Hollywood romantic comedies are perhaps the worst thing to turn to for examples of healthy relationships. Yet, how often do we reference television and movie characters when discussing our ideal mate? You know, those Jim-and-Pam, “goals”-type relationships that everyone seems to idealize?
More often than not, these shows and movies only serve to create unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should look like. Many of them follow a formula that could even be described as dangerous — that of a man relentlessly pursuing a woman, eventually winning her over in the end and everything ending in the quintessential happily-ever-after. But is that really something that should be displayed as the pinnacle of romanticism?
If it were real life, would any of us be okay with a guy constantly pursuing us after we’ve rejected him multiple times? Doubtful. We would be creeped out. This shouldn’t be viewed as desirable behavior from men.
A study has shown that media portrayals of these so-called romantic relationships can lead to people normalizing and accepting behaviors like stalking. This could definitely be because almost every “romantic” movie involves the nonstop pursuit of a girl even when she says she isn’t interested multiple times — but eventually she gives in and falls for him.
How about no? A woman should only have to say “no” once. After that, it just becomes straight up harassment. Trying to convince someone to cheat or break up with their mate is not cute or romantic — it’s rude and disrespectful.
In one classic romance movie, Love, Actually, the most famous scene showcases a man stalking his best friend’s wife. He’s been secretly filming her, and being an asshole to her in real life. All of this culminates in the infamous cue card scene where he professes his love to her. While this is a classic movie moment that so many people romanticize, the reality of it is twisted.
If it were me, I wouldn’t be silent while waiting to see what the cue cards said. I’d be getting my husband out there so he could witness the line his friend was crossing. Why pursue someone who’s married? Especially when they’re married to your best friend.
There’s always a tendency for the man in these films to show up uninvited as well. He weasels his way into events the objection his affection will attend, waits for her outside work or school, or throws rocks at her bedroom window. The weirdest part is that he always seems to know exactly which window is the one that leads to her bedroom…
One scene in Twilight took the “rocks at the window” trope and made it even creepier when Edward snuck into Bella’s room every night and watched her while she was sleeping. The fact that he can get into her room at any time is terrifying. If I woke up to someone hovering over me, I’d be screaming and grabbing one of the empty wine bottles off my dresser to hit him over the head.
The scariest part about this is that people are actually recreating these behaviors in real life. A man in Australia has literally used movies as a defense for stalking women. This isn’t just a theoretical issue — it’s very, very real. He said that he learned from Bollywood movies that “relentlessly pursuing women was the only way to woo them.” And movies just keep reinforcing that notion.
Not only that, but girls and young women grow up believing that this is romantic and even something that they should expect from guys. Movies teach them he doesn’t really love you if he doesn’t follow you around and chase after you constantly. This isn’t a message that we should be sending to our young people. No one should grow up believing that this is love, yet thousands of young girls all over the world are romanticizing this idea.
PSA: This concept is not romantic. And I hate to break it to you, but Jim and Pam weren’t #RelationshipGoals either.
The constant romanticizing contributes, in many cases, to domestic abuse and rape culture. Men should take being turned down as a sign to walk away. If Hollywood keeps letting girls think that behaviors like this are acceptable, girls will let it slide, and men will continue to feel entitled to stalk, touch, and pursue whomever they desire.
Hollywood needs to find a new trope. Surely there are ways to write a romantic comedy without turning all men into stalkers and all women into eager and willing victims.