- Some of the ways male characters behave in romantic films is worrisome.
- It normalises things that should be cause for alarm if they happened in real life.
Films are unrealistic for plenty of reasons. But one that stands out is the way things like relationships and sex are idealised on the silver screen.
The normal rules of life don’t seem to apply to the above averagely good-looking characters. More worryingly, there is a habit in society to grow up thinking that there is something attractive about a dark, tortured soul, according to psychotherapist Perpetua Neo.
“In movies where the behaviours of male protagonist are not cool, we think it’s ok because it’s so sweet, it’s love,” she told Business Insider. “Because its wrapped up in a cute ball of fuzz or a hot man — we think it’s acceptable.”
An article on Bustle highlighted 17 characters in films who are lusted after. In each, the male protagonist is seen as something everyone should aspire to want — or be — but in reality their behaviours range from creepy to downright dangerous.
Those who watch these films are often young and impressionable, and so they may grow up thinking that things like waking up to a pale, brooding man in their room is not cause for alarm, but for wedding bells.
These are some of the examples the article gave:
- Noah in “The Notebook,” who dangles in front of Allie on a ferris wheel and threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t go on a date with him.
- Edward in “Twilight,” hundreds of years old, who sneaks into a teenage girl’s bedroom to watch her sleep.
- Tristan in “Stardust,” who kidnaps a woman, only to later fall in love with her.
- Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail,” who hides his identity from his crush, basically catfishing her into thinking he isn’t her worst enemy (he is.)
- Westley in “The Princess Bride,” who lies about his identity, and even physically abuses the woman he’s supposed to love.
- Jim Preston in “Passengers,” who wakes up a woman, and sentences her to death, just because he fancies her.
According to Neo, these idealisations of weird behaviour are setting up young people to accept it as normal.
“Then, when it happens in real life, people find it romantic too,” Neo said. “They think this is what a man in love looks like.”
Normalising strange behaviour is dangerous
Any of the behavious listed above could be major red flags for entering a relationship with someone manipulative, abusive, or even psychopathic.
Abusers often go for highly empathetic people, because they know they will get the most out of them before they eventually discard them. Once they have drained their supply, they leave their victim without energy, self-esteem, and sometimes even finances.
Through something called coercive control, they make their victims feel sorry for them, and insidiously condition them over time to act in a certain way.
“Coercive control is something that describes emotionally abusive behaviour,” Neo told Business Insider. “As women, we explain away everything. We say he’s got a reason why he does things, for instance his ex girlfriends before me, they cheated on him. Or his father abandoned him.”
She says victims of coercive control say to themselves: “Because I know all their stories, I feel really sad for them. What can I do to minimise their pain?
Instead, Neo says, you shouldn’t make excuses for behaviour that makes you uncomfortable, scared, or isolated. You shouldn’t live that way, she says, and instead find someone who isn’t going to be jealous, a stalker, or abusive towards you.
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