‘The Kissing Booth 2’: More to Rom-coms Than Just Love and Laughter

Aug. 1, 2020, 11:26 a.m.

Romantic comedy, thought to have originated from Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” is now a very popular genre for teens and adults. Since the first formal rom-com film in the 19th century, there have been countless versions of the same story, ranging from classics like “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty Woman,” to more modern ones like “She’s the Man” and “Easy A.”

In the past, movies would follow popular tropes of that time period. In the 1930s, movies like “It Happened One Night” described a forbidden love between people of higher and lower classes. From the 1960s to 70s, most rom-coms followed men and women who started as rivals in business. This competition created an unexpected romance, and those themes followed into the next decades, as shown in the 2000 film “What Women Want.” 

With the turn of the century came a new type of rom-com: teenagers and “the chase.” The modernized romance emphasized compatibility, the process of falling for someone and true love. This idealistic version of reality is often reflected in rom-coms for a teenage audience, like “Set It Up” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

Rom-coms have established a reputation of being predictable and lacking in real plot, which is undoubtedly true in most cases. Even so, audiences gravitate towards these familiar plots time after time. 

Needing an escape from reality once in a while, it’s easy to get swept into the “feel good” part of any rom-com. Whether it’s Ben racing to stop Andie from leaving and calling her bluff before kissing her on the Manhattan Bridge in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” or Nick fumbling through the airplane aisles to propose to Rachel with his mother’s beautiful emerald ring in “Crazy Rich Asians,” those final scenes never fail to bring a smile to the audience. These purposeful moments distract from personal woes and struggles, and act as a healing mechanism. 

Although it’s nice to forget about the real world sometimes, rom-coms give their viewers a false notion that love always ends amicably, which is just not the case. In life, most relationships would never work out so easily, and falling in love doesn’t happen so simply.

Heading into a relationship with high expectations after watching so many fairy tale endings can often be unhealthy and lead to disappointment. And others who find themselves happily single may become unsettled by craving the on-screen romance — all the big, romantic gestures — that reality rarely awards. 

“The Kissing Booth 2” is no exception. This sequel to the Netflix original “The Kissing Booth” has an almost stereotypical, cliche storyline: the main character (usually a girl) suffers from a problematic relationship, questions if the boy is worth it and somehow always ends up with the boy at the end.

The first movie leaves off with Elle (Joey King), the main protagonist, sending her best friend’s brother and her boyfriend, Noah (Jacob Elordi), to college all the way across the country. “The Kissing Booth 2” starts with Elle reminiscing back to the epic summer she shared with Noah. Like any rom-com, it’s all smooth sailing until everything begins to unravel.

Separated by 3,000 miles, Elle and Noah quickly fall into a cycle of inadequate communication, dishonesty and distrust.

Elle questions Noah’s relationship with an alluring college model, Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), but instead of talking to Noah about it, Elle harbors the thoughts to herself. After she finally decides to confront him, he reassures her terribly, and of course, she doesn’t buy it. In an effort to try to move on from Elle’s insecurity about Chloe, they start to become too “busy” for their daily phone calls and texts. They both start to ignore their relationship issues by finding solace in other people.

Elle continues to believe Noah is involved with Chloe, so she slowly starts to lose herself in the new boy at school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez). After rooting for Elle’s and Noah’s relationship in the first movie, we were surprised that we both secretly wished for Elle and Marco to end up together.

Noah, an archetypal, good looking athlete (and infamous womanizer), had the looks, charm and sweetness that made everyone, in the movie and out of it, swoon. In the first movie, his character pulled all our heartstrings when he emotionally professed his love for Elle in front of the whole school and seemingly retired his playboy ways. Looking back now, it wasn’t the public declaration of love that made us feel all warm and fuzzy but rather how Noah was willing to grow and be a better guy for Elle. Though we still look back to that particular scene with adoration, it’s clear that relationships have a hard time staying successful when built only on gleeful times, because difficult times are inevitable. 

On the other hand, there’s Marco, who in typical rom-com fashion fell for Elle even with her off limits, and she arguably fell for him as well. Marco, just as attractive as Noah (maybe more), didn’t just have great looks and guitar skills. He was consistently there for Elle when she was going through hard times with Noah, and he helped her practice for the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) competition every single day. From their late night conversations on the beach to their incredible DDR performance, Elle’s and Marco’s sparks flew. 

At the end of the competition, Elle faced a set of crossroads in classic rom-com fashion: Boy One, the first love and more comfortable choice, or Boy Two, the true love and less obvious choice? 

Rom-coms have a tendency to end with the girl choosing Boy Two once she realizes he makes her more happy. 

Here, “The Kissing Booth 2” is an exception. Elle chooses Noah, not Marco (what?!), and if we weren’t yelling at the screen yet, we were definitely yelling now. 

No matter the conflicts, mistakes and passive-aggressive arguments, Elle and Noah somehow “figure it out” in the end without addressing the obvious problems — miscommunication and mistrust — in their relationship; they’re able to continue on as if nothing happened. The way Elle and Noah magically reconnected at the end creates a flawed perception that ignoring evident issues in a relationship will work out. 

Rom-coms truly balance on the faint line of unrealistic expectations and hopeful possibilities, but despite the pitfalls, they’re a reliable two hour getaway from the faults of the real world.

Contact Lydia Chen at lydiac123554 ‘at’ gmail.com and Anna Yang at ayang23 ‘at’ ndsj.org.

Anna Yang '27 is a Vol. 265 Title IX Beat Reporter and university desk staff writer from the Bay Area, CA. Contact news 'at' stanforddaily.com.Lydia Chen is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.

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