17 Romantic Movie "Heroes" Who Actually Sexually Harassed The Heroine
The same rules and common courtesies that might dictate human interactions in the real world don't apply when it comes to rom-coms and other love-filled movies. What is creepy, predator behavior IRL becomes romantic when done by Hugh Grant on the big screen. In fact, these 17 romantic movie "heroes" who actually sexually harassed the heroines in their films prove that it's a disturbing trend in the romance genre. Not only do movies about love make devotion seem all-important, they also tend to romanticize toxic, possessive, and frankly scary behavior.
First things first: Romantic movie heroes very rarely actually assault the objects of their affection. These are not protagonists guilty of violent assault, nor are their intentions necessarily to harass their female counterparts. These 17 romantic movie heroes are almost all acting out of love, but that just makes their sexual harassment even more appalling. Movies have a way of disguising sexual harassment as romantic, like when Edward Cullen sneaks into Bella's room to watch her sleep at night in Twilight. Young viewers watching might think it's sweet how desperate he is to be close to her. After all, who doesn't want to believe in a love so strong that it transcends reasonable human boundaries? But the truth is, these romantic movie "heroes" all actually partake in forms of sexual harassment.
1Noah — 'The Notebook'
Noah might be the best romantic hero of the new millennium, and yet even he stepped into creepy harassment territory when he threatened to kill himself if Allie didn't go out with him. A bold and charming move to some, but to others a manipulative and worrying act of crazy.
2Benjamin Braddock — 'The Graduate'
On Benjamin Braddock's first date with Elaine, he takes her to a burlesque club and watches as she is brought to tears by the entire situation. And when she runs out crying, he insists on continuing their date. Not only does he completely disregard her feelings from the start, he later whisks her away from her wedding despite having nothing to offer her. His love isn't romantic, it's possessive.
3Edward — 'Twilight'
Edward Cullen is a deadly vampire who sneaks into a teenage girl's bedroom at night to watch her sleep and stalks her around town. None of this is romantic — it's downright terrifying.
4Tristan Thorn — 'Stardust'
Like all best real life romantics, Tristan starts off his Stardust romance by kidnapping the woman he later falls in love with. Stockholm syndrome, anyone?
5Mark — 'Love Actually'
There are a few extra creepy and alarming things to point out about Mark from Love Actually. First, he's a total stalker, obsessive to the point of delusion. Second, if you think about that wedding video he had that was just shots of Juliet, the only conclusion to be made is that he edited his footage. Let me be clear: Mark went through his entire wedding footage and put together a two-minute video comprised only of lingering shots of Juliet to, one assumes, keep around for his personal collection.
5Kevin — '27 Dresses'
From the very beginning, Kevin is a creep who only wants to get close to Jane to further his career and turn her into a public figure without her knowledge or consent. But, he also exhibits certain stalker-ish behavior, like writing his name and number down on every page of her planner and taking a job as her sister's wedding reporter.
6Anakin Skywalker — 'Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones'
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker is supposed to be Padmé's Jedi protection — a professional relationship. Instead, he spends his time making awkward passes at her and desperately declaring his love and inability to protect her. It might be true love, but, damn, is it annoying.
7Joe Fox — 'You've Got Mail'
Once Joe Fox learns his email crush is really Kathleen Kelly, he doesn't tell her who he is, but instead decides to befriend her (by inviting himself into her apartment) and lie to her. It's a huge betrayal of trust and extremely violating.
8Catcher Block — 'Down With Love'
Catcher Block is the ultimate seducer in Down With Love, but, just like other romantic heroes, he has a problem with stalking. He also has a problem with lying about his identity to get close to a woman and desperately trying to manipulate her into sleeping with him under false pretenses.
9Westley — 'The Princess Bride'
In an effort to get Buttercup to prove she still loves him, Westley lies about his identity, manhandles her... and slaps her. He is legitimately abusive, and it's not OK.
10Jake — 'Sweet Home Alabama'
Jake's outright refusal to sign divorce papers despite not having seen his estranged wife, Melanie, for years isn't romantic, it's possessive. He holds onto his marriage despite the fact that he wants to do no work to actually get Melanie back. It's love as ownership. And if that's Jake's version of love, then Melanie was probably better off without him.
11Jim Preston — 'Passengers'
Jim Preston literally sentences a woman he's never met to death so that he can date her. If that's not sexually predatory and harassment, then I don't know what is.
12Ronny Cammareri — 'Moonstruck'
Ronny's persistence in Moonstruck set the bar for devotion in romantic movies, but coupled with his dramatics, it's actually kind of intimidating and frightening.
13Ted — 'There's Something About Mary'
There's Something About Mary is literally a movie about a ton of men who are so obsessed with one woman they start stalking her separately and then together. Sure, Ted might be the purest hearted of the bunch, but he's also been stalking Mary the longest, so...
14John Beckwith — 'Wedding Crashers'
After striking out with Claire at the wedding, John convinces Jeremy to follow the Cleary family home in a desperate attempt to seal the deal. It's not only predatory, it's terrifying and seriously disturbing on multiple levels.
15Sebastian — 'Cruel Intentions'
Sebastian is another character not accustomed to hearing the word "no." His incessant and persistent sexual pursuit of both Annette and Kathryn despite their refusals is not OK, at all.
16Lloyd — 'Say Anything'
Blasting music in the middle of the night in an effort to get your ex to take you back is probably not the sign of a healthy relationship, even if it's John Cusack holding the boombox.
17Rocky — 'Rocky'
Rocky's first date with Adrian is extremely disturbing. He invites her up to his apartment and won't stop until she agrees. He then proceeds to undress, dismiss her pleas to call her brother, and ignore her discomfort at being alone with a man in his apartment (despite her telling him so). And then, when she tries to leave, he physically intimidates her and traps her in a corner before finally kissing her. Rocky might be a classic sports movie, but it's also about how a man can turn a "no" into a "yes" just by being slightly charming and large. No thank you.
To some audiences, romantic films are obvious flights of fancy, but growing up bombarded with images of sexual harassment disguised as romantic gestures runs the risk of normalizing sexual assault. A study by Julia Lippman of the University of Michigan, via The Atlantic, posited that romantic comedies that glorify the chase could normalize the idea of stalking as a manifestation of love. Based on the 17 movies above, I'd say they already have.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.