What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you? Did someone hire a private detective to painstakingly track you down after a years of estrangement, or pretend to be someone else for weeks on end and, after you found out and told them to shove it, pose as a waiter to infiltrate your engagement party? Because if your answer is along those lines, it’s entirely possible you’ve been watching too many rom-coms.
A recent study by The University of Michigan has found that women who watch romantic comedies are more likely to accept male behaviour that, in the cold light of day, if we’re being honest with ourselves, constitutes stalking. Professor Julia R. Lipmman asked participants to watch excerpts of rom-coms, dark psychological dramas and nature documentaries and then asked them questions about aggressive romantic behaviour.
The report is called I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You. Lippman said: “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.” She added, rather curtly: “At their core, all these films are trading in the ‘love conquers all’ myth. Even though, of course, it doesn’t. Love is great, but so is respect for other people.”
Do our favourite romantic heroes display “respect for other people”? Or are they self-centred sociopaths with such massive egos, who feel so entitled their own happiness at the cost of other people’s, that they doggedly, single-mindedly pursue the objects of their affections to extents that normal, well-adjusted types such as you and I would consider “a bit much”? Readers, you know the answer: here are 10 romantic heroes who were actually massive stalkers.
Oh, hey, we dated briefly 15 years ago and I wondered if you would be interested in helping me overcome a mid-life crisis? Literally the least tempting offer imaginable – but not to Rob’s (John Cusack) ex-girlfriends in this Nick Hornby adaptation. Let’s not even get into the bit where Rob stands outside Charlie’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) house in the rain while she and her new boyfriend do the nasty.
Yes, John (Owen Wilson) and his rubber-faced pal Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) adopt fake personas so they can crash weddings and trick the female guests into bed. Adorable! Yet when one guest, Claire (Rachel McAdams), falls for John – and he for her – he must continue the ruse or risk losing her. But, oh dear, she finds out and thinks he’s a fucking psychopath of the highest order. If someone snuck into your engagement party – the second happiest day of your life – to win you over, you would hire a bodyguard, not leave your prospective spouse for said sneak.
How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
In a twist on the old ‘rushing to the airport’ thing, Ben (pre-McConaissance Matthew McConaughey) leaps on a motorbike and tears through San Francisco, chasing a taxi containing the woman he loves, Andie (Kate Hudson). He nearly ploughs into a bus, bobs and weaves in an out of dozens of cars – risking countless deaths – and aggressively punches her taxi window. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” she asks. “If that’s what it takes, yeah!” he screams back, manically. Get that guy an ASBO and a speed awareness course.
While You Were Sleeping
The University of Michigan study looked at women who go giddy for a bit of light stalking, but of course that’s not the whole story in rom-com land, where the female of the species can be more deadly than the male. He’s a man in a coma, she’s a stranger who lies to his devastated family and pretends to be his fiancé. Yes, Lucy’s (Sandra Bullock) behaviour is unacceptable, but on the other hand she gets to marry his brother, so, on balance, worth it?
A less well-remembered rom-com, this ropey 1987 outing stars Goldie Hawn as a woman with amnesia and Kurt Russell as the love-struck man who manipulates her into believing that she’s his wife. Remember our wonderful wedding day, dear? No mate, no-one does, it didn’t happen. Get help.
50 First Dates
Amnesia: a fertile source of romantic hilarity. Lucy (Drew Barrymore) is a woman with short-term memory loss, who lives on an island near Hawaii. Henry (Adam Sandler) is an opportunist who lives on the same island near Hawaii. It was fate, wasn’t it, that these two would come together. They share a first date that, of course, she doesn’t remember, so he repeats the date 50 times to ensure each one is a little better, creating fake accidental encounters and building up a dossier about her, which he wastes no time in exploiting. Henry is a Bad Bastard and he belongs on a remote island – not the same one as Drew Barrymore, but one with a limited fresh water supply and the very real possibility of getting bummed by Tom Hanks.
The crimes committed by this fucking dreadful Richard Curtis film extend way beyond romantic stalking, but it is true that Mark (Andrew Lincoln) turns up at married woman Juliet’s (Kiera Knightley) door in the night bearing a pile of cue cards on which he’s scrawled insane messages such as: “My wasted heart will love you.”
Love, Actually (again)
This film is such an abomination it deserves to go in twice. Jamie (Colin Firth) spends painstaking hours learning Portuguese and flies to France to propose to his housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), whom he doesn’t know at all. Question: Jamie, did you at any point – maybe while you were on the plane, maybe when you were bored at customs – think: “Shit, this is a bit mad, this. I’m a grown man. What am I doing?”
There’s Something About Mary
This Farrelly Brothers comedy came out in 1998. Friends Reunited didn’t exist for another two years. Is it really so stalkerish that Ted (Ben Stiller) hires a private detective to hunt down his high-school crush, Mary (Cameron Diaz), 13 years since they last saw one another? Absolutely 100% yes, and that’s before we even get into the bit where he secretes a bodily fluid into her hair.
Sleepless In Seattle
Here Annie (Meg Ryan) hears Sam (Tom Hanks) talking on the radio about his dead wife, and so writes to him – a complete stranger – demanding they rendezvous at the Empire State Building. He agrees and she travels thousands of miles from Seattle to meet him. He is a lonely, grief-stricken man. Sam is vulnerable. But Annie doesn’t care, so long as she gets a tasty slice of widow pie.