It is a truth universally acknowledged that while romantic comedies are usually marketed towards women, they aren’t always so great when it comes to female representation. And in a new long-form piece for BuzzFeed, Bim Adewunmi digs into the history of one of the most problematic rom-com archetypes: the rom-com bitch. Adewunmi traces the history of the “RCB” back to Caroline Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet’s catty romantic rival in Pride And Prejudice. But since those early days, the RCB has evolved in a whole number of complex ways.
From the pure RCB (Miss Bingley, Lara in Bridget Jones’s Diary) to the RCB you love to hate (Fiona in Four Weddings And A Funeral) to the RCB-heroine hybrid (Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, Sandra Bullock in The Proposal), Adewunmi offers an in-depth analysis of the ever-evolving trope. “It’s far more gratifying for the audience,” she writes, “if the obstacle to a successful relationship is shaped like a human woman—and more than that, a human woman who is set up to fail from the get-go.”
In addition to specifically examining how race intersects with the RCB, Adewunmi also argues it’s time to retire the archetype for good:
For every allegedly evolutionary leap the RCB has made, the bottom line is that she is ultimately just a very handy plot mechanism: problematic woman as chaos-bringer. And it is time to move beyond that. Let’s lose the bitch as plot device and push Hollywood to write complex female characters that, even in a romantic comedy, are looking beyond landing a man as the ultimate pursuit or screwing over women to get ahead. Let the RCB ride off into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that her work, while highly valued for 200 years, is done.