The other day I was sitting on my boyfriend’s couch watching the cinematic masterpiece known as Notting Hill, only half paying attention because I was also scrolling through Instagram, when Hugh Grant’s a.k.a. William Thacker’s roommate Spike appeared on screen. He was dressed in nothing but beige boxers that barely registered against his creamy pallor — that is, until he changed into a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “I LOVE BLOOD” and an actual 3-D plastic snake head to model for William as a possible outfit option for an impending date.
In that moment, a highlight reel of scenes from my favorite romantic comedies whirred in my head, Bridesmaids, Failure to Launch and Pretty Woman among them, and I had an epiphany that manifested as a question: How and when did weird roommate subplots become a rom com staple, and why is no one talking about it?!
In Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig’s a.k.a. Annie’s roommates Gil and Brynn (a preposterous pair of co-dependent siblings) are written purely for the sake of tormenting their living companion. In addition to reading her diary and sporting an infected “free” tattoo of an alleged Mexican drinking worm (just Brynn, but still), they also eventually evict Annie with no warning.
In Failure to Launch, Zooey Deschanel plays Sarah Jessica Parker’s weird-ass roommate Kit who becomes obsessed with killing a mockingbird (but claims to have never heard of the book To Kill a Mockingbird) and initiates a make-out with a guy after he shares that he had an undescended testicle until age 10.
In Pretty Woman, there’s another weird roommate named Kit (what are the odds!) who enjoys breathing heavily on shiny surfaces to create a fogging effect (you know what I’m talking about — that thing you did when you were little on car windows so you could draw little doodles with your finger? just me?) and refers to a hotel manager as “the sphincter police.”
Here we were as a society, all along thinking dramatic airport declarations of love and sex scenes where women keep their bras on and easily solved misunderstandings were the main tropes of romantic comedies — but nope. Weird roommates take the cake. As for why, I have a number of theories:
1. If one half of the protagonist couple is living with a weird roommate at the film’s outset, it conceivably makes you even more antsy for them to fall in love and ditch their current housing situation, right?
2. While not everyone has experienced a dramatic airport declaration of love (in fact, I know not a single person to whom this has happened), almost everyone has had a weird roommate. I had one in high school who lobbed spitballs at me from the balcony of our lofted room — a fun story for another time.
3. Weird roommates put the “com” in rom-com. Feel free to quote me.
While the above rundown consists of the weird roommate rom-com sub plots that immediately came to mind, I’m sure there are others out there. Meet me in the comments to add to the list, hypothesize further theories, submit your own weird roommate stories and/or all of the above. This is a safe space. Just like Hollywood.
Photo by Suzanne Hanover/©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection.