Comedy and Social Change in French Cinema 1990-2010
: The Rise of the Rom-com

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis focuses on the sudden proliferation of a highly popular genre in French cinema over the past two decades. While genre cinema, French and otherwise, and especially comedy have historically been under-examined in France, this study contributes to a gradual shift towards the application of more traditionally Anglophone cultural and gender studies approaches to the analysis of French cinema. It also looks at the question of generic evolution and the relationship between domestic practice and Hollywood paradigms, including the way in which the national cinema is being reconceptualised in the face of an increasingly transnationally conceived film market.

Major lines of enquiry thus concern both the rom-com’s French specificity, including the extent to which the genre is ‘naturalised’ and/or exported, and its representational politics, particularly with regard to gender. Is it appropriate to see the rom-com as a feminised genre in France and, if so, in what sense? How does the genre negotiate major contemporary social shifts, particularly those linked to gender? Notable here are the extension of singlehood and the increased acceptability of female autonomy; the concomitant decline of marriage; and the increased range of ‘acceptable’ gender roles today - especially the rise of the professional woman, which in turn has implications for masculinity and for the family unit. Do films broadly reflect and embrace such shifts or do they resist, critique or downplay them? Finally, how are these questions inflected by considering production and reception contexts, as well as the issue of gendered authorship? In seeking to answer such questions, the thesis encompasses analysis of both formal aspects of the genre and specific narrative details. In so doing it hopes to pinpoint some of the ways in which the French rom-com has been mediating perceptions of key social trends over the past two decades, both at home and ultimately globally.
Date of Award1 May 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSarah Cooper (Supervisor) & Ginette Vincendeau (Supervisor)

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