Movies Pop Culture

All your favorite romantic comedies have a consent problem

On dark, rainy days, there’s nothing I like doing more than lounging in my living room, rewatching my favorite romantic comedies.  There are few films that are so easily able to make someone laugh, cry, and plan their fictional wedding all within an hour. But as I grow older and more aware of the world around me, it’s hard for me to keep watching these films that once brought me such joy. I can no longer overlook how problematic they are.

As I rewatch some classic films, I’ve noticed a glaring consent issue. A lack of consent, to be specific.

Some films are disturbingly ok with their nonconsensual dynamics – in fact, they form the core of the plot. 365 Days, though not a rom-com, is a perfect example of this glorification. The film features a mafia boss who kidnaps a woman and tells her she has a year to fall in love with him. The film drew incredible controversy with people criticizing its problematic storyline, and rightfully so. The film unabashedly glorifies violence, sexual harassment, and misogyny.

But sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Sometimes these highly dangerous actions and ideals masquerade as the epitome of romance.

Love Actually, a winter favorite is incredibly problematic. Specifically, the plotline with Juliet and Mark. Mark is in love with his best friend’s wife, Juliet, but he’s never told her anything about it. Throughout the film, Mark exhibits creepy behavior towards Juliet. During her wedding, he takes videos that focus and zoom entirely on her. And towards the end, he shows up at her house and professes his love for her.

A man stands in front of a woman holding cards that read "to me you are perfect". Via Giphy.
[Image Description: A man stands in front of a woman holding cards that read “to me you are perfect”. Via Giphy.]
In Crazy Stupid Love, Jessica sends an underage child that she was babysitting nude pictures as some sort of gift. The scene is supposed to be comical and actually make Jessica seem bold and cool. In reality, it’s highly inappropriate and problematic behavior.

Not even Bridget Jones’ Diary escapes the curse. In the movie, Bridget is subject to predatory behavior from her colleagues and one of her love interests, Daniel. Daniel constantly sends her disturbing emails and when they’re in an elevator together, he grabs her without her consent. While Daniel is portrayed as somewhat of a jerk, he’s also presented to Bridget and the audience as charming, flirtatious, and romantic.

A man grabs a woman while they are in an elevator. Via Giphy.
[Image Description: A man grabs a woman while they are in an elevator. Via Giphy.]
And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite trope – the “stop talking” kiss as seen in films like Much Ado About Nothing. In the film, Benedick kisses Beatrice when she’s trying to fight with him by kissing her and saying “I’ll stop your mouth.” Instead of listening to what she has to say, he decided to shut her up by kissing her (without her consent).

Romantic comedies are also filled with emotional manipulation that is typically disguised as love and dedication. For example in The Notebook, Noah threatens to kill himself if Allie doesn’t agree to go out with him which basically forces her to say yes to him.  In this case, just because she “agrees” to go out with him doesn’t mean it’s consensual.

These tropes and so many more constitute a large part of the grandeur and romance of our most classic romantic comedies. In each of these scenes, we’re not supposed to hate the men and their behavior. It’s exactly the opposite.

Still from "The Notebook": A man and a woman look up shocked. Via
[Image Description: Still from “The Notebook”: A man and a woman look up shocked. Via]
These films set the standard for romance in our society. As we watch them, we’re supposed to swoon, dream our ideal love stories based on them. I, like so many romantics, dreamed about having a prince charming show up at my door. But those charged scenes that once made my skin tingle are no fantasy. They’re dangerous.

Each of these scenes perpetuates the harmful idea that women actually appreciate this sort of predatory behavior.

But we cannot keep pushing these disturbing ideas of romance. The media and narratives that we consume have a huge impact on the way we perceive our world, the way we behave. I don’t doubt at all that so many young people have shaped their ideas about relationships. Even as I watched these films, I wished I had my own Mark or Daniel.

But Mark and Daniel don’t belong in our fantasies. Their behavior isn’t acceptable just because they’re handsome and charming. They belong in the trash and scrapped storylines of the writer’s room.

It’s simple – if it’s not consensual, it’s not romantic and it’s certainly not comedic.

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Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Editor's Picks Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

13 of the most iconic female characters in Indian movies

Bollywood movies are not the prime example of an industry known for its strong female characters. In fact, they are often criticized – especially South Indian movies – for the lack of female characters with substance.

While one has to agree that Bollywood movies need to do a lot more on this front, we can’t forget the amazing characters we have seen from these movies so far.


1. Aruvi from Aruvi (Stream)

A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She's dressed in black top.
[Image description: A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She’s dressed in a black top.] Via Deccan Chronicle
Aruvi is the personification of female rage, a character that symbolizes how a woman could be as gentle as a stream, but could easily turn into a destructive force of nature too. She is an everyday woman whose life is changed when she is diagnosed with AIDS. Her story sheds light on the hypocrisy of the patriarchy, the ignorance and lack of humanity in the conservative South Asian society, and the power of women.


2. Tara from Oh Kadhal Kanmani (Oh love, apple of my eye)

A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she's dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.
[Image description: A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she’s dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.] Via Urban Asian
The character of Tara steals the show in this beautifully-modern, realistic, classy and cute love story between two ambitious individuals who won’t put their career on stake for a relationship.

Tara is uncompromising, confident, bold and someone you’ll easily fall in love with. The best part is that she could easily be the girl who lives next door, and there’s a beautiful realism about her that makes her story so meaningful and close to your heart.


3. Nirupama from How Old Are You?

A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.
[Image description: A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.] Via Global Film Studies
Nirupama is an ordinary woman – a wife and mother with a routine and unexciting life. Her story is a reflection of the average life of middle-aged women in India.

At 36 years old, she wonders whether she has passed her prime, the age where she can do something new, follow her dreams, and become someone special. As she finds the answer to the question, that it’s never late for a woman to follow her dreams, she inspires all of us with her uplifting story.


4. Ponni from Iraivi (Goddess)

A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.
[Image description: A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.] Via IMDB
Iraivi is a movie full of brilliant female characters, each portraying women who exist in a man’s world. Ponni’s story is undoubtedly the most beautiful – the moving tale of a young bride whose illusions of marriage shatters gradually.

However, Ponni doesn’t mope or let her husband walk all over her, transforming into a woman of quiet strength and resolve, and we know for sure that she will bring up her daughter as another strong female.


5. Laila from Margarita with a Straw

A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.
[Image description: A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.] Via Huffingtonpost
Laila’s story will make you laugh, cry, feel, and break your heart. It’s the story of a girl with cerebral palsy, who doesn’t let her disability define her.

We follow Laila as she travels from India to New York, experiences a whole new side of life, finds love, explores her sexuality, deals with heartbreak and struggles to break the news of her bisexuality to her mother. There are times you’ll even dislike Laila, but that’s what makes her character so human and real.


6. Tessa from 22 Female Kottayam

A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She's in a gray ensemble.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She’s in a gray ensemble.] Via The Hindu
Life seems great for Tessa as her career is off to the right start, and her love life is wonderful. But it all comes crashing down when Tessa is raped, framed and betrayed by the very man she loved and trusted.

22 Female Kottayam is all about an angry female and the lengths she goes for her revenge. Tessa becomes the embodiment of femme fatale, and she’s ruthless in her journey for justice, keeping you rooting for her and her cause.


7. Subbu from Aaranya Kaandam (Anima and Persona)

A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.
[Image description: A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.] Via Constant Scribbles
Never underestimate a woman – this should be the moral of this movie. In a gangster flick full of violence and tense moments, a character like Subbu – the innocent mistress of an aged gangster – could’ve been completely overlooked but the seemingly hapless female ultimately becomes the game-changer.

A character who at first induces pity for her situation, then affection towards her innocence, will leave you stunned at the end.


8. Geet from Jab We Met (When We Met)

A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.] Via Filtercopy
Geet’s iconic dialogue, “Mein apni favorite hoon” (I am my favorite person), defines her as a character. She is talkative, happy, optimistic, unapologetic, adventurous and so full of life.

And even after 12 years, she’s still one of the favorites of Bollywood rom-com heroines. She teaches us that it’s okay to be self-obsessed, urges us to take risks, encourages us to talk our hearts out and inspires us to always do things that will make us – not the world – happy.


9. Sivagami from Bahubali (One with strong arms)

A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.
[Image description: A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.] Via India TV
The foster mother of the titular character, Sivagami is a fearless, brave yet vulnerable woman of gray shades. She rules a vast kingdom with ease despite being surrounded by deceit and evil.

The scene where she sits on the throne with so much arrogance, just after killing a traitor – with his blood still splattered on her face – while breastfeeding both her kids, her eyes daring anyone to cross her, gives me goosebumps every time.


10. Roja from Roja (Rose)

A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.] Via Hindustan Times
Roja is a simple village girl who is married off to a man – an absolute stranger – in the city. Everything about her married life is a revelation, and just as she slowly falls for her husband, he is kidnapped and she is stranded in an unknown city.

The way she struggles to get her husband back, in an alien location, negotiating in a language she doesn’t speak with no resources whatsoever, only backed by determination is simply inspiring to watch.


11. Sandhya from Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Give in All Your Energy)

A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.] Via India Today
This underrated love story is full of heart, and Sandhya is a character with so much strength and optimism. Plus-sized and comfortable with it, she tries to live with a mistreating husband who doesn’t believe he’s attracted to her.

Then she leaves him, not tolerating his nonsense. And even as she gives him a second chance, she makes sure it’s on her own terms, and the best part is that she doesn’t try to become someone else to get love.


12. Devi from Masaan (Crematorium)

A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.
[Image description: A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.] Via Bollywood Life
Blackmailed by a police officer when she’s caught having sex with her boyfriend, Devi doesn’t crumble under the pressure, rather remains firm on the fact that there’s no shame in her actions.

She is a woman of steel, and throughout the movie, her stiff spine and unapologetic gaze serve as a slap in the face to the patriarchy that tries to victimize her.


13. Shilpa from Super Deluxe

A black-haired trans woman in a blue saree sits and gazes out into the distance.
[Image description: A black-haired trans woman in a blue sari sits and gazes out into the distance.] Via The News Minute
This is a controversial pick as Shilpa is a trans woman played by a male actor. However, she is also probably the first trans-leading character in a mainstream Tamil movie.

Shilpa is flawed and selfish, but she rises through all the insults, humiliation and prejudice she faces through the immense love she has for her son, and it is truly inspiring. Super Deluxe also features three more unconventional and strong female characters who all deserve a nod too.

These characters all have different stories, with totally different lives, yet all of them stand out because of the way they look at life, and the impact they leave on an audience. As we celebrate these characters, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of intersectional female characters who belong to different minorities, as well as the casting of the right actors to bring in more authenticity to their portrayals.

Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

Banana Split is the gayest movie about straight teens and it’s awesome

“You guys are perfect for each other, you know that?” April cocks her neck, turning to meet Clara smile with smile, closing the space where a head had been nuzzled moments before. Three middle-class, white teens sit in a local diner for lunch, or a high school snack, and pick fries off of a shared plate while reveling in their latest misadventure. “Oh, shoot,” April exclaims and tilts her phone to her girlfriend. They pop their Tuesday birth control pills cutely, together.

[Image Description: Banana Split's April and Clara threatening someone out of the frame with butter knives. They look serious, but they're joking!] Original Image via American Indie
[Image Description: Banana Split’s April and Clara threatening someone out of the frame with butter knives. They look serious, but they’re joking!] Original Image via American Indie

Following the romantic and platonic relationships of four teenagers during their final high school summer, American Indie’s Banana Split certainly finds its place amongst 2018’s “burgeoning rom-com renaissance.” Adorably angsty, Hannah Marks plays April, newly single post-break up from her high school sweetheart, Nick (Dylan Sprouse). Freshly-moved, suspiciously living on her own, Liana Liberato’s Clara is quickly discovered to be Nick’s new beau. Despite the natural hostility that is expected to exist between the two girls, April and Clara become fast girlfriends, while furtively dealing with their individual desires for Nick.

With initially only Nick and mutual jealousy in common, April and Clara are immediately drawn to and enthused by each other. They’re both a little lonely amongst their adolescent cohorts, Clara having only just arrived to the SoCal suburb and very single April left to the devices of her “not-friendly” girlfriends. With Junglepussy and Princess Nokia blaring in the background, April and Clara grow closer in a way that seems at first suggested to only be possible through their mutual girlhood.

The two girls can reveal their intensely normal social media background checking, they can hike and pee in public with each other. They can groan about Nick’s young lover behaviors (“Oh my God, and when he puts your nose in his mouth! Is that supposed to be sexy?”) Their ribbing is natural and quick, and I am reminded of my own high school girlfriends (the decidedly “Not Friendly” kind), and the telegraphed nature of our own performances, conspicuously and awkwardly demanding each other’s recognition. “You know the words!” Clara insists to April as a lull in their first conversation leaves room to adlib “Bling Bling.” “You have to sing, those are the rules!” All under the cover of a presumably platonic connection, April and Clara are free to poke and prod, exploring their own growing pains and independence through the other.

“What will I do when I’m freezing cold in Boston, without you?” April murmurs to Clara, the two tripping in a kitsch Palm Springs hotel bed. “Wear a jacket of my skin,” Clara responds simply. From the onset of their developing relationship, April and Clara regularly allude to and joke about their same-sex relationship.

The same thing that allows them to be so open with one another, their gender, is also an underlying question mark. “I guess we’ll just have to scissor,” a stereotypical straight trope that reveals just how little ‘straight’ people genuinely consider the possibilities of gay romance, is Clara’s first of many casual admissions of the queer nature of hers and April’s connection.

Lightly agonizing over whether or not to actually send Clara the First Text, April conjures a representation of Clara to egg her on. “Send it,” is the irreverent, red-lipped and devil-horned demand of Clara’s coy form. April and Clara’s summer play-dates are almost a montage of ‘falling in love’ tropes—bowling, sharing diner food, road trips and new, shared experiences. April’s and Clara’s relationship is decidedly straight, but only because it is explicitly defined as such.

“Just so we’re clear, I’m not actually a lesbian. I feel like I’ve been giving you some lesbian undertones, and like, I did—I did, uh, make-out with my friend Sally once, but—” April attempts to clear up anxiously after a few too many “we’re hanging out but we’re not gay!!!” jokes. “I didn’t enjoy it.” I’m hearing you, but I described my first kiss with a boy as warm, wet, and spongy; I have sex with a man regularly now!

[Image Description: April dipping Clara, bridal style, on the beach. The ocean is in the background, the two girls are laughing.] Original image via American Indie
April and Clara snuggle in bed, feed each other food, cuddle again, share secrets, advice, soul-searchings and encouragement. The majority of the film follows the two girls rapidly-formed, intimate relationship, full of petting and touching and eye contact. But even as there is a ‘gross mistake’ kiss shared between April and Ben (portrayed by Luke Spencer Roberts), personal confidante and Nick’s best friend, there is never such a mistake between the two girls. Instead, both Clara and April greedily pine for Nick while attempting to support their own insistently platonic partnership.

A shared gender does not on its own erase possibilities of desire, nor does it create them. April’s “not-friendly” fallback girlfriends inspire little girlish intimacy, and April’s little sister Agnes (played with cute and comic wit by Addison Riecke) sees Clara only as an obstacle to Nick. In Banana Split, kids like who they like. And they’re constantly distracted by having to explain why that’s okay, particularly in this moment at the end of their high school tenures, before continuing to grow up. 

And, as the youth will do, they lie about; allowing an all-too-familiar discomfort with communication (despite the cast playing abnormally communicative and candid teenagers) to drive a wedge between their pleasant and exploratory relationships. As April and Clara quickly grow closer, their mutual desire to Be With Nick, while still being with each other, makes a credibly-catty mess.

April and Clara’s friendship was earnest and sincere, and yet Nick’s consistent insertion is not unwelcome. Amongst the nostalgia of an indie high school romance and impending end of childhood, Dylan Sprouse is a beautiful, vaguely (also) feminine addition. Carrying all of the charm and vastly less corniness of the typical Cool Bro lead, Sprouse offers an alluring and vibrant love interest that can compete with Clara and April’s electricity.

Banana Split is a fun, cute movie that creates a youthful moment full of adolescent turbulence—comfortably cushioned by material comforts and honest, communicative support networks. By the time Fall comes and the teens go their separate ways after a summer of low-stakes exploration, we’re left thinking: Can’t love, whatever kind of love it is, be enough of a reason to preserve our relationships? Banana Split is deafeningly heteronormative, but it shows an honestly-immature probe into the blurred lines of simply wanting people. As Clara says, “Fuck it.”

Banana Split, written by Hannah Marks and Joey Powers, directed by Benjamin Kasulke, premiered on September 22 at LA Film Festival, and it has an 8.7 rate on IMDB.