Have you ever settled in to watch a classic rom-com – say, Sleepless in Seattle – with some tea and chocolate in hand and a smile on your face as your favourite characters of all time find the path to true love, only to realise, “Oh my god! Meg Ryan is totally stalking Tom Hanks and his kid!”?
You try to reassure yourself – “It’s not weird. It was a different time; it’s still such a beautiful movie!” So you shake off the universe-shattering creepiness and settle in to watch another classic, You’ve Got Mail. You laugh joyfully at Kathleen Kelly’s love for daisies, Joe Fox’s sass, their complete wonderment at the internet and their adoration for – “Oh my god! Tom Hanks is catfishing Meg Ryan as revenge for stalking him and his kid!”
While we’re all familiar with kissing in the rain and having people at “Hello”, there are some rom-com tropes that are just too creepy, harmful and yes, illegal to ignore. It’s an unpleasant but completely necessary ritual for any rom-com aficionado, because while it’s harmless to excuse weird behaviour from fictional characters, do you truly want a guy or girl serenading you outside your bedroom window when you thought your front gate was locked?
To help you distinguish between tropes of the tacky, twisted and terrifying varieties, here are some of the creepiest rom-com cliches that you never want to see in reality.
Guilty: Sleepless in Seattle, Say Anything, Hitch, 10 Things I Hate About You, There’s Something About Mary, 50 First Dates, Groundhog Day, Love Actually, Twilight (hrngh)
We see you stalking Tom Hanks coast to coast, Meg Ryan, and we’re not impressed! A shocking number of romantic comedies feature their love-struck leads obtaining information and/or expressing their attraction for their new love through a range of creepy and legally questionable means.
FOR THE RECORD, having someone followed, finding out personal information in order to manipulate someone into liking you and staking out someone’s house and staring into their bedroom window is not normal, not romantic and NOT attractive. If they were, a little editing and some Sara Bareilles music would make Fatal Attraction positively charming.
Lying about your identity or intentions
Guilty: You’ve Got Mail, About A Boy, 10 Things I Hate About You, While You Were Sleeping, She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Overboard, How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days, She’s The Man, and so. Many. MORE.
Whether it’s to seem more attractive, spend more time with someone, advance one’s career, or impersonating your brother in order to play football and accidentally instigating a love-decagon, leading someone to believe you’re something or someone you’re not for personal gain is extremely messed up. Yes, because of the lying, but also, what possible end game is there?? Would all of these romantic leads have just kept up the charade forever?
Sure, there’s always a highly dramatic scene where the duped fool finds out and expresses some shock, occasionally some anger, and NEVER legal action, but this drama is just to keep the third act entertaining. What’s even more messed up than this lying and deceiving is that it makes us want the couple to be together EVEN MORE.
Not taking no for an answer
Guilty: The Notebook, Crazy Stupid Love, The Graduate, pretty much any movie with a grand gesture
“Oh Noah, you darn rapscallion, you,” we all thought as he hung from a Ferris wheel and threatened to kill himself until Allie agreed to go out with him. Wait, what? At worst, this behaviour can get scary; at best, it’s a pretty selfish, arrogant and (since most of this behaviour comes from male leads) sexist attitude of “Hey girl, you’re mine for the taking and if you don’t play along, I’m going to badger you out of making a perfectly rational decision until you succumb to my will.”
Most of the dudes that you meet in real life are (hopefully) not like that. But whether it’s in the limelight or in your own life, no means no. Guilt-tripping someone who’s just not interested into “happily ever after” is just going to set you up for disappointment.
Plus, if a mature, honest, and respectful conversation isn’t enough to get that person interested in you, then throwing money, boomboxes, flashmobs, death-defying stunts and loud, ill-timed emotional speeches at the problem will probably only make them mad. Putting them in a very awkward, very public position is unlikely to make them magically change their mind.
Completely changing your personality, values and/or fashion sense
Guilty: Cinderella (of course), Grease, Clueless, The Princess Diaries, She’s All That, The Breakfast Club, Pretty Woman, Crazy Stupid Love, The House Bunny, Never Been Kissed, Jane Austen Book Club, basically any movie with a makeover scene
Don’t get us wrong, we love a makeover scene as much as the next person, but since when did painstakingly changing everything about yourself guarantee eternal happiness?
Maybe it’s meant to be a representation of their growth as a person, but what it usually translates to is makeup + high fashion = loveable and successful in life, while untamed hair + glasses + security in being single/yourself = gross, down on their luck and emotionally immature. Um, since when did eating an entire pizza by yourself while Netflix binging in your trackies NOT mean you were schoolin’ life??
Punching someone in the face is always a good idea!
Guilty: 10 Things I Hate About You, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Wedding Crashers, Pretty in Pink, 50 Shades of Grey (hrngh)
It’s cool that he beat that guy up! It means he likes you! Hmmmm no. There are very, very few cases where punching someone in the face is OK other than in self-defence. What happens if your white knight gets a taste of his own medicine along with a serious head injury? What if that d-bag you punched for being a d-bag is such a d-bag he’d hit you back, like a d-bag? This is why we use our words, people.
Otherwise if a person is allowed to use violence to show love, what’s to stop them from breaking into your home, selling your possessions without your permission, controlling where you go, who you talk to, and what you eat? In other words, 50 Shades of Grey is not an example of a healthy relationship.
Buying a last-minute ticket and running through an airport
Guilty: Love Actually, Bend It Like Beckham, Liar Liar, The Wedding Singer, She’s Out of My League, Only You
Allison the Artist is boarding a plane to embark on a different future, when suddenly Jake the Jock realises he simply can’t live without her. He dashes to the airport, buys a last-minute ticket, sprints to her gate, holds up the plane and tells her he loves her as publicly and inconveniently as possible. That’s nice and everything but in real life, Jake would get zapped with a taser. Hard.
This one is a federal security, you-look-like-a-terrorist-level no-no. Not only could your romantic impulses cause widespread panic, they could also lead to a mass delay of flights, expensive fines and jail time. So next time your lover is leaving on a plane to an art school in Paris, maybe just skip the electric shock and call them?
Using people/leading them on
Guilty: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 10 Things I Hate About You, Pretty In Pink, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Suddenly 30, She’s The Man, The F Word (What If).
It could be blatant, (your boss wants you to write about driving away a guy in a certain number of days), or inadvertent, (leading someone on with no real intention of being with them), because who cares about their feelings, career, or social life – you neeeed them! Whatever the circumstances, using someone for your own needs without considering theirs is so not okay.
But wait, you say, Kat and Cameron from 10 Things I Hate About You and Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days all ended up being okay! In real life, Kat would be suspicious of Patrick’s every move, and Cameron’s a bit of a user himself. When it comes to Kate and Matthew, as if there is anything in this world that could keep them apart. Be serious, guys.
Cheating (physically OR emotionally)/undermining an existing relationship
Guilty: The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Singer, Notting Hill, You’ve Got Mail, Suddenly 30, Love Actually, Sweet Home Alabama, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mean Girls, The Notebook, Serendipity
- This is always swept under the rug in romantic comedies because:
- The person being cheated on is a bad person, or worse, a good person that just “doesn’t get” their partner.
- The person being cheated on is conveniently cheating on the relationship as well.
- The cheaters/underminers are beautiful; therefore everything they do is above board and with good intentions.
- Because LOVE!
I’ll see that list and raise you another list:
- Cheating just ain’t OK. Even if the significant other is crappy, that doesn’t condone reducing oneself to such a morally ambiguous level. Stay classy, San Diego.
- Just can’t help it? Um, unless someone is holding a gun to your head, yes, you can help it.
- Probs one of the least stable and promising ways to begin to a new relationship.
- “But they didn’t actually physically cheat.” NOPE. Emotionally cheating on a significant relationship is just as bad, if not worse than physically cheating, as it’s arguably a bigger violation of trust.
The only movie in recent memory that accurately portrays how hurtful, unromantic and gross cheating/undermining a relationship actually can be is He’s Just Not That Into You. Why that insightful and educational movie never won an award we’ll never know.
So there you have it; all your favourite romantic comedies are now sullied. Sorry about that. Now excuse us while we go and cry. In the rain. While we wait for someone to sweep us off our feet. In a non-creepy way. Damn rom-coms.
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