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Netflix’s Love is just the latest in a long line of not-your-typical-romcom romcoms

Misanthropic, self-impeding, and downright irritating antiheroes are the genre’s new bread-and-butter, but not necessarily its inversion.

 

“I have money. I can pay you back.” Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) says sulkily, minutes after meeting Gus (Paul Rust). The protagonists of new Netflix series Love have had less of a meet-cute than a meet-tense, after Mickey shouts abuse at a service station cashier for not letting her have a coffee on credit. After Gus buys her the coffee and a packet of cigarettes, Mickey insists he come with her to flat so she can reimburse him: “Don’t be a fucking hero.”

As we know from Girls, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids and more, Judd Apatow doesn’t do romantic heroes. Love, co-written by Apatow, Rust and Girls writer Lesley Arfin, self-consciously rejects the very idea of them. Smarting from a break-up, Gus throws films from his prized Blu-Ray collection from the window of Mickey’s car as she drives. “Relationships are bullshit [...] Pretty Woman? Such a lie. Sweet Home Alabama? Lies! When Harry Met Sally?! Fucking lies!”

As the inclusion of these early lines in the trailer shows, Love wants the viewer to know from the outset that, despite its title and mid-February release date, this isn’t a roses and chocolates piece of television. In some ways, this is true: Love weaves a story of anxiety, addiction, professional disappointment and wasted potential. Its meandering pace means that we frequently go entire episodes without ever seeing our two lead characters in the same room, and they dance around each other so tentatively that we never get a chance to get to love. Instead, we get leering bosses, embarrassing parties and awkward dates.

I liked Love. I liked that the characters were not particularly likeable. Gus is a whiny, entitled “But I’m a nice guy!” not-nice guy. Mickey, well... Mickey swears on her friend’s baby’s life that she didn’t cheat on her ex (she did, a lot). But I don’t find any of these things particularly subversive.

A really good romantic film is never about two capable, gorgeous, charismatic individuals, who meet, are attracted to each other, behave appropriately and kindly towards each other, and begin their exciting, life-long relationship. The genre thrives on obstacles, and, while romantic dramas tend to focus on external ones (Romeo and Juliet, The Notebook, The Time-Traveller’s Wife), romantic comedies tend to look inwards.

Our heroes need to make mistakes: they embarrass themselves, they cheat on each other, they screw up their priorities, they make bad choices. Emma is both intrusive and self-centred; Bridget Jones has bad habits and a lack of conversational filter; Hugh Grant made a career out of fatally repressed characters; When Harry Met Sally inspired a generation of slobby male leads. The romcom protagonist is his or her own worst enemy. Heroes, hardly.

Romantic comedies with self-destructive leads are often branded “not your typical romcom” (google the phrase’s ubiquity if you don’t believe me), but they form a very concrete type indeed. The natural extension of this trope is a graduation from acknowledged imperfection to acknowledged absolute fucking disaster. From Hollywoods Trainwreck, Greenberg, and Obvious Child,  to TV’s Girls, Catastrophe and You’re The Worst; misanthropic, self-impeding, and downright irritating antiheroes are the genre’s new bread-and-butter, but not necessarily its inversion.

Love is just the latest in a long line of not-your-typical-romcom romcoms. Its characters may not be staggeringly original, but they are nicely-drawn and well-acted. There is a subtlety and charisma to Gillian Jacobs’ performance that prevents Mickey from becoming a one-dimensional sardonic hipster. (When her gross boss says of his ex-girlfriend, “We were sexually incompatible: I liked sex and she didn’t,” Mickey gives an imperceptible smile that says, “She didn’t like sex with you,” that countless women have surely had to perform.) The relatability of Gus’s desperate attempts not to be seen as desperate soften his frustrating personality. (He spends a day redrafting texts to Mickey:“It’s Gus (the Blu-Ray guy)” is swiftly deleted, as is “Remember when you tucked me in bed? WEIRD.”) But their humour and human interest almost inevitably comes from their status as romantic comedy leads, not in spite of it.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Channel 4
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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.