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Stop Romanticising Red Flags in Rom-Coms

Rom-coms, full of young love, optimism, emotional catharsis, and witty dialogue, are comfort shows for many people. They are the perfect stories to wind down to after a long day and are always a good choice for days when you need a light-hearted pick-me-up. However, the problem arises when the line between fiction and reality starts to blur.

Stalking, cheating, abuse, manipulation, toxic masculinity, harassment, outdated gender stereotypes - you name it, rom-coms probably have it. From jealous outbursts to forced advances, crossing boundaries without consent, and even bullying, are all glossed over in most romantic narratives in the name of “love.” How often have we watched a romantic comedy where the guy gets the girl, and all’s well that ends well? But real life is often more complicated, as love doesn’t always conquer all.

In the idealized world of rom-coms, “hot guys can do no wrong.” Movie after movie shows the “bad boys” demeaning and mistreating the girl without repercussions just because they are conventionally attractive, rich, white men. In all popular rom-coms, be it The Notebook, 10 Things I Hate About You, 500 Days of Summer, The Kissing Booth or Twilight, stalking and obsession have always been normalized and glossed over. In real life, the same gestures of supposed “love” would be enough for the person to get arrested. From Edward confessing that he snuck into Bella’s room every night and watched her sleep in Twilight to Christian Grey following Anna to another state after she goes to visit her mother in 50 Shades of Grey, this kind of attention is presented as flattering instead of dangerous.

Not taking no for an answer is often portrayed as persistence- a result of all consuming love rather than harassment. Seeing Noah threatening to harm himself when Allie didn’t reciprocate his feelings in The Notebook, and Tim using his time traveling abilities to redo every interaction with Mary in order to become her dream man while never revealing to her that he's basically tricked her into a relationship in About Time, we have grown desensitized to these dangerous red flags. However, often persistent people in romantic narratives refuse to take no for an answer because they've idealized the person in their head. For example, when Ted meets Robin in HIMYM, he immediately declares how much he loves her even though he barely knows her. This idealization of a person so early on in a relationship, despite being portrayed as flattering and romantic, is usually a sign that the person is infatuated with an idea of who they are rather than the person themselves.

Therefore, even though we love how dramatic romances let us fantasize about a perfect world where everyone ends up happily ever after, the red flags in these rom-coms persistently getting romanticized in modern media should probably send us running for the hills. Instead of romantic narratives glamorizing and glorifying toxic behavior, we deserve movies where the relationships still experience conflict but healthily resolve those conflicts and provide a model of how satisfying a romance based on trust and mutual respect can be.

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