What’s your favourite scene in Love Actually? Wait, don’t tell us: it’s the one in which Andrew Lincoln turns up at Keira Knightley’s house to silently declare his undying love for her, isn’t it? We knew it. But you might want to reconsider, because according to a new study published by gender and sexuality expert Julia R. Lippman from the University of Michigan, women who watch films featuring men engaging in “stalker-like” behaviour are more likely to accept obsessive behaviour from their own prospective partners.
I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You looked at women’s reponses to questions about obsessive romantic behaviour after they’d watched a series of films depicting “romantic pursuit” in different ways. The films included There’s Something About Mary– in which Ben Stiller’s character hires a private detective to track down his high school crush, as played by Cameron Diaz- and Management, which involves Steve Zahn obsessively hounding Jennifer Aniston’s character.
Lippman said that: “After watching excerpts from one of these six films, participants completed a series of survey measures, including one that assessed their endorsement of stalking myths. Stalking myths are false or exaggerated beliefs about stalking that minimise its seriousness, which means that someone who more strongly endorses these tends to take stalking less seriously.”
Basically, those films that conceal stalker-like behaviour in a romantic shroud of rose petals and champagne (or placards and a stereo, in the case of Andrew Lincoln’s Love Actually character) could be causing women to inadvertently accept weird, obsessive tendencies in their own partners.
“These movies can encourage women to discount their instincts,” Lippman told Canada’s Global News. “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,” she added. “Even though, of course, it doesn’t. Love is great, but so is respect for other people.”
When you think about it, some of the greatest love stories of our time (maybe that’s subjective) have a slightly unnerving stalker-ish plot point. Take Aladdin. He meets Jasmine in the market and then uses the power of a magical genie to woo her. Not before following her around on a flying carpet. Then there’s Beauty and the Beast, in which Belle is held captive by the Beast before they fall in love. Thanks, Disney.
But it’s not just Disney, of course. As well as the Hollywood films already mentioned, Bollywood movies are also known to show a man’s somewhat aggressive pursuit of his female love interest. In fact, a 32-year old Indian man in Australia, who was accused of stalking two women, escaped prison when his lawyer argued that his behaviour was a result of a Bollywood obsession. As reported in the Hindustan Times, “[The man’s lawyer] told the court it was “quite normal behaviour” for Indian men to follow women in a similar way and Baliga did not realise his actions could be classed as criminal.”
Andrew Lincoln has even criticised his own Love Actually character, telling The Wrap: “He is a stalker. That was my question to [director] Richard Curtis: ‘Do you not think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’
“And [Richard] said: ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be alright.'”
Hmmm. Looks like romcoms are out for Valentine’s Day, then.