The one thing all romantic comedies have in common? They celebrate the two things everyone wants in life—rom and com, of course. To honor that, we’re devoting a whole week to the genre. More on the rom-coms we love, past and present, here.
The final season of You’re the Worst begins with Jimmy and Gretchen (Chris Geere and Aya Cash) recounting their love story. Except they’re lying—and in spectacular fashion. They regale their potential wedding planner with a romantic epic that starts off as a spin on Empire Records and eventually morphs into a full-on retelling of Notting Hill. The thing is, it’s much easier to fudge the details of a perfect meet-cute than to admit how Jimmy and Gretchen actually met. Which was at a wedding—where Jimmy was taking dick pics with a disposable camera and Gretchen stole a blender—that ended with them having a one-night stand, which accidentally turned into a lifetime together.
Later, Gretchen asks Jimmy if he thinks they made up it all up because the thorny pair, who spent five seasons hooking up, breaking up, and criss-crossing each other’s lives, don’t really have a love story. And his response is more thoughtful—and more swoon-worthy—than your “you had me at hello,” could ever be. He tells her, “[Our story] is ugly and uncomfortable and haunting and brilliant and thrilling and yet, it’s messy and complicated. But it’s true. And that’s beautiful.” It’s a line that’s not only hot, but cuts to the core of what I love about You’re the Worst. It’s excruciatingly real.
You’re the Worst first premiered in 2014, when traditional rom-coms were seemingly on the decline. The Washington Post would soon declare, “The rom-com is dead. Good.” And not to name names, but the takes on the genre that were actually making it to the big screen weren’t exactly…inspiring. But what felt like overnight, a new spate of indie romances began bubbling up on television. Shows like New Girl, Love, and Casual, as well as their British counterparts, Catastrophe, and Lovesick hit the small screen. (In addition to the shinier odes to the rom-coms of yore like The Mindy Project and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.)
Without the confines of having to fit an entire love story into a tidy hour and a half, these narratives—and relationships—were given room to breathe. They had the space to move beyond the classic arc of will-they-or-won’t-they. Especially in the case of You’re the Worst, where they’d already done the damn thing. On the first night, during episode one. So the tension of the show becomes, what happens next? For You’re the Worst, it wasn’t just happily ever after. It’s how do two immature, commitment-phobic narcissists support each other through issues like depression, loss, and failure?
Critics have lauded You’re the Worst for the show’s portrayal of Gretchen’s depression. In season two we learn that the hard-partying, reckless, and often closed-off music publicist has suffered from depressive episodes throughout her adult life. The New Republic wrote that, “You’re the Worst is the best show we have about depression.” And Vox argued, “You’re the Worst just raised the bar for how TV talks about mental illness.” Jimmy—who later struggles with his own mental health—spends much of the season trying to cheer Gretchen up. In one hilariously bittersweet episode he takes her on a Hollywood murder tour (her idea of fun) and other Halloween-centric activities to “spook” the sadness out of her. It doesn’t work, obviously, but it’s a beautiful testament to their kind of love and the off-kilter ways they support each other through their highs and lows for seasons to come.
Of course, all characters in rom-coms go through their own struggles. Friends with benefits are afraid to admit they have feelings for each other! Work gets in the way of love! The dude spooks when it gets real! But on You’re the Worst their relationship problems aren’t just small obstacles for them to overcome on their preordained journey to love. They’re turn-the-car-around and just-go-home level roadblocks. (For example, Jimmy doesn’t just spook. He straight-up proposes to Gretchen at dusk on a Hollywood hilltop, panics, and drives away. Then doesn’t contact her again for months.) But as Jimmy puts it, the ugliness of their romance is what makes it beautiful.
As previously mentioned, by the end, Jimmy and Gretchen are planning a wedding. But in flash forwards teased throughout each episode, it’s clear something goes awry. And when the big day finally comes, they don’t go through with it. They run away from the family and friends who have gathered at a vine-covered villa to celebrate their love to go their favorite spot: a diner. Over pancakes, Jimmy delivers another barnburner. Instead of getting married he promises, “Every day, we wake up, we look at each other and say, ‘Today, again, I choose you,’ until maybe one day we don’t. Gretchen, every day, I will make the choice to love you.” It’s just as saccharine as any running through the airport montage. And it’s theirs. While stuffing their face with bacon and hash, it’s clear these two dicks keep choosing each other. Despite the odds, despite the hardships. That’s the kind of rom-com I can get behind.
Samantha Leach is the associate culture editor at Glamour. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_sleach.
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