Julia Roberts tries to sabotage her best mate’s relationship, and claim the groom for herself, in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Meg Ryan hires an investigator, and hacks police records to track down Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle. Andrew Lincoln hordes footage of Keira Knightley, and then betrays his best friend, to declare his love for her in Love Actually. Sandra Bullock literally pretends to be in a relationship with a man in a coma, while she falls for his brother, in While You Were Sleeping. And John Cusack essentially stalks the woman he wants in Say Anything.
It’s fair to say that the classics of the romantic comedy genre relied on some pretty problematic storylines to lure us into the cinema. The gender dynamics are troubling. The glorification of creepy behaviour, dressed up as romance, is toxic. The concept of a healthy relationship is deeply flawed. These films probably taught at least a generation of us that a grand romantic gesture, preferably one that infringes a woman’s freedom or right to privacy, is a pre-requisite for love. It’s a certified mess.
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