According to theringer.com, Netflix stated that over 80 million people watched their “Summer of Love” movie series, including rom-coms such as The Kissing Booth, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Sierra Burgess is a Loser. These movies are part of the new wave of rom-coms, following important topics of our generation such as body image and female power influence on relationships.
The Kissing Booth: While there are many mistakes in the movie, the first mistake was basing it off of a Wattpad story as many Wattpad stories tend to be immature in writing and plot development; Wattpad is a form of social media where creators can share short stories and stories inspired by books or movies. Not to say there can’t be an good stories on Wattpad, but most authors are inexperienced and simply write for pleasure. Thus was the case with The Kissing Booth.
Beth Reekles wrote the story in 2011, surrounding two best friends, Elle Woods and Lee Flynn, who do everything together — they even have a book of rules about their friendship. The most important rule being #9: relatives of your best friend are totally off-limits, including Lee’s brother Noah. Elle always thinks Noah is cute, but never does anything because she knows he’s off-limits. Through going to detention and getting stood up, Elle finds out that Noah has been telling boys for years to not go out with her because he likes her. Elle and Noah then go experience about every emotion in an hour, ranging from Elle’s initial anger towards Noah, to fear of Lee finding out about their relationship, to happiness in being together. Lee eventually finds out about their relationship and is angry at first, but sees how happy Elle is and says she can date Noah.
Now, when the movie first came out I was really excited to watch it since everyone seemed to like it. But I already don’t love rom-coms, so it was hard to love The Kissing Booth. The whole movie just seemed really childish. For instance, when Elle rips her pants on the first day of school, the only thing she has to wear is her too-short skirt from 9th grade which is very revealing. When walking to school, one of the football players comes up and smacks her butt, and she later goes on a date with him.
First off, she could have avoided wearing the skirt if she just wore her ripped pants with a sweater or sweatshirt tied around her waist. And second off, why in the world would someone go on a date with a guy that grabbed their butt? What kind of message does that send to guys, that if you grab a girls butt she’ll go on a date with you? Although this portion of the movie connect’s to today’s world, it does so in a way that sends negative ideas towards standing up for oneself. There were also plenty signs of Noah being a very controlling boyfriend towards Elle, bordering on abuse. He controlled who she dated by telling guys to not ask her out, commented on her clothes, told her not to do certain things, etc. Yet, she still falls in love with him even if that means sacrificing her friendship with Lee.
If I were to say anything positive about this movie, it would be that I like the friendship between Lee and Elle. It’s really hard to find a friendship between a girl and a guy that doesn’t turn into a romantic relationship. Overall, The Kissing Booth is a very controversial movie, due to its ideas that contradict modern day ideals, that you either love or hate.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Released a couple of months after The Kissing Booth, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB) is my personal favorite. While some of my friends claim the movie is too unrealistic, I thinks that’s what makes the movie interesting.
The movie centers around Lara-Jean Covey, a 16-year-old girl who is not popular, but not unpopular. Every time she has a crush, she writes a letter to them, spilling out all her emotions and then puts the letters in a hatbox, hidden in her closet. The letters are suddenly sent out to all of her crushes that she wrote the letters too, including her sister’s (ex)-boyfriend, neighbor, and the school crush, Peter Kavinsky. Peter explains to Lara-Jean during class that he read the letter and was sorry, but he didn’t feel the same way about her.
This encounter later sparks a pact between Peter and Lara-Jean to “fake date” in order to make Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous.
Peter gives Lara-Jean “fake” love notes to her, drives her and her sister to school, takes her to parties, basically what would happen if they were actually dating. At first everything that Peter did was just a show for Lara-Jean, but by the end of the movie the gestures were genuine and real.
Now some of my fellow classmates and friends argue that TATBILB is just as unrealistic as The Kissing Booth, which is definitely true. The idea of having a fake girlfriend just to make your ex-girlfriend jealous just seems unrealistic. But just because it’s unrealistic doesn’t mean their fake relationship, which by the end of the movie becomes real, isn’t cute.
What I liked the most besides all of the cute things Peter did for Lara-Jean was the portrayal of high schoolers. Sure, the movie had your typical mean girl, but she wasn’t the cheerleading captain and Peter wasn’t the star quarterback for the football team. Additionally, Lara-Jean was just a normal girl with a fairly normal life; she hated driving –something I can relate to–, got into fights with her family, and of course a little boy drama.
In the end, I loved TALTILB and found quite a relatable main character from her visions of a perfect love to her unperfect ways in a movie of fairytale fantasy.
Sierra Burgess is a Loser: The most recent release out of the three movies, Sierra Burgess is a Loser stars Shannon Purser and is a modern-retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, a classic surrounding the theme of deception, truth, and outer beauty. Sierra is a self-conscious teenager who, due to a case of a mistaken phone number, begins texting with a boy named Jamey who thinks he’s talking to the head cheerleader at a neighboring high school. Sierra pretends to be Veronica, in fear that if Jamey found out who she really was, he wouldn’t like her or think she’s ugly.
In order to continue their texts, Sierra enlists the help of Veronica in exchange for tutoring to go on dates with Jamey and FaceTIme with him. Sierra even follows them on their date and kisses Jamey when Veronica pretends to kiss him. In the end, Sierra admits that it was her the whole time, but blames her catfishing on her self-confidence and sings an original song titled “Sunflower”. Veronica forgives her for publicly humiliating her and brings Sierra and Jamey together to go to prom.
Many critics, as well as my fellow classmates, argue that Sierra’s actions are not justified by her lack of self-confidence and not being a conventionally attractive character. When Sierra publicly humiliated Veronica towards the end of the movie as a way to protect her self-confidence, Sierra never fully apologized to her.
Sure, she made a song that everyone liked and in turn felt bad for her, but Sierra never talked to Veronica about the incident again, they just pretended like everything was fine. Granted, Veronica never apologized for bullying Sierra, but she also didn’t catfish a guy or kiss him without consent.
At first, I thought the movie was okay. It was no TALTILB, but it wasn’t as bad as the Kissing Booth. The movie provides a main character who is not your typical “skinny, blond-haired, Instagram model” and in fact struggles with self-confidence and body image, something not popularly shown in modern day movies. My opinion still stands, but I’ve realized that it is also quite problematic: from the positive picture it paints about catfishing to the lack of apologies. So not the worst movie, but certainly not the best either.
Now although I’ve listed many negatives for each article separately, there is one overall positive which connects each movie; the movies present a female protagonist who, as compared to 80s rom coms and early Disney princess movies, is independent and makes choices for herself. Many of the problems with the previously mentioned movies involve a male main character who “chooses” his girlfriend and shows her around like a trophy, with the girl having no choice in the matter. In all three of these movies, they feature a female protagonist who has a choice in the end as to who they want to date.
Elle, wonders if she should date Noah because of being best friends with Lee. Lara-Jean thinks Peter still likes her ex-girlfriend and is scared to be in a relationship. Sierra decides that she is beautiful and does deserve to be with Jamey, no matter what she believes. These movies show girls who stray from the stereotype, especially with TALTILB and Sierra Burgess, of being a trophy and just taking whatever guy they can get. They fight for the guys they want to date, and develop themselves in the process.
Whether or not I liked the movies, the only reason I watched them in the first place was due to the hype surrounding them. So many teenage girls look up to these movies, finding inspiration for their relationships; so they should be more accurate and more realistic, instead of placing false ideas in their heads.