So, um... Happy Valentines Day, I guess...
February 11, 2015 5:00 AM   Subscribe

 
Kind of shocked that they didn't lead with this: Romantic-Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


That was a pretty uncharitable reading of Groundhog Day.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


These are great. A follow-up question: are there any romance films in which a character, after being spurned by his/her object of affection, wins them back without resorting to being creepy? Because I'm not sure that it's possible.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:14 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


To be fair, all of these are better approaches than kidnapping princesses and locking them up in your Ice Castle.

Not that that ever works out well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:44 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Buy a giant ass mansion across the harbor from her house and throw giant parties every single night until she notices - The Great Gatsby
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:47 AM on February 11, 2015 [48 favorites]


@Going to Maine

Groundhog Day! He tries being creepy, she won't touch him and generally we see how bad it is, he spends half the movie doing Character Development, and she comes to him in the end once he's actually become a good person.
posted by curious_yellow at 5:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


Groundhog Day has creepy stuff in it, but the creepy behavior is never revealed to Rita (at least the Rita that exists after the time loop finishes).

I think The Shop Around The Corner is a good example of a Romantic Comedy with minimal creepiness -- mostly misunderstandings and normal human weakness.
posted by demiurge at 5:56 AM on February 11, 2015


I wonder what it says about me that my favorite rom com is Grosse Point Blank, in which the Cusack's character is an assassin who literally stabs a dude with a pen at his high school reunion but makes things right with Minnie Driver after she discovers what he became after high school by dropping a television on Dan Ackroyd's head...
posted by sparkletone at 6:04 AM on February 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:17 AM on February 11, 2015 [27 favorites]


Reminds me of the bit in Breaking Bad where Hank talks about winning Marie through sheer persistence, and he's like "And hey, now we're really happy together!" and she's like "Hennnnnnnnnnnnnh uh yeahhh......... sure..."
posted by Drexen at 6:17 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Name a mysterious plant that appeared during a solar eclipse after your crush; murder her dentist boyfriend and feed the corpse to the plant.
posted by remlapm at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2015 [23 favorites]


The romantic comedy trope seems to have (generally male) stalker behavior written into its genes. I've never liked Say Anything (though like sparkletone I love Grosse Point Blank) because of the "get the girl" attitude exemplified by the boombox - there's no focus on what she wants IIRC (I have refused to rewatch).

And I found Groundhog Day unwatchable for much the same reason. grumpybear69 - think about it from the woman's point of view. It's gross, and a bit painful. I almost walked out.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2015


Very surprised not to find "There's Something About Mary" on the list. Man hires a creepy private detective and travels to another state for the sole purpose of stalking his high school crush who he hasn't seen in years. The natural conclusion to that movie would have been the Ben Stiller character receiving a restraining order, not a kiss.
posted by The Gooch at 6:21 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


A follow-up question: are there any romance films in which a character, after being spurned by his/her object of affection, wins them back without resorting to being creepy?

...Maybe Serendipity? I mean, that's more "manic pixie dream girl messes things up but things work out" rather than creepy - couple meets by chance and does a series of cute things over the course of the next few hours, but she is a big believer in "fate" and sets up all these stupid chances for fate or coincidence (she writes her name and phone number inside a used book and drags him out of the store rather than giving it to him, saying that "if you end up finding the right copy you'll have it", things like that) and then they jump ahead to 5 years later when they're both engaged to other people on opposite ends of the country, but have been secretly thinking of each other all this time and they drop everything in a last-ditch effort to find each other - but by the end, the guy has decided to just give up and let things lie, when she runs into him again and they live happily ever after.

...It's actually a little disconcerting just how many of these tropes come from movies which star John Cusack.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I rewatched Groundhog Day last week and found it almost unbearably creepy for exactly this reason. I'm pretty sure in the aftermath of the movie, Phil manages to keep it together for a couple of weeks - he has made some genuinely good personal changes and learned some things about Rita - but it falls apart pretty quickly once he and Rita interact with each other in real life outside of the single tightly scripted scenario he's practiced several hundred times.

It's not just Rita - I was also deeply creeped out by the earlier scene with the woman in the diner where he intentionally gets a woman's personal details so he can, during a later reliving of the day, fake being someone she knows from high school, to get her into bed. Creepy creepy creepy.
posted by Stacey at 6:27 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


One character sneaks into another's room to look at them while they sleep. That's the creepiest thing about Twilight?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on February 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


Related: Noah Berlansky (aka the Hooded Utilitarian) on how Ghostbusters  "treated women with not-especially-veiled contempt and distaste."
posted by mediareport at 6:34 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone is conflating notions of "romance". Liberal arts education. What the fuck is it good for?

Oh.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:36 AM on February 11, 2015


Re #12 (Grease): Sandy and Danny both remake their image into what they think the other wants. So why is only Sandy criticized by the list?

Re #13 (American Beauty): I'm pretty sure Ricky is supposed to come off as creepy in the movie. True, Jane treats his actions as romantic, but that doesn't mean the movie endorses that view.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:38 AM on February 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's the Dobler-Dahmer theory.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This morning on, of all things, the kid's Sirius XM channel, they were talking about Valentine's Day and how funny/creepy it would be to stare longingly at someone all day and then, when they demanded to know your deal, sigh and say "I just LOVE you!"
posted by emjaybee at 6:46 AM on February 11, 2015


Someone needs to remake Groundhog Day as a creepy Roman Polanski-esque horror movie. You really wouldn't need to change much.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:52 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


That reminds me of the recut Mrs. Doubtfire trailer.
posted by cazoo at 6:57 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


This list is a mix of stuff that's not intended to be creepy but is (what the article wants to be talking about) and stuff that is totally intended to be creepy or misguided (American Beauty, Freaks & Geeks), and is.

Listfail methinks.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:57 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


It would be one thing if Bill Murray's character had access to a time machine and kept willfully playing the same day over and over again to perfect his approach to wooing Rita - that would be a violation of her agency and truly creepy. In his case, though, he has no choice - he is stuck. What can he do but to try and improve the outcome of the day? I'll admit I haven't seen it in a long time, so perhaps his character does not transform in a substantive way, but I can't blame the guy for doing whatever he needs to to stay sane while trapped in an endless time loop.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:59 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is why I'm so confused about the level if vitriol piled onto 50 Shades for doing pretty much this exact same stuff. I mean, I'm not going to defend 50 Shades because the books are terrible and the movie will be too. But the whole "THIS IS ABUSIVE" meme seems to be complaining about standard tv/movie "romance" tropes with a bit of BDSM wrapped around them.

Would it be better if the media produced more romance stories that didn't include stalkery-obsession as valid expressions of love? Yes, but this is the kind of stuff that the people who watch these movies like to see.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good call on "Good Morning Vietnam". I find it unwatchable for this and many other reasons, despite loving Robin Williams' standup.
posted by Melismata at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


The last time I watched Groundhog Day, which admittedly was about ten years ago, I though that it seemed quite unlikely that Rita would actually fall in love with Phil over the course of what is for her one single day. Think about it from her viewpoint; she's worked with him for a while and he's been a complete jerk the whole time. Then one day, out of the blue, he undergoes a complete personality change, knows all about her and her interests and goes out of his way to impress her all day long. That seems like a "Hmm, perhaps I've been wrong about this guy, maybe we could go on a date sometime?" situation at best.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:11 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I haven't seen groundhog day in years, but the way I remember, and the way the article describes it, he stops trying to make a scripted scenario midway through the movie, and when she finally falls for him it's because he has actually become a decent human being that she genuinely likes, no? The scripted PUA stuff is supposed to be creepy. Rita is clearly creeped out by it.

You know how MeFi, and all sane people, say that PUAs should stop treating women like challenges or conquests, but instead as fellow human beings? Groundhog Day is a movie depicting exactly that which we keep asking for.
posted by Bugbread at 7:12 AM on February 11, 2015 [35 favorites]


@The Card Cheat

When the film is at the "goes out of his way to impress her all day long" stage, he gets nowhere and as Bugbread says, it's clearly creepy and shown as creepy.

He succeeds in the end by... becoming a decent person, caring about others, and acting naturally.
posted by curious_yellow at 7:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fair enough, but it's still just one day from her point of view.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:20 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's actually a little disconcerting just how many of these tropes come from movies which star John Cusack.

John Cusack is super, SUPER charming and it's a lot easier to accept creepy stuff when he's doing it. There are plenty of reasonable young women who want to be with John Cusack and reasonable young men who want to be John Cusack because he is a delightful, real-seeming person. He is one of the few mutual crushes I know my mother and I have had.

The problem is that this stuff only works, even in movies, if the guy is Cusack-level charming, and in life it stops he stops being charming as soon as he pulls this shit because it becomes fucking creepy. I think these movies really fuck people up, including young me, because I really wanted someone to like me that much and do big crazy romantic shit and it is not actually good or appropriate and nothing on which to base a relationship. You end up wanting something that is actually creepy and feeling like you are less valuable as a person if you don't get it. That is terrible!

Similarly, young men (I'm only talking about male/female pairings here because they're what's most represented in these movies; I would have filled the "male" role in some of these based on some of my high school crushes on women) are told that this is a good thing to do and plenty of them find doing stuff like this uncomfortable because, again, creepy and embarrassing for both parties. God, seriously, I hate how these things are portrayed as not just normal but actually good. They are so bad for everyone.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:25 AM on February 11, 2015 [27 favorites]


.Maybe Serendipity? I

The guy is stalkery as hell repeatedly convincing people in positions of power to breach confidentialality including at one point handing over a credit application.

The woman hopes to interrupt the guys wedding to express her obsession despite any indication of reciprocity and is only thwarted by the wedding being canceled.

Both parties act like terrible human beings.
posted by Mitheral at 7:30 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Re #12 (Grease): Sandy and Danny both remake their image into what they think the other wants. So why is only Sandy criticized by the list?

I recently rewatched that scene, and while they both "compromise" their image in the hopes of pleasing the other, Danny takes off his preppy sweater almost immediately and reverts to his old look for the climatic love number. So, you could argue that Danny doesn't really change but Sandy does.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:35 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ah, Groundhog Day. One of my favorite movies.

I don't think it's fair to call it a creepy romance, because it's not really a romance at all. Rather, as many others have said over the years, it's really a voyage of self-improvement for Phil; the other characters are merely props. Phil goes from amorality (ignoring the old man, Gus, in distress, insulting Larry the cameraman, seducing Nancy, punching Ned) to nihilism (robbing a bank, repeatedly attempting suicide) to, finally, transcendence (as inspired by the repeated deaths of Gus in an alley or in the hospital, he becomes an altruist despite living in what is, to him, a world of beings without will).

A romance would have Phil succeed by winning Rita's heart at the end of the movie. But in Groundhog Day, Phil only escapes his own personal hell by changing his own heart. And surprisingly for a Hollywood movie, Phil is not rewarded with a new girlfriend who automatically loves him. Instead (and this is what makes Groundhog Day the complete opposite of creepy), Phil is blessed with that one thing he never had during his centuries of exile in the time loop: the ability to have a companion with personal agency and free will.
posted by math at 7:42 AM on February 11, 2015 [33 favorites]


It's the Dobler-Dahmer theory yt .

Oh, Ted Mosby, how many times you fell on the wrong side of that theory*.

*Also mentioned in the article.
posted by drezdn at 7:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Impressionable dudes shouldn't be allowed to watch grand gesture romantic comedies/shows until they're at least 25... Maybe 30.
posted by drezdn at 7:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


7. Break into song in the back of a kindergarten classroom, then slowly walk to the front, ignoring requests to stop: Nathan Huffner (Rick Moranis), Parenthood

If that's a kindergarten, those kids must have been left back at least seven or eight years.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "romantic" Hollywood movie that doesn't involve behavior that would be creepy as Hell in real life is the exception rather than the rule.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2015


New list request: Movies where one romantic lead wins over other romantic lead in non-creepy way. So far I've got: 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


A follow-up question: are there any romance films in which a character, after being spurned by his/her object of affection, wins them back without resorting to being creepy? Because I'm not sure that it's possible.

Crossing Delancey, sort of. But in that case Amy Irving sorta kinda spurns Sam the Pickle Man, but then goes back to him after recognizing that the guy she favored is an asshole. Sam doesn't actually do anything to win her (back).

Can't Buy Me Love, in which Girl I've Forgotten The Name Of seems to like Larval Instar Doctor McDreamy after she exposes him for the asshole fraud that he is and he learns humility and compassion from that.

Anyway, the important thing as Valentine's Day approaches is that we keep the Valen in Valentine's. (spoiler)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:06 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


When Harry Met Sally.
posted by Melismata at 8:06 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love how their MVP award is a Love Actually trifecta.
posted by Gelatin at 8:17 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Impressionable dudes shouldn't be allowed to watch grand gesture romantic comedies/shows until they're at least 25... Maybe 30.

Can't agree enough. I think they fucked me up more than any sort of violent film did - As a bit of an introvert and loner, these were some of the most damaging things I could have watched, and I was IMMERSED in them. I'm in my mid-thirties and I'm STILL working out some of the kinks from this.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I agree with Bugbread and the others: Of course Phil's meticulously constructing a manipulative day with Rita is creepy, which is why it doesn't work. In fact, it's its failure -- along with his failure to save the old man, which, if memory serves me correctly (and goodness, I only watched it last Monday), begins just after he strikes out with Rita yet again, makes him abandon his attempts to manipulate events and instead improve himself. It's worth noting that Rita hardly sees him during the final day -- after his Chekov speech, it's Rita who asks him to a cup of coffee for a change, but he blows her off, having things to do -- but in the end sees him differently. Though I don't see it as her falling instantly in love with him; rather, the person that Phil is now has a chance with her.

Similarly, I think on some level even Say Anything's Lloyd is aware of how creepy the boom-box thing is -- he's portrayed as dealing with his anger and confusion in any number of sketchy adolescent ways, from recording a tough-guy monologue to hanging with the would-be PUAs outside the Gas'n'Sip, and after all, he is and adolescent -- which is why it's again significant that the gesture doesn't work. Like Phil, Lloyd succeeds in winning Diane's heart only after he grows up a bit and lets her go. (One of my favorite bits -- after he gets his nose broken by sparring partner Don "The Dragon" Wilson due to his shock at seeing her, he asks why she came back, and then immediately interrupts himself with "never mind, I don't care," a trope Renee Zellweger would call back to in Jerry Maguire.)

Cyrano, though; yeah, it's full of romantic poetry and all, but poor Roxanne gets the shaft in that movie. It is a tragedy, after all, and the tragedy is that Cyrano's guilt over Christian's death will not let him accept the love he knows he'd have if he granted her any agency at all.
posted by Gelatin at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


To elaborate - Many of these movies/shows (but not all!) star introverted loner male leads who fixate on a woman and then manipulate their entire world and self to obtain this woman as a prize. The things I learned from this can best be summarized as "sociopathic tendencies will lead to a less lonely life" - This is, of course, a gross simplification, but it really summarizes how bad of an idea that this really is. Unfortunately, if you are a lonely kid, many of these characters will seem entirely relatable - and the worst part is that it legitimizes lots of things that are really creepy. Trust me - As someone who attempted more than my share of "hijinks" inspired by these movies, they really don't ever work out well.

On the plus side, I did develop a keen power of observation and intuition, and a good ability to listen. The part I didn't figure out was to not let that guide me towards molding my entire reality and self towards one that would "win my prize," and I can't say the motivation behind those skills was exactly good.

I also feel like much of the "nice guy" narrative comes from these movies. So many of them involve these "misunderstood, nice, quirky" leads that are foiled by many of the masculine stereotypes - and they teach a lesson that the nice guy wins by sheer manipulation, more often than not, and the foils seem to always have some critical flaw that establishes them as "not a nice guy." The focus of this generally turns the lead into a saintly figure who "wins" by virtue of "not being a jerk" and "not like those other guys." This can go very bad as well, and it also fosters a "us vs them" attitude vs. anyone who may seem "stereotypically masculine."

I'm sure all of this has been covered to death elsewhere... but I've seen a lot of focus on PUAs and the "nice guy" narrative and the tokenization of love, but I rarely see any fingers pointing back towards these rom-com narratives.

The really frustrating thing about this (in retrospect) is that these movies were EVERYWHERE in some rather critical years of my youth, and due to the ways that they were rated, were generally more accessible than many other movies that may perhaps be more violent or "gritty" - but would possibly be more thoughtful storytelling (or at least a more fun watch in general) . If you were looking for something that wasn't purely a kids movie but wasn't R rated, you typically ended up with this dreck. Having friends who could sneak me into R rated movies or get bootleg copies to me was the beginning of my salvation in some ways - If nothing else, it gave me something to watch that wasn't fueling these ideas of "how to win at love."

(As an adult, I can honestly say that it at least gives me some truly hilarious and painful stories to relate, but that it wasn't worth the "everything else" that went with it)
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:44 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


By the way, I think Rostand absolutely lampshades how unfair the plot is to Roxanne, when in the final act she delivers a line to the effect of "I have loved only one man in my life, and now I have lost him twice."

In updating the play as a modern comedy, Steve Martin made exactly the right choice in having Roxanne, who after all is supposed to be as witty and clever as Cyrano, figure out that it was Charlie all on her own.
posted by Gelatin at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


A follow-up question: are there any romance films in which a character, after being spurned by his/her object of affection, wins them back without resorting to being creepy? Because I'm not sure that it's possible.

The Goodbye Girl. Though it's more wins her over than wins her back.
posted by Mchelly at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's damaging for young women to associate "real love" with a dude disrespecting your boundaries and desires, too. It primes them for abusive relationships. You learn that you should give men infinite chances, hold them to extremely low standards, and don't worry about it when you say "no" and they hear "try harder." Fifty Shades of Grey is at least targeted to adults--I watched so many of these movies before I was 13.
posted by almostmanda at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Last rant - Why on earth was the idea of "hey, you should just unexpectedly pop in!" such a prevalent one?! That was my biggest sin in my youth- I can't IMAGINE how creepy I must have seemed! My life would have been much different if the idea of "Maybe you should actually be considerate and perhaps call or at least take into account the life someone else lives" was popularized instead of "Hey, you should be SPONTANEOUS and just SHOW UP!"

(I'm done now, I'll save the rest for therapy.)
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:49 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


> "This is why I'm so confused about the level if vitriol piled onto 50 Shades for doing pretty much this exact same stuff."

OK no. It really isn't the exact same stuff at all.

Romantic comedies often depict over-the-top, stalker-like behavior as romantic, which is very problematic. 50 Shades of Gray, on the other hand, is literally a textbook on how to conduct an abusive relationship.

Some things that happen in the 50 Shades books:

- He makes her sign a Nondisclosure Agreement forbidding her from discussing their relationship with anyone.
- He gets angry at her whenever other men express romantic or sexual interest in her, even with a glance. Often he makes her apologize for it.
- He also makes her apologize for "making him angry". Many times.
- He alternates between savagely criticizing her intelligence and behavior and telling her she is more special to him than anyone else.
- When she goes to visit her mother in another state, he follows her.
- He gives her expensive gifts whenever he wants something from her (first edition books, clothes, CARS), and when she says she doesn't want them he refuses to listen.
- He also deposits tens of thousands of dollars into her bank account without asking or telling her. (She never gave him her bank account number; this is noted in the story.) When she protests, he basically tells her there's nothing she can do about it.
- He has sex with her, on several occasions, after she says she doesn't want to. At least once is arguably rape.
- He hires people to spy upon her.
- He sends a constant stream of personal e-mails to her or phones her whenever they are apart, even for five minutes, even if she is trying to work.
- Speaking of work, when she gets a job, he BUYS THE COMPANY SHE WORKS FOR and exercises direct control over its personnel management specifically to have more control over her.
- When he proposes after they've been dating a couple of weeks and she says she needs time to think about it, he browbeats her daily for an answer until she finally gives one.
- Incidentally, he keeps around photographs of all his exes in compromising positions specifically so he can blackmail them if he ever needs to.

There's much more. And all of it is presented as deeply romantic.
posted by kyrademon at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2015 [29 favorites]


Impressionable dudes shouldn't be allowed to watch grand gesture romantic comedies/shows until they're at least 25... Maybe 30.

No no no. This is the anti-creeping version of prohibition, or making sex education all about abstinence. You'd create legions of young guys trading black market chick flicks to learn their "secret techniques."
posted by exogenous at 9:10 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's much more. And all of it is presented as deeply romantic.

As well as being criticized for being poorly written and just generally unbelievable.
posted by Melismata at 9:10 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


He also makes her apologize for "making him angry". Many times.

I haven't read the book, though of course I've heard about the many ways (bravely summed up by kyrademon above) that it isn't really BDSM. That one tears it, though -- way to admit you aren't actually in control, there, Edward Christian.
posted by Gelatin at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's actually a little disconcerting just how many of these tropes come from movies which star John Cusack.

After getting dumped by your longtime girlfriend, go on a creepy tour (although with an admittedly awesome soundtrack) of 4 of you prior relationships asking them why you suck so much when it was actually your deicsion to break up with all of them, then prey on her emotional vulnerability to get back together at her dad's funeral - High Fidelity (John Cusack)
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:32 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Some things that happen in the 50 Shades books...

I'd bet good money that I could, if I had the time or inclination, find instances of all of these shitty things (or similar) happening in movies/tv shows that are generally accepted as "romantic." Not the exact same things, obviously, but things that are analogous.

I also understand that it's jarring to see so much bad behaviour displayed all in one story. But Hollywood has spent decades promoting rapey, stalkerish behaviour as evidence of true love. It's bad in all of these other movies, and it will be bad in 50 shades. I'm not trying to defend 50 Shades in the least when I say that the backlash against it in particular seems odd considering what have been the accepted norms in rom-coms/bodice rippers since at least I started consuming media.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:33 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


After getting dumped by your longtime girlfriend, go on a creepy tour (although with an admittedly awesome soundtrack) of 4 of you prior relationships asking them why you suck so much when it was actually your deicsion to break up with all of them, then prey on her emotional vulnerability to get back together at her dad's funeral - High Fidelity (John Cusack)

You are ruining a movie that I like with your correct observations.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nthing that the Groundhog Day stuff is meant to be creepy and there are parts where Rita knows something is up and does get creeped out. And in Freaks and Geeks, look at Lindsay's face, she is clearly like "Oh my god, I am so embarrassed for you right now" - it's not portrayed as creepy, but it doesn't really come off as a good idea either.

Also, public service announcement: everyone be sure to watch that clip from On the Town. It's pretty weird but Vera-Ellen is just the greatest.
posted by naoko at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2015


Phil manages to keep it together for a couple of weeks - he has made some genuinely good personal changes and learned some things about Rita - but it falls apart pretty quickly once he and Rita interact with each other in real life outside of the single tightly scripted scenario he's practiced several hundred times.

Ah... no... The time loop was not just several hundred times... While in the movie it was shown to be approximately 23 days, it was somewhere between 10 to 30/40 or even as many as 10,000 years.

In any of those ranges, Phil would actually end-up interacting with every person in the town, simply not to go batshit insane.

And that is what was shown in the end - he could empathise with everyone, because... He knew everyone and he became a genuinely better person... In the end, it wasn't about Rita at all, it was about Phil.
posted by jkaczor at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


> "I'd bet good money that I could, if I had the time or inclination, find instances of all of these shitty things (or similar) happening in movies/tv shows that are generally accepted as 'romantic.'"

I'm ... not nearly as sure. Some of it, definitely (unwanted expensive gifts, sure, even some of the really creepy ones like hiring someone to spy on them). I'm not denying that Hollywood romance promotes some appallingly stalky, rapey behavior, absolutely.

But I am *really* hard-pressed to think of a Hollywood movie presented as a romance where the heroine is whispering on the phone with her friends because her boyfriend might overhear and they want to see her but she isn't sure he will "let her go out". Where when she's alone in a room with her great love she is scanning the exits, including the window, in case she needs to run away. Where she flinches when he touches her. All this happens in the 50 Shades books, and it's all still presented as So Sexy. There are Hollywood films like that, but they aren't romances and have names like "Sleeping With The Enemy".

Of course, I guess it WILL be true of Hollywood movies once the 50 Shades movie comes out. :/
posted by kyrademon at 9:49 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


No 'Can't Buy Me Love'?

Where the main character literally blackmails the object of his affection into being his girlfriend?
posted by madajb at 9:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the main reason 50 Shades is singled out as particularly egregious is the sheer concentration of all those tropes together in one story, plus the terrible, terrible writing. A half-way decent writer can ease you into the creepy romantic gesture in such a way that you don't realize how creepy it is until after you've enjoyed it a little.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's probably some corollary to (MeFi's own!) John Scalzi's maxim that "the failure mode of 'clever' is 'asshole.'"
posted by Gelatin at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Where the main character literally blackmails the object of his affection into being his girlfriend?

To its credit, the movie is more complex than that (if still, at base, a shallow teen movie). Larval Dr McDreamy isn't particularly interested in Girl herself. He just wants to be in the popular clique, and her posing as his girlfriend is his ticket in. Then she kinda falls for him when he's being himself but he turns into a raging asshole so she outs him and runs away and then he learns to be not so much of an asshole.

Also, the movie features the AMARC boneyard and is therefore good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2015


It's weird, I guess, but I feel like Twilight crosses a line that Buffy doesn't. Twilight is clearly steeped in the author's cultural background, which involves among other things some very firm ideas about gender roles and marriage.

Buffy and Angel never get a happily-ever-after; they get a great romance but also a great tragedy and a lot of it comes out of just how messed up their lives are. I haven't followed the comics, but at least by the end of the show, they weren't together, and I don't think they're together right now, either. Buffy/Spike is an even better example of this. Even when things eventually work out, with such things, it's not happily-ever-after, because relationships between dysfunctional people are work--see also Veronica Mars. But Bella and Edward start out with the "completely messed up" and... end up happily married. With a baby. Who is apparently soul mate to their adult friend. And no evidence of author acknowledgement that they've got issues.

It's not just the grand gestures, because those are basically romance tropes--it's that thing with treating the girl as property even when the guy doesn't even know her, and then acting like that's just what one should be looking for in a future husband, rather than a thing which is fun in a story but not the life you really want. Buffy and Angel are a great romance, but Angel is not a good boyfriend, and I'm pretty sure everybody picked up on that the first time he, you know, turned evil again.
posted by Sequence at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hmmm, Cusack wasn't creepy to his love interest in Better Off Dead, at least that I can recall.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:02 AM on February 11, 2015


> Hmmm, Cusack wasn't creepy to his love interest in Better Off Dead, at least that I can recall.

I need to consider that one a bit... I've loved that movie, but I've learned that I need to really look at so many movies that I've loved from a more detached perspective.

Thinking back, that one seems not so bad as it is more like showing how trying to get the girl (or get her back, in this case) can fail miserably, especially if you are blind to what is in front of you - And the repeated "Would you mind if I asked out Beth?" and other bits seems to really have fun with how the world can seem when you have been dumped.

I have this fear that there's something that will seem really bad when held up to scrutiny regarding the Foreign Exchange Student Love Interest - but I can't really think of anything off hand. That's a good sign...

Here's hoping that this one hasn't also instilled some horrible value that I haven't really thought about, because that was one of my absolute favorite movies and I haven't seen it for some time. I didn't pick up anything like, say, thinking a sudden interest in camaros would fix my loneliness.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:15 AM on February 11, 2015


Hmmm, Cusack wasn't creepy to his love interest in Better Off Dead, at least that I can recall.

not to the girl he ended up with. I remember him being creepy as hell over Beth, though (although in a charming and wacky way).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on February 11, 2015


I'm hearing a lot about how these creepy movies have a substantive effect on the behavior of impressionable teens. How do people feel this is qualitatively different than violent movies or games?
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2015


No 'Can't Buy Me Love'?

Where the main character literally blackmails the object of his affection into being his girlfriend


It's not blackmail, literal or otherwise, and she pretends to be his girlfriend, which is a pretty important plot point. It's also shown to be a dishonest thing to do in the context of the film. It's been a while since I've seen it though so I'm sure there's something in it that's troubling. I don't think that particular point was displayed positively though.

Surely there's a difference between portraying a behaviour and condoning it, right? A lot of this creepy shit is outright displayed as creepy whereas sometimes it's made to look romantic, which is when it becomes problematic. (This might get fuzzy when directors/cinematographers make anything look cool, e.g. Tyler Durden)

Phil Connors is absolutely an immoral, self-centred dickhole in Groundhog Day. That's the point. But that's been covered already above (Or should we cover it over and over?).
posted by ODiV at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I'm hearing a lot about how these creepy movies have a substantive effect on the behavior of impressionable teens. How do people feel this is qualitatively different than violent movies or games?

I think all of them can be an influence. One major difference I see is that the romcoms (of the time) tended to feature quirky awkward loner leads that were infinitely more relate-able, whereas the more violent games/movies tended to not feature anyone that i could personally relate to - so it didn't really seem applicable in my life. [edited for typo]

I think there was also the problem solving perspective - Perhaps, if I was in a situation where I was trapped inside nakitomi plaza by a group of terrorists, then i would look to Die Hard for problem solving. As it was, I was romantically frustrated and lonely, and while there may have been other media and narratives I was immersed in, that was my primary problem, so I would naturally look to movies featuring those as a window into how these things could work - and there were plenty of them.

I think Die Hard would be a much more useful reference if I needed to draw upon movies for a specific scenario, frankly. "Shoot the glass" is much more useful than "Show up and interrupt an event to which you were not invited" and is less likely to get me hurt or killed. :)

I think the line between fantasy and reality is also much more solid in MOST violent games/movies. They are scenarios you are so removed from in your day-to-day life. It gets blurred a bit more when you are watching Awkward McQuirkypants win love and happiness in relatively mundane surroundings.

Something else that just popped in my head- one great turning point for me was watching Swingers. The answering machine scene was so cringeworthy and called out something I had done before and put it right there in front of me, with all of the awkwardness and bad effects that would actually happen.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I'm hearing a lot about how these creepy movies have a substantive effect on the behavior of impressionable teens. How do people feel this is qualitatively different than violent movies or games?

I'd say that, in general, even impressionable teens can suss out that it's wrong to murder people, even if you saw it in a movie or played it in a game. Whereas, they know that it's not wrong to be attracted to and pursue relationships with girls, but may not realize that the methods of doing so they are presented with are very bad approaches. Of course, the patriarchal culture which allows those representations to be normalized is also responsible for messages of violent masculinity. However, I don't think it's as subtle and insidious as the stalkerly behavior in rom-coms.

For instance, a young teen might well say "Hey, maybe we can sneak in to Ultra Violent Action Man 3 with my brother's older friends! The dude just cold shoots up a whole restaurant, it's supposed to be amazing!" and then mime a machine gun, which could be concerning. It's been a while, but I don't remember hearing anyone say, "Hey, let's try to get in to Nice Guy Makes Good. Apparently the dude just manipulatively takes what he wants from women, awesome!"
posted by gilrain at 10:40 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


You summarized what I was trying to say a bit better, Gilrain.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:42 AM on February 11, 2015


Wasn't Duckie from Pretty in Pink originally going to "get the girl" with his creepy routine and then that was changed because it tested poorly? Or is that just an urban legend?

(guess I could look it up)
posted by ODiV at 10:44 AM on February 11, 2015


Wasn't Duckie from Pretty in Pink originally going to "get the girl" with his creepy routine and then that was changed because it tested poorly? Or is that just an urban legend?

The urban legend I heard was that Molly Ringwald somehow convinced John Hughes to change the ending. Its phoniness was obvious, I thought, in the wordless scene in which another girl shows interest in Duckie. I hated that ending.

However it happened, Hughes would see the story better served in its gender-flip version, Some Kind of Wonderful, which ends the way it ought to.
posted by Gelatin at 10:48 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually saw How Do You Know, in the theaters, though I can't recall why, because I generally hate romcom. I walked out very frustrated that the lead wound up pairing with the nebbish having a nervous breakdown. For one thing, she had some career issues to work out and nebbish had family stress to work out before either of them was in any shape to provide emotional support to the other, and for another, they had no chemistry at all. Why couldn't the happy ending be our heroine deciding that she was good being single for a while instead of having to pick either the guy who was completely emotionally inaccessible or the guy who was a needy emotional black hole. But, it was a romcom, and all romcoms must end in a pairing. Eugh.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


(For what it's worth, Wikipedia supports the "test audiences disapproved" version.) /lookeditup
posted by Gelatin at 10:50 AM on February 11, 2015


...holy cats, Gina Gershon was in Pretty in Pink? I had totally forgotten -- or more likely, never realized.
posted by Gelatin at 10:52 AM on February 11, 2015


This list is a mix of stuff that's not intended to be creepy but is [...] and stuff that is totally intended to be creepy or misguided [...] Listfail methinks.

No kidding. I feel like I've seen versions of this list forever, and there are a bunch of obvious examples they could have used like:
  • You've Got Mail: Destroy her small business with your megacorp so she has no option but to turn to you.
  • Amelie: Gaslight him like whoa. (Disclaimer: I still really love Amelie.)
  • What Women Want: Read women's minds, lie to their faces.
  • Only You: Be an insane person who values "signs" above "actually meeting a guy you like."
And so on.

(And on the "intended to be creepy side" you're got stuff like My Best Friend's Wedding, which did miserably because America wasn't ready for Julia Roberts to play the scheming villian yet.)
posted by psoas at 11:06 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thinking more about sociopathic tendencies - I would love to see a list of romcom movies broken down into two groups - One in which the leads fit established criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder (which is the closest to an official definition of sociopathy I can find), and all the others. The more I think about it, the more we have characters where nothing is ever their fault, who are able to quickly form relationships with no insight into how long they last, and who do not care about the consequences of their actions.

I only have the Wikipedia entry to go by, but I believe the referenced criteria is accurate.

Especially interesting to me:
> Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them

I've always wondered about what happens "afterwards" in these movies (which is one of the reasons that I absolutely loved "Before Midnight" - It had a very honest and realistic depiction of how that could be, and really contrasted yet complemented the idealism of the prior two)
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure Phil from Groundhog Day gets himself killed within a few days, having long since lost any self-preservation instinct.
posted by ODiV at 11:16 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can remember seeing a lot of these kinds of Grand Romantic Gestures in the movies as a kid, and feeling worse about myself because I wasn't capable of anything like that.
posted by Flexagon at 11:21 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "not to the girl he ended up with. I remember him being creepy as hell over Beth, though (although in a charming and wacky way)."

Yeah, I was thinking of Monique, not Beth. Still, he doesn't really *do* anything to Beth, does he? He buys her a teddy bear, which he ends up not giving her, and he challenges Roy to ski the K12 to impress her, but that's about it? He mostly just mopes around.

Fun fact: Amanda Wyss, who played Beth, played Brad's girlfriend in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:22 AM on February 11, 2015


Well, Hoops (Cusack) in One Crazy Summer invites the entire island of Nantucket to Cassandras concert without her permission, along the way destroying someone's Ferrari, tries to steal another guys girlfriend, gets a dog and several lobsters killed, steals an expensive movie prop, lies about his basketball prowess all while enacting weird revenge fantasies via comic doodles.
posted by remlapm at 12:00 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


demiurge: I think The Shop Around The Corner is a good example of a Romantic Comedy with minimal creepiness -- mostly misunderstandings and normal human weakness.
Did anyone else misread this as...
remlapm: Name a mysterious plant that appeared during a solar eclipse after your crush; murder her dentist boyfriend and feed the corpse to the plant.
OK, it's not just me.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am sure Cusack also did awful things in The Sure Thing but I don't remember them and am perfectly fine with that.
posted by Mchelly at 12:24 PM on February 11, 2015


(the not remembering them, that is)
posted by Mchelly at 12:24 PM on February 11, 2015


Potomac Avenue: Movies where one romantic lead wins over other romantic lead in non-creepy way. So far I've got: 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
Since you didn't specify romance movies, most horror flicks qualify.

Don't know about you, but if some chick risked her own life saving me from a slithering mound of horror, I'm gonna reciprocate some affection at least long enough to roll the credits.

--

But in rom-coms, there's a movie I can't recall the name of where high school newspaper reporter cheerleader-type goes undercover at another school as a male transfer student (magical Step 2 was never explained). She's aiming for the coup-de-grace story to complete her 4.0/cheerleading captain winning streak.

Unable to fit in with the regular dudes (the new kid won't even pee at the urinals), she ends up pigeonholed with the weirdo outsider who doesn't even get along with the nerds.

Eventually she decides she wants it to be more than just friends, and kisses him - oops, in public, before revealing her secret to him. To remedy that last bit, she corners him and flashes her proofs.

He remains angry, and explains sarcastically to the jeering peers outside, "It's OK; she's got boobs" .

She hits paydirt when she publishes her story, comes back IRL as herself, and has a heartfelt about what it is in him that she loves.

TL/DR: girl wins boy with sincere praise. And a great rack.

Still not a great learning scenario, necessarily, but not from the creep factor. The movie is actually about the popular girl learning that the people she ignores are sometimes the interesting ones.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:39 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Just One of the guys"

My first set of on screen boobs. She's also in her 20s and seduces a minor.

*edit* she's 19? But dating a college guy? Dunno, only cared about the "reveal" at the prom the 1,317 times I watched it.
posted by remlapm at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am sure Cusack also did awful things in The Sure Thing but I don't remember them and am perfectly fine with that.

the entire reason he was going cross-country was to hook up with a girl his buddy was setting him up with at a frat party.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on February 11, 2015


> Something else that just popped in my head- one great turning point for me was watching Swingers. The answering machine scene was so cringeworthy

The answering machine scene in Swingers is probably the most nightmarish thing I've ever seen in a movie. Horror movies or whatever? Pfft, just make-believe, but that? I never did anything that stupid and awful and pitiful when I was an idiotic single guy, but I came pretty close a couple of times.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:59 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Having heard bits about it for years but never actually seeing it before, I first watched Pretty in Pink as an adult, fully expecting to end up feeling like Ducky was robbed. But I didn't. It's not like he was quietly pining for her and didn't know how to ask, he made himself pretty clear and she clearly turned him down repeatedly.
posted by ckape at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2015


The novelezation of PiP( presumably based on the screenplay) has Andie winding up with Duckie.

What annoyed me is that pet shop guy was attracted to Iona's quirkiness and she thinks that she needs to turn herself into a Nancy Reagan clone.
posted by brujita at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding the "Fifty Shades of Grey is basically the same as other romances, just with BDSM. They're all pretty much equally bad" thing, how many Cusack movies have Cusack break into the room of someone he thinks is breaking up with them and rape them, saying "If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you"?
posted by Bugbread at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


the entire reason he was going cross-country was to hook up with a girl his buddy was setting him up with at a frat party.

A girl who, he's told, is totally into it. Once he meets her and realizes that hey, she's an individual with a personality, he realizes that maybe the "no questions asked, no strings attached, sure thing" isn't what he really wants.

It's been a while since I've seen it, but as romcoms go it scores pretty low on the skeeziness, I think.
posted by Lexica at 2:27 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am shocked that this list (well any film list really) does not feature the 1991 award winning musical romance film "Cool as Ice"

The Hero of the film, Johnny Van Owen, breaks into the love interest's bedroom to wake her up, always a classy move.

"Drop that zero and get with the hero"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering of True Romance counts as a rom-com where the principles don't engage in skeezy /stalker type behaviour toward ech other . . ?
posted by Faintdreams at 3:59 PM on February 11, 2015


Potomac Avenue: "New list request: Movies where one romantic lead wins over other romantic lead in non-creepy way. So far I've got: 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up."

It's been a while since I've seen it, but another movie in the Apatow-verse that I think matches is Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If I recall correctly, Jason Segel isn't creepy at all towards Mila Kunis and is only stalker-y by accident by showing up at the resort where Kristen Bell is staying.
posted by mhum at 5:27 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My Kate & Leopold rant: I have never left a movie theater so pissed about a movie in my life. That ending absolutely ruined it. They should have gone with the ultimate cliche -- she runs into a modern day version of Leopold after the vortex disappears and Leopold spots a his era Kate just as he starts to speak. The time travel bit was just so incredibly stupid. And I can't believe I'm still pissed about this 14 years later.
posted by bluesapphires at 5:50 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Correction: I misremembered the end of Roxanne. She doesn't figure out that Charlie is the one writing her the letters on her own; Shelley Duvall's character (in the best-friend role Le Bret has in the play) tips her off.
posted by Gelatin at 5:16 AM on February 12, 2015


Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I think we just figured out the appeal of the Apatow films. For all the criticism about irresponsible man-boys in those films, at least those guys never stalk or grand romantic gesture anyone. Quite the opposite in 40 YO Virgin, all the pick-up advice fails, and just being genuine and honest is the big climatic scene. It's a myth, sure, but it's way more realistic and positive than that Love Actually garbage.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2015


Potomac Avenue: Quite the opposite in 40 YO Virgin, all the pick-up advice fails, and just being genuine and honest is the big climatic scene.
Oh, wow: I just realized Disney's Aladdin does this too, and is therefore a better love story (in RL terms) than 99% of romcoms.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:14 AM on February 13, 2015


> "I haven't read the book, though of course I've heard about the many ways ... that it isn't really BDSM. That one tears it, though ..."

I didn't even mention the part where she uses a safeword and he gets mad at her for it and takes it as a personal affront and never asks if she's OK.

And then she has to apologize to him for using a safeword.
posted by kyrademon at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bugbread, I don't think anyone is equating traditional rom-coms with FS0G, we're just saying that they're in their own category of "uneasy in retrospect".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on February 13, 2015


EmpressCallipygos: "Bugbread, I don't think anyone is equating traditional rom-coms with FS0G"

My comment was just in response to this comment:

sparklemotion: "This is why I'm so confused about the level if vitriol piled onto 50 Shades for doing pretty much this exact same stuff."
posted by Bugbread at 3:50 PM on February 13, 2015


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