‘The Kissing Booth' to ‘To All the Boys': How Netflix rekindled our love for soppy rom-coms
Even though most teen rom-coms follow the tried-and-tested formula in terms of storylines, this genre has a consistently growing fandom across age groups
Shattering all records, ‘The Kissing Booth 2’ premiered on Netflix on July 24 to much love and soon it clinched a place among Netflix's most popular teenage rom-coms. On July 26, it was announced that the third movie has also been shot and will be released next year.
As reported by MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), the big news was on YouTube where they also shared a small snippet of 'The Kissing Booth 3'. Within minutes of this revelation, Twitter was buzzing with excitement. A fan gushed, "I may be a 35 mother but I really enjoyed The Kissing Booth 2 and very pleased there is going to be a 3 — @netflix please churning out this kind of silliness whilst the world has gone mad please." One even went further and thanked them for "saving" him. The user wrote: "Congrats and thanks @JoeyKing for saving my 2020 by #KissingBooth2 and I do not know the vaccine will come or not, but you saved my 2021 too by announcement that kissing Booth 3 will came!!! Well best of luck for that!"
The second film picks up from where the last one left. Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi) and Elle Evans (Joey King) are trying to work out their long-distance relationship. While these two are contemplating what is right and what is wrong for them, Lee Flynn's (Joel Courtney) near perfect relationship with Rachel (Meganne Young) faces a dilemma. And, there are two new characters — Chloe Winthrop (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Marco V Peña (Taylor Zakhar Perez) — the ‘other’ people in Noah and Elle’s lives respectively.
While it might be the sequel of the eponymous 2018 movie, certain plotlines remain the same. Best friends keeping secrets from each other and emotional outbursts. In fact, the sequel has some uncanny similarities to another popular teenage rom-com sequel – ‘To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You’, which released on February 12. This movie also picked up from where it’s hugely successful predecessor left. Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) do everything to make their relationship last during their intense high school year. There is also the introduction of John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), a second lead whose entry kind of disrupts the relationship between the two protagonists. In both these popular teen movies, fans somewhere rooted for the new ‘hero’ but wanted the OG relationship to win at the end. (Spoiler alert) And, that’s how it ends as well.
Another teen comedy that released this year was ‘The Half of It’. This movie also has a similar plotline which a lot of classic rom-coms follow. A jock (Daniel Diemer as Paul) pursuing the girl he likes (Alexxis Lemire as Aster) with the help of the socially-awkward nerdy girl (Leah Lewis as Ellie). But in this teen rom-com, even though the jock falls for the nerd as expected, this movie takes a different romantic route and tries to normalize same sex love, without being preachy.
Come to think of it, even though these movies and other classic rom-coms use similar tropes, people aren’t tired of watching them. According to a Forbes report, 'The Kissing Booth 2’ was easily the most-viewed movie or TV show on Netflix over the weekend and the 2018 original also made a re-appearance on the top 10. As a matter of fact, a 2018 Variety report states that according to Netflix, almost 50% of viewers who watched ‘The Kissing Booth’ and ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (TATBILB) re-watched them at least once.
So, what is it about these teen rom-coms with similar storylines that appeal to millennials and gen Z? The answer might be the warmth in these stories – a feeling of comfort and happiness. Most people find solace in these rom-coms because in reality the world is filled with uncertainties and hardships (by far 2020 has proven to be a global disaster). While this does not mean that one turns a blind eye to what’s happening around them, these movies just provide a window to take a break from adulting, messy relationships and other problems. It allows them to take a nostalgic trip to the time where the most important thing in our lives was to have that ‘perfect romance’ and not worry about paying bills. Similar to the way some of us depend on our ‘comfort food’ to get past a bad day, these are the ‘comfort movies’ that people turn to for optimism.
Critics may call it utopian and wishful thinking, but these YA stories go beyond the target audience spectrum and appeal to people in their 30s and above. This year, The Oprah Magazine quoted 30-year-old Ellyn Puleio confessing that she’s watched TATBIHLB "more times" than she can count. The same article also quotes Jenny Han, author of the book on which TATBIHLB is based on, saying, "There’s this warm coziness to the story, the characters, and the world. People like to spend time in that place. Everybody likes to feel young and think back on their own teenage-hood."
These are a clear indication that similar plot lines and characters are not a cause of concern for most of the audience members, they just want a dose of old school romance packaged in a new way — peppered with woke characters, cast diversity (which includes LGBTQ+ representation) and sensitive depiction of teenage issues. And most importantly, as the Twitter reactions stated at the beginning of this article also suggest that these rom-coms are a source of hope for many.