had girlfriend they’d most likely be surprised, and somewhat flattered. When this man did the same to me, I felt endangered.

Stop watching Netflix. It’s time to face reality.

An Essay on Climate Change

Leonardo DiCaprio, a renowned climate change advocate, recently signed a deal with Netflix to bring documentaries with a philanthropic or environmental focus to a more mainstream audience. He was mostly recently executive producer on the Oscar-nominated Virunga, a gut-wrenching film that explores the exploitation of Virunga National Park’s resources, and the devastating effect on its species and wildlife – most notably, mountain gorillas.

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DiCaprio issued a statement explaining his motives:

“Working with Netflix on Virunga has sparked a shared vision about projects that we want to develop and bring to viewers. There’s never been a more critical time for our planet or more of a need for gifted storytellers to help us all make sense of the issues we face. Through this partnership with Netflix, I hope to give documentary filmmakers doing urgent and important work the chance to have their films seen immediately by audiences all around the world.”

This is an exciting development.

The idealist in me feels an overwhelming joy and a completely misplaced sense of relief that there is a demand and a market for these sorts of films and that Netflix – arguably the biggest player in the online distribution game at the moment – are putting their money behind this cause.

However, it also worries me. Like a deep, sickening, in my core kind of worry. It scares me that this feel monumental. That Leonardo DiCaprio, a guy at the peak of his powers, is struggling to get money for his own climate change movie to be made (slated to star Tom Hardy and Tobey Maguire). And that our sense of a changing tide is rooted in the movies; in ‘entertainment’ and passivity. Don’t get me wrong – I completely think that films have the power to alter opinions and act as a profound platform to shine a light on the urgent causes and stories of our time. And yet there’s something askew in encouraging people to sit down and watch a documentary rather than stand up and lobby, or protest, or march down to their local MP and say ‘get your shit together’.

Because if we’re being honest with ourselves (rather than patting Hollywood’s back and saying ‘good job’, we’ll get on board with your new, green vision), we should’ve been done and dusted with this ‘raising awareness’ agenda some decades ago.

Personally I think our self-congratulatory attitude towards awareness is one of the main reasons for our relative inaction. I say this not to diminish the importance of people’s acceptance and acknowledgment that global warming is happening, but because it also serves to stall environmentally – friendly efforts. I would proffer we are languishing in a state of awareness, too content to read sobering and necessary journalism on the issue, but ultimately to turn the page at the end of it. We’re quite willing to swallow the bitter pill, and shakes our heads or rub our chins in reaction to the terrible news that ‘global warming is coming’ and in fact well on its way to inflicting irrevocable damage to our environment, but then doing little else to effectively reverse or halt these changes.

4 year olds at primary schools should be taught about melting polar ice-caps and the damaging impact of fracking. Adolescents should be keenly aware of the inadequacies of our leaders in protecting the environment, and by extension, us. It should be ingrained into early adult minds that they are inherently, inevitably unable to make good on the promises that get to them power. We should be wiping our hands of awareness by now. We should be knee-deep in overhauling economic policies, infrastructures and excessive materialism.

Perhaps the issue is optimism. We’re too damn sure of ourselves for our own goods.

We’ve watched one too many superhero movies and assume that a muscly, vegan vigilante is around the corner to reverse all those greenhouse gases we’ve been diligently pumping into the atmosphere.

the-day-after-tomorrow-20090401112955_625x352For anyone around in the Noughties we all remember Dennis Quaid in disaster blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow (2004) saving the world’s behind when the icicles started to appear. Despite the relatively prescient depiction of an abrupt and catastrophic climate change engendering the worst ice age the world has seen for centuries, ravaging New York, among other cities with hailstones, tidal waves, and tornadoes, ultimately crisis is averted. The world is defrosted and the air clearer than ever before. We seemingly can’t help but put a positive spin on the most catastrophic issue the world has ever faced. Leaders want to suggest that the crisis is solvable and balance will be restored, and that they are going to be the ones to do it.

Yes, Obama, understanding has advanced and there’s a deepening sense of urgency. But where is this head-on tackle? Where is this adaptation and repair that you speak of? Obama stands there as “the leader of the world’s largest economy and it’s second largest emitter, to say that [they’ve] begun to do something about it”. BEGUN? BEGUN?! Why on earth are these efforts only just beginning and why is this deemed to be a good thing? Leaders of the world need to climb out of their own asses, step off their podiums and get a move on. Stop tip-toeing around the issue of climate change because it doesn’t engage voters or seem popular enough, and most of all, stop preaching that the wheels are in motion. They need to be going a lot faster than that.

Another irksome trait of our most prevalent leaders is to employ the term ‘weathering the storm’ or some other such rhetoric that suggests this is something that we will endure. Despite its implications of chaos, upset and turbulence, this phrasing invokes a sense of triumph and eventual calm. Furthermore, weather denotes cyclicality and therefore a sense of inevitability, absconding anyone from blame. This is something that has happened over time, we are frequently told. Moreover, it suggests an endpoint to the crisis; if the tide comes in, it will eventually go back out. By employing this terminology, and frequently calling eco-warriors and environmentalists ‘doom merchants’ or ‘bad-news bearers’ global leaders and the media avoid words like ‘crisis’, ‘catastrophe’ ‘apocalypse’ and other such descriptions that suggest defeatism and negativity. This system of representation turns weakness to strength.

But we’re not strong. We’re very much at breaking point. Our knees are buckling under the power of these rising temperatures and dwindling resources, and it’s foolish to keeping perpetuating the belief that ‘something will be done’. It’s not urgent or clarified enough. The cycle of denial needs to break.

There’s also an issue with a sensationalised approach towards climate change. Some journalists believe that reporting on natural or freak disasters, whose likelihood increases with the exacerbation of global warming, is an effective way of galvanising change. However I would contend that climate change’s association with disaster is precisely where our proactive efforts begin to stall.

Disaster denotes the sensational, the spectacular and indeed the tragic, something we inevitably distance ourselves from. Disasters happen to people in movies and foreign countries, not to ‘us’ and it therefore becomes a scapegoat or an external threat that the government and the public are extricated from rather than implicated in. It is the people that are polluting the planet, and the climate crisis is one generated by internal issues, by our attitudes to accumulation, consumption and waste. Nevertheless, by reporting climate change through the lens of an external shock and a rhetoric of disaster, our participation and complicity in the situation is erased.

Indeed, in a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion (http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2012/06/the-register-reports-climate-poll-inaccurately/_) discovered that 27% of the British population still believe natural causes and processes have generated global warming.

Storms, tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes are associated with these natural processes or freak incidents, which we are little able to control. Climate change should not be reported as something that we endure and wait to pass. Our responsibility for it must be emphasised.

The actions we take now will determine our future trajectory, and currently that seems to be one of decline. Which is exactly why climate change reporting needs to remain consistent and urgent, and why leaders need to listen to activists and scientists, rather than brush the issue under the carpet in exchange for sexier platforms.

This weekend The Guardian is “embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it”. Hopefully, this will spark sustained and effective media coverage of the issue, an increase in citizen action, NGO activity, national policymaker initiatives, and international agreement. It is perhaps somewhat idealistic to think that one newspaper can bring about or catalyse the untangling of such a mess. Let’s face it, we are in deep, deep shit and reading one article with your morning coffee doesn’t feel like the battle-cry that’s required. However I would urge you to read the article nonetheless…

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http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/dont-look-away-now-the-climate-crisis-needs-you 

Whether or not you buy The Guardian, identify with Left or Right politics or consider yourself to care about the environment, you should look at this article and the rest of the climate series in this week’s and next week’s papers.

This is our future we’re squandering and it terrifies me that climate change isn’t higher up on the political and social agenda, and that despite protestations, rallies and today’s climate march, I, along with the majority of the population probably won’t do much to change our consumer habits.

There are a lot of fantastic movements and endeavours to improve our society – the Women of the World festival this weekend being one of them. But unless we get behind the climate crisis, it seems fruitless to engage with other campaigns. Unless we do something to change, there probably won’t be genders to equalise, civilians to protect or governments to vote for.

It’s a surreal reality that we have to face. The idea of oceans swallowing up the world, or temperatures melting the very ground we walk on often feels like a fiction that we can’t relate to. But I’m genuinely getting my panic on thinking that this is the future we might be handing to our children. If we collectively panic, and transform that panic into crisis and that sense of crisis into galvanising action, maybe we’ll have reason to pat ourselves on the back after all.

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A polar-bear image never fails to drive the point home…

Essay: Why we’ll never get rom-coms to change.

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The rom-com continually tells us that perfection exists. And thus, often sets up unrealistic expectations for love and relationships.

I saw the film What If somewhat recently and found myself perturbed by the nauseatingly perfect ending. This is a film that spent a good deal of its narrative time setting up the implausibility of Wallace (Daniel Ratcliffe) and Chantry’s (Zoe Kazan) union. After all, she had a long-term boyfriend and he didn’t want to be the jerk to come between them. But the ending, with its musings on marriage and love lasting forever reverses any sense of originality hitherto established. Sure, it’s quirky and offbeat, peppered with cutesy animations and macabre witticisms. Yet, for all it’s intentions to carve out a new territory in rom-com history, where a man and a woman could just be friends, or where marriage doesn’t have to be the ending, it fell at the last hurdle into a hackneyed puddle of traditionalism. Which begs the question, will rom-coms ever change? Even those deemed the most original and self-reflexive seemingly can’t help but reinstate conservative values.

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Girls Night In: Wine, PJs, and a Rom-Com?

The romantic comedy is the genre most frequently relegated to the ‘guilty pleasure’ league; associated with girls nights’ in, boyfriends being dragged unwillingly to the cinema and accompanied with a glass of wine and a box of tissues. Commonly known as a chick-flick (a term denigrated by connotations with effeminacy, sentimentality and melodrama), these are the films berated as ‘fluff’ that we turn to when we wish to mindlessly, passively consume a piece of entertainment; to switch off from all that is real and serious and indulge in pure escapism. For decades, the rom-com has been positioned as the zenith of a utopian cinematic experience, as possessing solely the capability to reaffirm our belief in true love, but doing nothing to subvert, challenge or provoke. In recent years, several films have been released – chief among them 500 Days of Summer – that engage with the shifting culture of courtship and aim to depict relationships more realistically. However I would argue that the contemporary romantic comedy, though flaunting complexity, reflexivity and originality, and flouting traditional modes of representation, is merely the same present in different wrapping paper. Some examples that come to mind – Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Save the Date, I Give It a Year, Peace Love & Misunderstanding, Going the Distance. They all point to difficulties in relationships and marriage and try to undermine the notion that ‘forever’ is really forever. And yet, problematically, they all revert to the sense that happiness can never be truly achieved without a significant other. They perpetuate the myth of ‘the one’. No matter how strong the claim to difference and challenging generic and cultural norms, these films reinstate the power of the couple, the valorisation of love to functionality and normality and that deviance from this pattern results in unhappiness. Ultimately we leave the cinema with a heightened awareness that relationships aren’t easy, but that ‘the one’ will materialise anyway. I would argue that the romantic comedy is more complex than historically-defined, yet ultimately restores dominant values and seemingly can’t help but do so, as central to its very plot is the notion of meeting someone with whom to fall in love. nick-and-norah2Another generic trait seen in rom-coms is the idea that the couple are meant to be together and that their personalities are perfect matched – either because of common interests, or because opposites attract. In Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2009, Peter Sollett), Kat Dennings’ character seems attracted to Michael Cera on the sole basis she shares his music taste and enjoys the mixed tapes he’s been compiling for an ex-girlfriend. In Serendipity (2001, Peter Chelsom), the meet-cute between Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) occurs in Bloomingdale’s as they both try to purchase the same pair of cashmere gloves. This narrative contrivance is indicative of paths aligned, a moment of destiny that these two people were absolutely meant to meet. Rom-coms perpetuate the notion that there is a male glove to fit every female hand and that the compatibilities and connection between the two protagonists is enough to prevail over any narrative obstacles. In 500 Days, this is immediately shot down by Tom’s 12-year old sister who asserts that “just because a girl likes the same bizarro crap as you doesn’t make her your soulmate”. Moreover, the narrative fragmentation and flashbacks serve to show how these compatibilities can deteriorate. Tom and Summer bond over shared jokes in IKEA, their love of The Smiths and vinyl records and whereas, conventionally this might be played over a montage to convince the audience of the couple’s inherent perfection for one another, 500 Days replays these scenes to depict how the jokes become stale and that these sparks, that rom-coms convince us are enough to sustain a relationship, can begin to fade and grate. 500 Days is, in some respects, unconventional and more complicated as it reveals an inherent distrust of the durability of the relationship.

Indeed, my favourite moment of the film occurs when Tom’s expectations are pitted against the reality in a split-screen sequence, underscoring it’s belief that true love is perhaps a fantasy. Moreover, 500 Days continually attempts to foreground its diegetic realism; emphasising that the characters inhabit the real world, as opposed to the utopian fantasy world of stereotypical rom-com characters. Indeed, Tom laments to his two best friends that ‘it’s off’ between him and Summer, though could’ve been ‘on’ “in a world where good things happens”. His friend replies “that’s not really where we live [though]”, as if to ensure the audience are aware 500 Days operates outside of rom-com normality and takes places in the same world as they inhabit. This tone persists to the denouement wherein the opening scene, day (488), plays again, but now with the audience awareness that the relationship has failed and Tom and Summer were simply not meant to be together. As Katherine Glitre asserts, “the fact of the happy ending has conventionally been understood by critics to prove the conservative nature of the genre; a movement from stability through disruption to the reaffirmation of the status quo” (1). Henceforth, that Tom and Summer don’t end up together would confirm the unconventionality of the film and a subversion to our expectations for the genre. And yet, equally, it does exist in a world where we are expected to suspend disbelief at the fact he meets a girl called ‘Autumn’ after things with Summer ended. Furthermore, diversion from a standard happy ending is hardly a panacea to the ills of the romantic comedy. That Summer converts from cynic and anti-relationship proponent to the married woman believing in fate alludes to the underlying conservatism of 500 Days, and its reversion to generic norms. Whilst 500 Days eschews traditional narrative methods, it still invokes the possibility of a happy ending. Though not achieved between our two protagonists, Summer gets married to her ‘Mr. Right’ and Tom’s encounter with Autumn promises transition and achievement (a new season, a new job). It’s as if 500 Days functions as the prequel to two different love stories. One can easily imagine Summer’s story as to how she met her husband “reading Dorian Gray in a deli” as the meet-cute for a more standard rom-com. Though they weren’t right for each other, Summer’s final revelation authenticates the film’s belief that fate does exist and that had she not been sitting there on that particular day, she would never have met her husband. Steve Neale (1992) has pointed you've got mail benchout that, “the wrong person provokes the learning process, which the protagonist must undergo in order to realize a successful relationship”. This is seen in You’ve Got Mail, wherein Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) begin the film in relationship with other people ill-suited to them or lacking in passion, as if to provide the justification behind their covert-bordering-on-adulterous-conversations and instigate the learning process that they are better off together. Equally, in When Harry Met Sally, Harry and Sally are set up with mutual friends on a date, however the friends have more in common with each other and therefore act as the ‘wrong people’ for Harry and Sally to realise they are meant to be together. Tom Hansen is Summer Finn’s ‘wrong person’ and thus the film relocates the focus of the typical rom-com, but still utilises certain conventions. Arguably the success of the rom-com now lies in a retelling of a traditional narrative with a heroine, or protagonist who eschews Hollywood convention and is more relatable. This can be observed in Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001, Sharon Maguire), in which Renee Zellweger plays the slightly overweight, unlucky in love, every-woman with whom we can sympathise exponentially more than a leggy Julia Roberts, for instance. They may both, ultimately be rewarded with their version of a fairty-tale ending, but the rom-com’s allegiance to utopia is traded in for a grittier, and more honest, portrayal of love in a contemporary context.

Female characters nowadays tend to reflect a more forward-thinking romantic comedy that isn’t afraid to allow women to dictate their own lives and pursue sexual desires.

500-days-of-summer-24Deschanel’s Summer initiates their physical relationship when kissing Tom in the copy room, as opposed to the traditional belief that a girl should wait for the guy to make the first move and is shown to know her own mind: “I’m just not comfortable being somebody’s girlfriend. I don’t want to be anybody’s anything”. Summer makes a change from the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ who permeates a raft of contemporary romantic comedies, serving the purpose of merely helping the male protagonist realise his own dreams. Although the criticism of vapid eccentricity and constructed kookiness is often levelled at Zooey Deschanel and in 500 Days she often encourages Tom to pursue his architectural ambition, she also refuses to be his supporting role and breaks out of the mould of ‘ideal woman’ that Tom cocoons her in. She very explicitly states that she only wanted a casual relationship and does not stick around for the purpose of giving meaning to Tom’s life. Nevertheless, even the modern woman requires a man to ‘complete’ her. Or so rom-coms would have us believe. Most films of this quirky, whimsical ilk (look to Save the Date for a frustrating example), go to great measures to depict their female protagonists as strong, independent women, resistant to conformity and the oppressions or conventions that a relationship might impose. And yet more often than not, these women come running back to a man. Sure, in Going the Distance, Drew Barrymore did it on her terms and much like the love story between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester it was about the equality between sexes and achieving a balance, rather than advocating singledom as the way forward. Yet I can’t help but feel that the modern woman has become a scapegoat for conservatism, a way for rom-coms to appease a younger, flirtier and more liberated audience, whilst still espousing the belief that love conquers all.. Having discussed the various factors that contribute to the conventions of the rom-com, I now wish to explore the appeal of this genre, as here is where the engrained belief of the rom-com as a guilty pleasure lies and still exists rampantly. Gerald Mast explains that the films in the genre create a comic climate through a series of cues to the audience: subject matters are treated as trivial…and characters are protected from harm. Even though the drama poses serious problems, such as choosing a life partner, the process appears light-hearted, anticipating a positive resolution. 500Therefore, the appeal of the rom-com lies in our preconceived belief that we will get a happy ending. We don’t want surprises in this genre – perhaps diversions or digressions – but as long as it comes good, we’ll be satisfied. I believe audiences are complicit in the rom-com’s occupation of this academic space, and preserve its connotations with easy, uncomplicated viewing. I tested this view by asking several friends and peers to comment on their opinion of the romantic-comedy – whether they found it to reinforce stereotypes, or rather reflect a realistic and refreshing portrayal of modern love. This provided a varied qualitative response, which is at odds with much of the academic criticism I have read and overwhelmingly situated the rom-com as pure entertainment or sleepover fodder; the appeal being they can be trusted to deliver saccharine escapism. The problem with the rom-com then is that it’s very genre expectations appear to undermine complexity – the happy ending being intrinsic to the rom and a cheerful tone required for the com. The assumption of cultural lowliness that has traditionally accompanied the genre has led most to reduce romantic comedies to guilty pleasures, an “unworthy” object of analysis for academics who generally belittled it either by omission or simply through plain derision, regarding it as simplistic, predictable and hopelessly associated with a conservative view of love and marriage. Indeed, the rom-com is an apolaustic genre with an ingrained expectation for a contented or uplifting feeling upon viewing. 1 Despite moulding conventions to suit a new era, where casual relationships are de rigeur, as well as being very much aware that its creating a love story – or not, as 500 Days would have us believe, at its core this film retains the formulaic sentiment that somehow once you’ve found the person you’re meant to be with (suddenly Summer ‘just knows’ what she was never sure of with Tom), your life will fall into place. It’s for this reason that I deem 500 Days of Summer (and those that attempted to imitate its success) to play by rom-com rules – even if recycling them. Though attempting to challenge it’s audience and try to display love and relationships in a more authentic way; their heart of gold, upbeat tempo and feel-good music leaves us feeling very much like we watched a good old rom-com.