Last year’s Trainwreck was something of a rarity these days: a high-profile romantic comedy in an era when, supposedly, the romantic comedy is dying. Sure, the movie was far riskier than most anything Meg Ryan’s ever done (with the possible exception of In the Cut), but strip away its R-rated veneer and you’ll find all of the genre’s familiar rhythms and contrivances, including the lead characters professions: Schumer plays a journalist who falls in love with a doctor, played by Bill Hader.
Why, exactly, does Hollywood consider only a handful of professions when constructing funny stories about falling in love? Think How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, in which magazine writer Kate Hudson goes on assignment to act like one of those “typically crazy” women; Sleepless in Seattle, in which Meg Ryan finds out who Tom Hanks is using her newspaper’s proto-Internet database; Never Been Kissed, in which Drew Barrymore plays undercover high-schooler “for the story” and ends up falling for her teacher.
Thinking about how often romantic-comedy heroines use (or abuse) their journalistic privilege to meet (usually more successful and interesting) men led me to wonder: what, on balance, do the men and women of romantic comedies do for a living? I conducted a survey of the 100 highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time, omitting ten that did not feature a clear male and female lead (most notably ensemble films, like Love Actually and New Year’s Eve). Here’s what I found.