Valentine's Day is the perfect time to sit down and watch a romantic film with that special someone, even if that movie operates under the idea that stalking equals love.
For a while now there's been studies of romantic comedies that are unintentionally presenting stalking as a grand romantic gesture. On the big screen, standing outside of a girl's house holding a boombox over your head seems like a sweet declaration of love, but in real life that would result in the girl's parents reaching for the phone to call the authorities. More recently, the Netflix series 'Stranger Things' showed an awkward teen looking for his missing brother take a moment to photograph his crush while in the bushes of her boyfriend's house. There's an initial backlash for his actions and the boyfriend destroys his camera, but in the end the creepy photographer not only gets the girl, but a new camera.
And this isn't just exclusive to the visual mediums. How many times is 'Every Breath You Take' by The Police used as a romantic song? Yep... its about a stalker.
There's a good way to see if the movie you're watching has a skewed view of romance. As most romantic comedies star visually appealing actors making these creepy gestures, would the actions still be excusable if the lead was played by a guy like Clint Howard...
While 'Love Actually' is a beloved modern love story, showing all facets of love from the tragic to the fairy tale, its most iconic moment is also one that kinda pushes the boundaries between romantic gesture and restraining order material.
Mark, played by Andrew Lincoln, appears rude and standoffish to his best friend's new wife Juliet, played by Kiera Knightly. As Mark videotaped much of Juliet and Peter's wedding, Juliet asks Mark to see his video as all pictures of her from the day didn't come out. In watching the video, its discovered that Mark had recorded only Juliet during the ceremony and reception, revealing his love for her. Later, Mark shows up to Peter and Juliet's flat without notice, declaring his love for Juliet in a series of cue cards.
Video taping from afar without knowledge and showing up uninvited to express your love for your best friend's wife... that's equal parts sweet and creepy. But in the end, Mark is rewarded for his actions with a kiss from Juliet and the satisfaction that he got it off of his chest.
'Crazy, Stupid, Love'
With this film, its a father and son act in the realm of stalking-esque behavior.
First, Steve Carell is a family man going through a divorce from his wife, with whom they have a 13-year-old son. On the dad's side, he's having a hard time letting go of his family and sneaks over to his old house to mow the lawn under the cover of night. One night while doing this, he gets a call from his ex-wife, saying she needs help with the pilot light. However, as he's watching her through a window from the backyard, he can see she's nowhere near the furnace and she just wanted to hear his voice. The fact that his ex-wife misses him is supposed to cover the fact that he's trespassing and peeping on her.
With his 13-year-old son, he's in love with his 18-year-old babysitter, and she happens to be in love with his father. While the son constantly makes her uncomfortable by explaining he thinks of her during... private moments, and publicly declares his love for her more than once. In the end, after another grand public gesture, the boy is rewarded by his babysitter with a nude photograph that she took of herself to give to his father.
This movie isn't really a love story as it is a wonderful film about a bunch of messed up people. A hyper-masculine former soldier who is in the closet, his withdrawn wife who barely says a single word, and their drug dealing son who spies on the neighbors, specifically the daughter who he goes to school with.
Ricky comes across as nothing more than a strange and socially awkward teen, who video tapes Jane from afar and even up close at school. Eventually, Ricky's strangeness endears him to Jane, who at first undresses for him while being taped, followed by the two having a physical relationship and planning to run away together.
'There's Something About Mary'
The whole point of 'There's Something About Mary' is stalking, where the least threatening of the stalkers ends up winning Mary's affection.
Mary has to leave town because her ex-boyfriend started stalking her, the goofy guy she nearly went to prom with couldn't get over her years later and hires a P.I. to find her, the P.I. falls for her while spying on her with binoculars, and one of Mary's friends has been faking a disability and accent just to get close to her.
By the end of the film she's presented with all of her stalkers and their individual levels of deceit, and another ex-boyfriend Brett Farve. But as Ted, the geek she almost went to prom with and the stalker whose actions started this whole fiasco, seems to have learned from his mistake and bows out, he's ultimately chosen by Mary and gets the girl.
I think by now we can all finally agree that Edward and Bella's relationship is far from a healthy one. On Bella's side, her whole idea of self-worth is tied to how she's viewed by Edward, going so far as to ultimately commit herself to Edward in such a way that will lead to her having to cut off her own family and friends and leaving them to believe she died. When Edward leaves her for her own good, she goes into a reclusive and self-destructive mood that alienates all of her friends who have been far too forgiving of her antics.
But what makes this a bit on the stalking side is Edward's actions in the first film, entering her home without permission to watch her as she sleeps. But Bella has absolutely no problem with Edward creeping in her place when she sleeps, and their story ends up with the fairy tale wedding and an eternity together.
'Sleepless in Seattle'
Unfortunately, there's a double-standard in Hollywood where grand romantic (stalking) gestures are perfectly OK for a man to do, but come across as needy and creepy if the star is a woman. But in this case, man or woman, this is stalking.
Meg Ryan's Annie hears Tom Hanks' Sam on the radio and falls in love with him. Annie then uses her job to track down Sam, and, much like 'There's Something About Mary', hires a Private Investigator to find his home, and then travels from Baltimore to Seattle to meet him.
Considered one of the iconic films of the 90s and a beloved rom-com, it comes down the fact that someone gets the object of their affection through using work resources to stalk them from across the country.
'Fifty Shades of Grey'
As this book series began life as 'Twilight' fan fiction, it should be no surprise that the relationship between Anastasia and Christian is unhealthy.
To clarify, its not to say that a BDSM relationship is unhealthy. What is portrayed in the books and the films is NOT BDSM, its an uninformed writer's idea of what BDSM is. Though writer E.L. James says that the books and movies are at their core love stories, they are more in line with examples of emotional and physical abuse being excused because the lead character is hot and rich.
Having Anastasia sign a contract for their physical relationship, Christian assumes an attitude of ownership and crosses the line with her several times, constantly buying her presents she doesn't want, selling her car without her knowledge and buying her a new one, and following her out of town to reprimand her when she makes travel plans without telling him.
YouTube personality and book-to-film reviewer 'The Dom' gives a good breakdown of the BDSM misconceptions of the film and the dangers of viewing it as "romance" in his VIDEO. (NSFW language)
Another iconic film, the actions of the lead character should trigger some red flags in real life. Dustin Hoffman's Ben is rejected by Elaine after sleeping with her mother. Elaine leaves town to go to college, but is followed by Ben who not only follows her around campus, but gets an apartment near to her place so he can be close to her.
This all culminates in a beloved and renowned final scene where Ben shows up uninvited to Elaine's wedding, crashing it and running off with the bride before she and her fiance exchange their vows.
'All About Steve'
The best part of 'All About Steve' is the fact that movie was panned by critics and even won Golden Razzies, which Sandra Bullock actually showed up to accept just hours before winning an Oscar.
Bullock plays Mary, a crossword puzzle writer whose only friend is her pet hamster. When her parents set her up on a blind date, she's pleasantly surprised to find her date to be good looking and charming, played by Bradly Cooper. Though Mary is excited for the date, Steve doesn't like the way its going and fakes a phone call from work to get out of it, saying he needs to leave town to cover a news event being a cameraman and wishes she could come along.
Taking him seriously and believing he wishes she could have come along, Mary becomes completely infatuated with Steve and creates a crossword puzzle all about him that costs her her job, and then follows Steve around the country, ultimately becoming part of an emergency he's covering for the network he works for. At the end, Steve gets a soft spot for Mary after she saves a child, but Mary realizes she doesn't need Steve to be happy and actually admits that what she's been doing is stalking.