We love romantic comedies. We’re getting to the chapter of our lives where Friday nights are no longer a packed diary of leaving work, showering, HAIR, make-up, pre-drinking, last minute offy dash, taxi to a house party/restaurant/bar. Nope, instead we’re cocooning ourselves in flannel pyjamas, WhatsApping all relevant parties that we’re feeling peaky, and watching Dumb Movies horizontal. There is nothing like a rom-com and a night in to salve the frazzled soul. However, these comfort celluloid blankets might not be so good for the brain. Especially if they feature a man with an alpha male tendency towards pursuit.
A team of researchers at the University of Michigan have found that romantic comedies where men showcase obsessive behaviour can affect women’s perceptions of acceptable behaviour and make this sort of carry on normal, as opposed to creepy and dangerous. Think stalking, showing up at someone’s workplace, following them to the airport, crashing a date, the usual plotlines found in rom coms. Romanticised for the screen, yet brimming with unnerving potential.
The report, called I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You, questioned women about ‘aggressive’ romantic behaviour after they watched movies with romantic themes. There’s Something About Mary was one of the movies participants viewed – Ben Stiller’s character hires a PI to follow Cameron Diaz’s Mary. Women who watched these movies were more likely to tolerate obsessiveness from potential partners and take stalking incidents less seriously.
Meanwhile, women who were shown films like Enough or Sleeping With The Enemy – both plots deal with women leaving abusive partners – had a very low tolerance for Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually shenanigans.
Julia R Lippmann, one of the gender studies experts behind the survey, is quoted in The Guardian as saying that the prevalence of such strong-willed men getting the gal in movies “can encourage women to discount their instincts. This is a problem because research shows that instincts can serve as powerful cues to help keep us safe. At their core, all these films are trading in the ‘love conquers all’ myth. Even though, of course, it doesn’t. Love is great, but so is respect for other people.”
Next time you see a hero with a sense of entitlement chasing a gal who’s not really into him, remind yourself that unfettered arrogance and entitlement do not an IRL finer make.