A meet cute is a fictional scene, typically in film or television, in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing. The term has existed since at least the early 1940s.
This type of scene is a staple of romantic comedies, commonly involving contrived, unusual, or comic circumstances. The technique creates an artificial situation to bring together characters in a theoretically entertaining manner. Frequently, the meet-cute leads to a humorous clash of personalities or beliefs, embarrassing situations, or comical misunderstandings that further drive the plot.
Use of the term
The origin of the term is unknown but it appears to have been familiarly associated with Hollywood screenwriting by at least 1941. The earliest example given by the Oxford English Dictionary is from Anthony Boucher's mystery novel The Case of the Solid Key (1941), in which a character says "We met cute, as they say in story conferences". As this example implies, the term was already well-known, and in a 1996 Paris Review interview, screenwriter Billy Wilder, referring to his 1938 screwball comedy film Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, says that the concept was "a staple of romantic comedies back then". In George Axelrod's play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1955), a character explains, "Dear boy, the beginning of a movie is childishly simple. The boy and girl meet. The only important thing to remember is that—in a movie—the boy and the girl must meet in some cute way. They cannot [...] meet like normal people at, perhaps, a cocktail party or some other social function. No. It is terribly important that they meet cute."
Several subsequent examples can be found of reviewers using the term. Bosley Crowther, in his February 1964 review of Sunday in New York, writes that a character "is conveniently importuned by this attractive young fellow she happens to run into—to "meet cute," as they say—on a Fifth Avenue bus." Film critics such as Roger Ebert or the Associated Press' Christy Lemire popularized the term in their reviews. In Ebert's commentary for the DVD of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which he co-wrote, he describes the scene where law student Emerson Thorne bumps into the female character Petronella Danforth. Ebert admits that he, as the screenwriter, wrote into the script a "classic Hollywood meet cute." He explains the meet cute as a scene "in which somebody runs into somebody else, and then something falls, and the two people began to talk, and their eyes meet and they realize that they are attracted to one another."
In the 2006 American romantic comedy The Holiday, one of the characters, Arthur, an elderly script writer (played by Eli Wallach), explains a meet cute with an example: "It's how two characters meet in a movie. Say a man and a woman both need something to sleep in, and they both go to the same men's pajama department. And the man says to the salesman: 'I just need bottoms'. The woman says: 'I just need a top'. They look at each other, and that's the meet cute." Arthur is in fact describing the meet cute between Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert in the aforementioned Bluebeard's Eighth Wife.
- "meet cute". Random House, Inc. (via Dictionary.com). Retrieved November 15, 2011.
- "meet (v.)". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001.
- Bosley Crowther (February 12, 1964). "Krasna Comedy: Sunday in New York Stars Jane Fonda". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- Three to Tango "meet-cute" by Roger Ebert