Romantic Comedy Genre

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Genre theory is the idea that places motion picture into particular genres. “A genre is a form or category, and genre films are frequently easily recognizable as part of a certain genre.” (Goodykoontz, & Jacob, 2014) The genre I will discuss in this paper is the Romantic Comedy genre. In this paper, I will discover common conventions of this genre, examine what classifies the flick While You Were Sleeping into this type, and what pacts this movie has that magnifies the margins of this category.

“A romantic comedy is a film, which consumes its significant narrative motor an expedition for love, which reveals this quest in a light-hearted way, and almost always to an effective end.” (McDonald, 2007) A few common conventions in the Romantic Comedy genre contain the “meet cute,” high-key lighting, upbeat music, overcoming obstacles, and happy endings. A film that encounters this principle, thus falling into the genre of Romantic Comedy, is the film While You Were Sleeping.

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While You Were Sleeping is a movie focusing on a secluded female called Lucy (Sandra Bullock). She is a fee collector at the subway, and one day, in particular, she encounters a dreamy man, named Peter, gets assaulted and left lifeless on the train rails. Afterward Lucy saves his life, she goes to stopover with him in the hospital and gets falsy assumed as his fiancée. Once she gets astounded by the acceptance and love of his family, Lucy cannot find the bravery to be honest with them, and she begins spending time with them while trying to find a way out of her dilemma before Peter wakes up. Throughout the time she spends with Peter’s family, Lucy ends up falling hard for Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman). Ultimately, Peter wakes up, and when he doesn’t identify Lucy, they assume he has amnesia. Peter admits the explanation that he has amnesia and moves onward with his “engagement” to Lucy. Eventually, Lucy can’t take being dishonest anymore, and she stops her wedding, to tell the actuality of what happened, and she runs out. In the end, we see Jack go to the subway and drop a ring in Lucy’s booth instead of a token, they confess their love for each other, and live happily ever after.

Simply put, the story of a film tells us what happens, and with who, whereas, the plot tells us how it happens with specific events. The story of this film is about a woman falling in love and finding the family she always wanted. The plot of this film is that the woman gets mistaken as the fiancée of a man and goes along with it, and she ends up falling in love with and marrying his brother. The story makes this film a Romantic comedy because it follows the basic formula of the genre, in that man and woman meet, man and woman overcome obstacles and fall in love, then man and woman live happily ever after. The plot contributes to its genre classification because of the content of the events contain a mixture of romance and comedic situations.

“The world of Hollywood romantic comedy is brightly lit, and accompanied by upbeat music in primary keys. (Glitre, 2013) High-key lighting and optimistic, or happy, music is one of the most common conventions of this genre. This film uses high-key lighting and upbeat music numerous times throughout the film. A particular scene demonstrating this convention is seen at the beginning of the movie, where Lucy saves Peter. The view shows Lucy see Peter get mugged and fall on the train tracks and get knocked unconscious and she rushes to save him. In this scene, high-key lighting is used to portray the brightness of the daylight, as they are outside. This lighting is beneficial in expressing the mood of the stage, as Lucy gets to be a hero for the man of her dreams and is hopeful to get an opportunity to talk with him finally. It also sets up the plot of the film, and the bright lighting in this catalyst scene is indicative of the overall tone of the film. This scene also has fast-paced, upbeat music playing in the background, allowing us to get a sense of Lucy’s anxiety over Peter being in danger and her having to save him but also of her excitement of being given an opportunity to meet him.

Another common convention in Romantic Comedies is, of course, the happily ever after. According to Goodykoontz & Jacob (2014), it is rare to see a Romantic Comedy where we don’t get the resolution that we want to look at, of the man and woman living happily ever after. In While You Were Sleeping, we get the ultimate happy ending that we hope for throughout the movie; we see Lucy get everything she’s always wanted. Lucy and Jack fall in love and get married, Lucy gains the big family she’s craved, and Jack finally gives her the stamp in her passport she yearned for.

The aforementioned happy ending convention, along with another universal agreement in this genre of film, the “meet cute,” help to expand the boundaries of the Romantic Comedy genre. A meet-cute is a scene where the love interests of the movie, meet for the first time. Typically, in this genre, we see two main characters have a meet cute, and it signifies that they will fall in love and get their happy ending, and we root for that throughout the movie. When we see Lucy save Peter, the man she has loved from afar, and then he wakes up they gaze at each other briefly before he passes out again, we assume that they are going to end up together, and we hope for it. However, in this film, we get a second meet-cute between Lucy and Jack. Although we realize Jack is better for Lucy than Peter is, and Lucy develops an interest in him, we can’t entirely give up on the thought of Lucy and Peter. We long to see Lucy end up with the man she has been enamored by and longing for the chance to be with. That is why we empathize so much with Lucy when Peter proposes, and she is unsure if she wants to marry him. Ultimately, she chooses Jack, Peter’s brother, whom she recently met, instead of Peter, the man she has been fascinated with for a long time.

In summary, genres are film identifiers that people use to gauge whether they will be interested in a film. Though each style has certain common conventions, each movie is a unique representation of its form. The Romantic Comedy is the smallest flexible of all genres and is narrow by the scope of what it wants to accomplish. (Goodykoontz & Jacob, 2014) However, While You Were Sleeping managed to provide a story that remained true to the structure and goals of the Romantic Comedy genre, while also delivering a plot that was refreshingly unexpected.


  1. Glitre, K. (2006). Hollywood Romantic Comedy: States of the Union, 1934-1965. Manchester, GBR: Manchester University Press. Retrieved from
  2. Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from
  3. McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. (2007). Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre. A Wallflower Book. Columbia University Press. Retrieved from

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Romantic Comedy Genre. (2022, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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