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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Stalking, cheating, abuse, manipulation, toxic masculinity, harassment, outdated gender stereotypes - you name it, rom-coms probably have it.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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Rania Bakhtiari
Rania Bakhtiari
Jun 22, 2023

This was such an insightful read, especially for someone who absolutely fangirled over Twilight! Many of the films that you have mentioned in your blog post, such as Twilight, perpetuate harmful gender dynamics and also set un natural expectations from relationships. Throughout the film, Bella is seen to be requiring the protection of Edward, and towards the end, she ends up giving her entire life for him, to the extent that she hides all the realities of the man she is married to from her father.

The common notion in rom-coms, the romanticizing "bad boys," as you mentioned in your blog, sends a message to all the viewers that any boy who can disrespect a woman or crosses her boundaries…


Great read! I wish we could present realistic takes such as these to the movie industry that is only concerned with making bank. There are examples of writing showing relationships that healthily develop which are often overlooked for not having the dramatic and manipulative elements associated with works such as the ones you mentioned. Acknowledging that there is an entire audience out there that romanticizes such approaches is truly sad, especially since they ignore the realistic portrayals of love and friendship. Stereotypes will continue to be fueled and we as people will need to understand what defines right and wrong to avoid supporting such misrepresentations.


Thank you for highlighting this in such a concise manner! To add onto the discussion, I think these problematic tropes are prevalent in a lot of popular romance books as well. For instance, most of the Colleen hover books that are famous on booktok are being consumed and romanticised by an entire generation of emerging teens. And I think they send unhealthy messages to impressionable young readers, suggesting that such behaviours are acceptable or even desirable in real-life relationships.


So true! this reminds me of a scene in Twilight series where the camera focuses on Bella as she sits in one place and they show us a time lapse, it portrays how her life is limited to literally only waiting for a guy and she has no activities or no role of her own, Edward is probably out there doing God knows what, not a single word from him, and it is supposedly okay and "normal" for him to do so and Bella's character adheres to it. He still ends up becoming the idealised man. I think even in Gossip Girl, Chuck's character is such that he literally harasses Jenny, then puts Blaire through so much but in the…


At last! I agree wholeheartedly with the romanticization of borderline harassment if not entirely harassment in the name of love. Rom-coms often present red flags as charming flaws or quirks that make the love interest more appealing and justified too for an ultimate grand romantic gesture made by the person itself which is also m=commonly found in rom-coms. possessiveness, jealously, control is often overlooked upon and seen as an indication of intense love and passion which only sets unrealistic expectations in the minds of people that entertain such behavior in the future or when they encounter something similar. In the process, if practiced excessively and too frequently, one is prone to lose a sense of themselves and in order …

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