Every stereotypical guy in every rom-com, ever
Including the strangely hot nerd and the charming British gentleman
Real life isn’t like the movies – and, for the most part, real life guys aren’t like their movie counterparts. They don’t organise impromptu flashmobs in Times Square to win your heart, they don’t run through airport security to catch you before your flight leaves, and they (hopefully) don’t organise nefarious bets with their jock friends to see if they can make you prom queen.
Yes, rom-coms showcase the very best and worst of what we think men are actually like – and it’s a lot more nuanced than just the jock and the nerd and the bad boy. What about the guy who is ostensibly 17-years-old but drives a ridiculous car, for example?
The popular guy who wants to get with the nerd
It will probably be part of a bet or some elaborate prank, but the fact he’s actually a really good guy under that letterman jacket will mean he’s madly in love with her by the end of the film.
That, or the fact she’s a supermodel hidden behind a ponytail and a pair of glasses.
The popular guy’s evil best friend
I bet you thought the jock was going to be mean, didn’t you? Fool! It’s the best friend who is mean. Jock character has just been thrown into this popular life, where everyone adores him and he labours under huge amounts of pressure to be perfect.
It’s his best friend who’s secretly always been jealous of playing second fiddle to him – the Paul Walker to his Freddie Prinze Jnr, if you will. If the jock deviates from his course of popularity and mainstream appeal, evil best friend will ruin his relationship, his happiness, and his entire fucking life.
The hot nerd
Unlike the regular disgusting nerd, there’s usually no reason for the hot nerd to be unpopular apart from the fact they’re into photography instead of football. They will look like a male model, but their nerdiness will be signified by an unkempt haircut, the fact they keep getting slushied by the jocks, and a tucked-in shirt to hide their washboard abs.
The jock who is perfect but can’t live up to his dad’s pressure
My parent’s friends are always saying: “Your son is the basketball guy. You must be so proud.” But sometimes I don’t want to be “the basketball guy.” I just want to be, you know, a guy.
The guy who plays guitar
If a guy plays guitar in a film, he’s a tortured creative soul with the voice of an angel. If a guy plays guitar in real life, he’s a stunted man-child who probably dissects flies in his spare time. Seriously, how many bassists do you know who look like this?
The GQ bachelor
He might be a dashing limousine driver, like Jude Law in Alfie; he might have a swish job in advertising, like Matthew McConaughey in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
You can guarantee he lives in a decked-out studio apartment, is a semi-professional pickup artist, has a tailored wardrobe well beyond his means and will pin a huge amount of emotional significance on letting a love interest meet his parents or see his “man cave.”
The fat best friend
The single dad with a dead wife
Boys in rom-coms cannot be fit unless their mothers are tragically dead. This is a fact. It will be implied until approx 40 minutes in he’ll have a blazing argument with his dad that goes thus:
“If your mother was here-”
“Don’t you dare say her name!”
The guy who is ostensibly 17 years old but drives a ridiculous car
Despite being played by a fucking 30-year-old and driving a Lamborghini, if you actually tried to sleep with this guy in real life you’d end up on some sort of register.
The practice guy
You know the poor guy who gets told by a girl he likes “if we’re 40 and we’re still not with anyone, we should just get married to each other” before sealing the most passive-aggressive of promises with a chaste peck on the lips? Yeah, that guy. The guy who’s never quite first choice for the bitchy popular girls he goes for, but will be their practice almost boyfriend.
He might carry their books, he might give them heartfelt advice, he might hold their hair back when they throw up, he might even practice kissing with them drunkenly once. At home he stares at their Instagrams, liking every last one of their photos. Occasionally he’ll share a personal joke on their Facebooks which they will elegantly rebuff.
Practice guy will eventually realise these women do not give a fuck whether he lives or dies, and his eyes will be opened by the quirky main character in some sort of the-reason-you-need-to-wake-up speech, and for some reason this will make them fall instantly in love.
The guy who says ‘She’s like my sister!’ before shagging the main girl
“What? Janie?? Haha no way dude, she’s like my sis-” The word’s die on Zach’s lips as he spies Janie, the tomboy he’s known for years, in a whole new light. Her dungarees and glasses suddenly take on a new sexual energy.
Zach obviously has a very weird relationship with his sister, and now he’s gonna fuck Janie.
The BFF who is hopelessly in love with the main character
He will probably be much better than the main character, but the fact he’s not conventionally attractive/built like a quarterback means he’s destined to die alone.
The BFF who heroically escapes the friendzone
He’s probably being played by Jonah Hill or Michael Cera, and he’s probably punching way out of his league despite being an insecure loner with little-to-no personality beyond berating his best friend’s love choices.
The guy whose dickishness spurs the main character to find a guy who’s better
The film will open with a messy breakup with a total dick, and the plot will follow the main character mourning their relationship while slowly falling in love with a character much better than them.
He’ll inevitably turn up seeking forgiveness in the third act, but you will know by then that HE ISN’T WORTH IT.
The pretend-we’re-dating-but-really-fall-in-love-with-each-other guy
This elaborate ruse needs only the most paper-thin of reasons – usually it’s making another character jealous, making one of them popular, saving face from a big event – summed up best with Melissa Joan Hart and TV actor Aidan Grenier in seminal but often overlooked late nineties classic Drive Me Crazy.
Their relationship is all an act for the popular kids or the school or their parents, but somewhere along the way it becomes all too real, and they fall in love. Aw.
The revenge date
See above, but with the added pettiness of doing it to make other people jealous – only to eventually realise that other people’s feelings are meaningless and they should just have sex with each other instead.
The guy who is really good with his hands
Ryan Gosling building a house in the notebook; Ryan in 90210 building himself a boat. They’re probably called Ryan, and they probably have the sort of thick, meaty forearms and rough hands you wish would hold you in a tailor-made log cabin at night.
The bad boy who has absolutely no redeeming qualities, but that’s fine we guess
This guy can be an obnoxious, misogynistic sex pest and never really experience any character development beyond that, but that’ll still just be sort of fine. Like John Tucker. Or Chuck Bass.
Fuck preps! Fuck this school, fuck this town! I think you’re the fucking Antichrist! This whole fucking system is wrong! Rebel boy reads Kerouac and Chomsky. He constructs elaborate pranks with his outcast friends.
He dresses in camo and leather but always looks Hollywood wholesome underneath. Eventually he’ll escape this goddamn backwards town and ride off into the sunset, towards his new, liberal, open life with his girl at his side, her fascist pom-poms cast off as soon as he enlightens her.
In real life this guy will be tried as an adult when he attempts to make a bomb from materials he found on the Dark Web.
The nerd who steps back to let the fit guy get with the main girl
“It’s OK Samantha”, Eugene is saying, looking at at 32-year-old actress playing a buxom high school sweetheart through doleful eyes. “Go to him”.
Samantha smiles sadly at her loyal, noble nerd (crows feet crinkling) and gives him one last kiss on the cheek. Maybe she mouths “thank you” as she runs off across the dancefloor to her prince, probably in the form of Ryan Philippe.
The idiot who hosts the house party which gets really out of hand
The annoying kid brother
God Donnie get out of my room! You’re so annoying! The kid brother serves as foil to the main character, to undermine and sometimes ruin her plans, going through her room and revealing her crushes in awkward ways.
But when he sees her crying dramatically on her bed all their playful rivalry disappears and he’ll stand up for her, round up his group of ragtag friends and make it all better again. Oh Donnie, come here so I can ruffle your hair.
The guy who deserves better than his bitch girlfriend
He’s so sweet and downtrodden and she treats him like shit, HE SHOULD BE WITH ME. I mean, he should be with… the main character.
The charming, affable British gentleman
If he was American, his bumbling, anxious personality would make you think he’s a creep – because he’s British, though, it makes you want to climb him like a tree.
Seriously, imagine Hugh Grant stuttering in a Bronx accent, or a role-reversed Yankee Colin Frissell trying to do a sex tour of Oxfordshire bars.
The tubby middle-aged guy who is really punching because of Hollywood’s unrealistic gender expectations
If you ever try and say that there isn’t a divide in attractiveness expectations in the film business, just take a look at the cast of Couple’s Retreat.
The same applies to the lead couple in Knocked Up, everyone in Modern Family, and any woman ever cast as Vince Vaughn’s partner.
The guy who is perfect and doesn’t deserve the bad shit that happens to him
Spare a thought for James Marsden in The Notebook. He’s an absolute dreamboat, and he treats Rachel McAdams with the utmost respect. So, you know, she leaves him for Ryan Gosling because he’s relatively good at woodwork.
The really, really rich guy who in real life would never get with you
Rom-coms are dangerous because they set you up for real life failures. In rom-com world, the beautiful rich boy, who holidays in Martha’s Vineyard and drives a Jeep and has an Olympic sized swimming pool, sees the poor, nerdy girl for what she is inside and falls in love with her. To hell with what mom and dad say, they must be together.
In the movies, he’ll risk being disinherited and ruining his Dartmouth legacy to run off with her and go to a small East Coast Art school, to sleep on the floor and eat ramen and look deeply into each other’s eyes. In real life, he’ll ditch you after he fucks you and be out of your life before you can ask him for his share of last night’s Uber.
The classic bad boy
Guess what? He actually has a heart of gold!