Romance movies are a tricky thing to get right. The best ones are able to create a love story of universal appeal regardless of who you are.

Or are they?

Whilst society has progressed slowly forward over the past couple of decades, the filmmakers and companies behind romance movies are still to catch up. There is a definite lack of representation in films that definitely needs addressing.

Unless you’re a straight, white, cisgendered, middle-class man it’s likely you’ve encountered multiple unfair film depictions of your gender, sexual orientation, skin colour etc. As a disabled, LGBTQ+, polyamorous woman it’s difficult for me to find a romance story I feel understands my own romantic journeys. I’m not unique in this.

So with Isn’t It Romantic shining a satirical spotlight on the outdated nature of ‘conventional’ love stories, here are love stories we’d like to see:

A story about a non-monogamous arrangement that isn’t all about sex

Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem & Scarlett Johansson / Vicky Cristina Barcelona / Picture credit: MGM

Non-monogamy in all its many forms is on the rise. It’s an alternative that people are increasingly trying whether it’s successful or otherwise. In a lot of films that depict this, it’s seen as a purely sex-driven venture that usually starts with unresolved sexual dysfunction in the monogamous set-up. What would be far more enjoyable to see is a film about a non-monogamous relationship that isn’t all about sex.

Polyamory by definition is not sex-centred so why should films relating to it be so? As a polyamorous woman, seeing healthy representations of my relationship orientation would be a huge positive.


A story involving at least one character who is of non-binary gender identity

Ezra Miller / Picture credit: Gage Skidmore

Admit it; some of you had to go look up what non-binary gender identity means and perhaps a few of you are sceptical as to whether it even exists.

Basically, this is a term that refers to people who neither identify as just male or just female. They may identify as both, neither or somewhere in between. This has been scientifically proven to exist in spite of bigotry that contradicts this.

As this is something that society is only just starting to learn about, there isn’t much in the way of fiction film content on the subject but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be. Much like the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, there isn’t anything different about anyone who is of non-binary gender identity. With film star Ezra Miller disclosing they identify as non-binary, perhaps this will help enable a positive change.


A story involving a disabled character with a non-disabled character without the non-disabled character possessing a saviour complex

Sam Claflin & Emilia Clarke / Me Before You / Picture credit: Warner Bros.

Whilst this article is not the place for a tangent about non-disabled people playing disabled characters, it’s worth noting that representation of disabled people in film is, at best, problematic.

We’re either the convenient objects of inspiration porn for otherwise apathetic non-disabled folks or marginalised in society. Romantic films are not immune to this, with a lot of romantic movies surrounding disabled characters usually making the non-disabled partner a saviour of some kind.

It would be great to see a story about a disabled person being in a relationship with a non-disabled person without the latter being treated as a saint for this fact. It would also be great to see people with invisible disabilities like Autism in romantic/sexual situations that aren’t grossly offensive. As someone with autism and disabling chronic pain syndrome, I am definitely up for change.


A story that properly represents a BDSM relationship

Maggie Gyllenhaal / Secretary / Picture credit: Lionsgate

The general understanding of BDSM is akin to some people’s understanding of cancer: after a bit of a Google search and exploring some dodgy blogs, we may think we know everything there is to know but ultimately don’t.

BDSM is the kind of topic that’s best to allow practitioners to educate on the topic. The popularity of the gut-wrenchingly awful 50 Shades of Grey series has not helped matters and has highlighted how little film has really shown actual kinks.

It would be rather lovely to see more films like Secretary or The Duke Of Normandy that explore BDSM in a relationship in a way that isn’t an insult to those a part of the community. It would be great to see some dynamics that aren’t simply a heteronormative dominant man with a submissive woman pairing.


A story about an interracial couple that doesn’t necessarily involve a white person nor involve racial stereotypes

Charles Melton & Yara Shahidi / On-set – The Sun Is Also A Star / Picture credit: Warner Bros.

Before I get accused of supporting white genocide or something ridiculously hyperbolic like that, it’s worth noting that people who are white are not the centre of the universe. It’s something some find difficult to face when white people enjoy way more representation than anyone else. Wouldn’t it be great to see a major motion picture of a romance between, for example, two people of colour from different races? Or perhaps relationships between folks of colour that simply doesn’t degrade into perpetuating stereotypes? Crazy Rich Asians seems to be a step in the right direction on the latter point.

Isn’t It Romantic hits cinemas this Valentine’s Day.