By: Eli Azizollahoff | Opinions  | 

Netflix’s Finely Crafted 'Perfect Date'

In a few short months, an actor most known for replacing a former Disney channel star in “The Fosters” skyrocketed into fame and the hearts of girls nationwide.

After the success of Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth,” the film ushered in a new wave of Netflix rom-coms geared towards teen fans, and Noah Centineo has starred in more than half of them. Noah was the lovable jock in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” he was the unassuming cute nerd in Sierra Burgess, and he was the ambitious over-achiever in Netflix’s most recent hit, “The Perfect Date.”

But here’s the thing about Noah and the lovable roles he’s been playing: He hasn’t won girls over just by relying on his classic “tall dark and handsome” aesthetic, no, he’s wormed his way in by playing male leads that are sincere, sweet, openly affectionate and emotionally aware (or at least as aware as a lead in a teenage rom-com can be). And what’s really won him so many fans? That he seems to really have that sweet sincere personality himself.

As one YouTube Influencer, Edvasian, described him, Noah Centineo is the epitome of a “softboy.” Urban Dictionary defines this by saying: “The Softboy will butter a girl up by appealing to her emotions and showing a ‘sensitive’ side.” This term has a very cynical association, in that most use it to describe a guy that is just using this as a ploy to “get with a girl” and then forget her.

But I see softboys in another way. Yes, these softboys appeal to and try to take advantage of the heart (which we can all agree isn’t grade A humaning), but despite this, there is the good in this new phenomenon; their popularity shows a shift in large media towards actually understanding what makes a good relationship and representing that to the masses. The reason Noah Centineo and all his “softboy” roles have been so successful is that the movie industry is finally gearing towards the demographic it is pandering to. This is to say, Netflix, the hub for millennials and gen-z-ers to view content, tries to stay up to date on internet culture (like trends, memes and personal advocacy) and what the content the populace of the internet wants. Since (at least a large portion of) the internet is populated by real people, this has unsurprisingly finally led the film industry, headed by Netflix, into realizing that yes, women love romantic comedies, but also we, like, love and crave healthy emotion-based relationships. Baffling I know.

But here’s the thing about rom-coms: They have been mocked and ridiculed for decades because, yes, often they can be pretty cliché and stereotypical, but really, who doesn’t love a happy ending and want one of their own?

But why does the happy ending have to be a love story? That’s a fair question. Romance isn’t the only good thing in life. I would like to pose the theory that so much of the world has such a fixation on it, though, because when things around us get worse and worse, when we are in the eleventh hour, when all hope for the world is gone, seeing the true goodness in another person, seeing and connecting to that humanity, that right there, is hope. Romance stories aren’t just about love. Well actually, yes, they are, but they aren’t just about romance: They are about hope.

So why is it important for these “softboys” to be taking over as the leading man? Because for so long the representation of the way to get the girl was to be aloof but also to be sure to make the first move. Miscommunication and stupid grudges and holding back the truth have been glorified in movies over and over again since the 80s, the golden age of rom-coms.

By the film industry shifting to have sweet guys as the leading man, to having healthy relationships built on communication at the center of the story, by having leading ladies who aren’t dunces to be dragged around by some guy who comes along with a nice smile, we facilitate the representation of healthier people and relationships to be the model for a new generation of consumers.

Yes, movies will always be fantastical and I would never go as far to advocate that these rom-coms are teaching this generation everything they need to know about love and romance.  But I also think it can’t be overlooked how much self-hate, unhealthy relationships and warped perceptions we had to unlearn because of the representation we saw mixed into these movies.

Hope isn’t some jerk who won’t call you back. Hope isn’t the manic pixie dream girl. Hope isn’t kissing in the rain. Hope is love and love is built on genuine connection and best intentions and trying everything you can to be the best person you can be. And that’s a media model I can get behind.

Photo Caption: Netflix has produced numerous romantic comedies in the last year.

Photo Credit: Flikr