Why 'Sleepless In Seattle' Actually Is The Most Toxic Rom-Com Ever

by S. Atkinson
TriStar Pictures

Yes, Sleepless In Seattle boasts two of the '90s most talented rom-com thespians, and it was co-written by real life word witch Nora Ephron. All the same, sorry to say, Sleepless In Seattle is the most toxic rom-com ever. It features (in no particular order): an argument being made for treating perfectly nice romantic partners/potential partners like trash; advocating for choosing a voice on the radio instead of the guy you've been in a relationship with for a long time; and, oh yeah, a weirdly supportive attitude toward stalking.

Wait, you say. The unforgettable Meg Ryan rom-com has a 72 percent Rotten Tomato rating. It's a '90s cult classic that people are still tweeting about almost a quarter of a century later. And, sure, all of this is true. The movie is charming as hell. However, that doesn't mean its morals are in the right place.

Let's start with Walter. He's set up as the guy we're meant to eye roll at. He's the one obstacle in the way of Annie finding true love. But what exactly is so bad about the Baltimore Sun reporter's fiancé? The dude can't dance. He's got intense amount of allergies. Oh, yeah, also, he's hopelessly devoted to Annie. If this is really all the film can come up with to make us hate Bill Pullman's character, this sucks.

But OK, maybe Annie's just not feeling it, and, in that case, she should set this complete keeper free so he can go pursue his happily ever after with someone who's as crazy about him as Annie clearly is about tragic widowers on the radio. Does the blonde set him free? Spoiler alert: No. If we're being really technical about it, she starts engaging in the affair long before they break up. She hires a private detective to investigate Sam. She even goes to visit his house. Guys, this isn't infidelity, but it's definitely edging into that territory.

Can we now take a second to consider the one way Sam absolutely is Annie's soulmate? Like Annie and Walter, Sam is also not very nice to Victoria, the woman he briefly dates. Her crime against humanity? She's really into Sam, basically. She's a little nervous, she laughs too long at the architect's jokes, and her laugh is a bit weird. This makes both Sam and his son physically cringe. Let's not lie. A rom-com about Walter and Victoria getting together after being brutally jilted by their partners is the rom-com you know would be a thousand times healthier than this one.

So, what is the model of love that the movie offers up as the ideal? Listen to a guy spilling his guts on the radio. Fall obsessively head over heels from nothing more than his voice and his words. Write a letter proposing that you two complete strangers meet at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day. Ignore all professional journalism ethics and use your work computer to look up his home address. Travel across the country to go hang around outside his house. Convince your fiancee to take you to New York on Valentine's Day so you can go meet the stranger you're infatuated with. If you swapped up the soundtrack here to something a touch less schmaltzy, as the trailer above proves, Sleepless In Seattle would be a horror movie.

There are plenty of great things about the film, as long as viewers refrain from ever, ever watching it as a guide to healthy relationships. Boundaries are a good thing, not an obstacle in the way of true, magical love. A guy who thinks the sun shines out of his partner's ass doesn't have to be automatically dismissed as not worth a person's time. Lying to your fiancee and stringing him on is always a crappy thing to do, even if you're in a rom com. And if falling in love with a hot voice on the radio was A Thing, the whole world would be married to the late night DJ on any jazz channel.

Sleepless in Seattle is one of the classic '90s rom-coms; that will always be true. But it's a case study in toxic relationships, and that's true, too.