Cavell’s assertion that choosing to marry for love in his ‘comedy of remarriage’ is progressive carries some weight. However, I think the trope of women being responsible for achieving marriage, taken from Old Comedy, can be harmful. There is an expectation for the women in Cavell’s genre to choose marriage to men that are often limited and two-dimensional. The remarriage often comes not from change in behaviour, but from failed rendezvous with other potential partners, implying that the sanctity of marriage is safer and more desirable for women and that questioning it is foolish.
In response to this, my mind went immediately to the Australian Reality TV show ‘Married at First Sight’, in which couples are married after meeting for the first time at the altar, paired up by relationship experts. It differs somewhat to Cavell’s genre. Marriage is not overtly a problem that is ‘ratifi[ed]’ through separation. However, the show undoubtedly frames itself as a comedy, employs conflict and resolution of break-ups and remarriage and contains the trope that women are responsible for concluding such conflict.
Season six contestant Heidi Latcham is expected to routinely suppress her own emotional needs in order to remain in a relationship with her husband Mike Gunner. They go through miniature comedies of remarriage almost every episode. Mike disrespects Heidi resulting in conflict, they break-up and then reunite. This is not due to the couple gaining perspective and choosing love, however. When Heidi has brought up Mike’s disrespect to councillors, they have told that she will be single forever if she does not quiet down. I think this is a dangerous contemporary echo of the comedy of remarriage made to adapt to episodic media. The narrative suspense of Heidi and Mike’s separations and reunions are clearly seen by ‘Married’ as a formula for good television. They do not want Mike to reform, as this could lead to a lack of conflict for future episodes. Heidi, therefore, is continuously mistreated and told not to leave. Overall, I believe the responsibility placed on women in comedy to achieve marriage for narrative’s sake, perpetuated by Cavell’s genre, does not always have feminist implications.
Cavell, Stanley. Pursuits of happiness: the Hollywood comedy of remarriage. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.
Married at First Sight Australia. Season Six. Produced by Tara McWilliams and John Walsh. Aired January 4th, 2021, on E4.
 Stanley Cavell, Pursuits of happiness: the Hollywood comedy of remarriage (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 1.
 Married at First Sight Australia, season six, prod. Tara McWilliams and John Walsh, aired January 4th, 2021, on E4.
 Cavell, Remarriage, 31.