Rom-coms Glamorize Stalking for Frequent Watchers

Kristen Catterson, Editor of Global

Romantic comedies championed the movie industry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, especially among women. The films often illustrate a man and woman overcoming obstacles to ultimately fall for each other in a dramatic fashion that leaves movie-goers with a feeling of satisfaction. Grand gestures and sensitive line deliveries complement each other to create an epic love story most long for. However, this romantic behavior can often romanticize and create a tolerance for stalking.

An article published by The Atlantic highlights creepy behavior by men in popular romance films. For example, Ted in “There’s Something About Mary” hires a private investigator to track down his crush. Lloyd from “Say Anything” arrives at the female lead’s window to “woo her with song” after being rejected earlier that day. 

These movies not only show examples of stalking but also paint the practice in a positive light. The male stalkers are shown to be sensitive, shy, and capable of “grand gesturing” to show their love. If someone paid a professional to actively track me, I would be much more inclined to contact the authorities than to agree to a relationship. 

According to a study conducted by Julia Lippman from the University of Michigan, “women who watched films featuring persistent romantic pursuit…were more likely to accept so-called stalking myths than those who watched films depicting frightening male aggression.” Women who watch movies that idealize stalking are more likely to tolerate the signs of stalking in real life. Conversely, if stalking is depicted as frightening or terrifying, women may detect the signs of stalking easily due to the negative representation on screen. 

The aforementioned study included 426 women who watched one of six movies divided into three categories: a rom-com where stalking is depicted negatively, one where it is positive, and a nature documentary. The controls were followed by a survey, which asked whether women agreed with certain stalking myths, such as “many alleged stalking victims are actually people who played hard to get and changed their minds afterward.” 

Women who watched the negative movie were less likely to agree with the myths, while those who watched the romanticized stalking film tended to agree more. 

CNN highlights that many believe these movies aren’t actually depicting stalking because the men ultimately believe the women will love them back if they do so. Watchers will tend to categorize the practice as more of a romantic gesture than aggressive action. However, this “counter argument isn’t at all compelling, considering that plenty of stalkers believe that, too.” 

Stalking is actually more common than most may believe. Approximately 13.5 million people are stalked per year in America alone, and 80% are performed by people the victim knows. Different stalkers can include rejected, predatory, incompetent suitor, resentful, intimacy-seeker, political, and hitman stalkers. 

While rom-coms can inflict feelings of nostalgia and gooey uber-romantic wishes, they can also alter womens’ minds to accept and tolerate stalking. Remember to stay alert and careful when adventuring out in public. The next time you watch a rom-com, remember to ask yourself if you would tolerate the behavior depicted if it were happening to you. 

“‘Men are socialized to be persistent and women are socialized to be flattered by it,’” said Lippman to The Huffington Post“‘We’re taught that we should want this from men, that it means we’re desirable. And who doesn’t want to be desirable?’” 

Image from Mike Chaput on