Purple Hearts director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum has defended the Netflix film against criticism over misogynistic and racist themes.
The romance drama, which has been watched for more than 100 million hours on the streaming service, follows Cassie (Sofia Carson), a liberal aspiring musician who enters a “marriage of convenience” with conservative Marine Luke (Nicholas Galitzine).
At the start of the film, Cassie and Luke are portrayed as polar opposites, which includes their political views. In one scene during a going-away dinner, one of the Marines on Luke’s team makes a toast and says: “This one is to life, love and hunting down some goddamn Arabs, baby!”
Cassie calls the Marine out on the comment before she storms off, after Luke insists she backs down.
The film has been criticised for “painting racism as a simple flaw” while the character of Luke “stays the same”, according to a viewer on Twitter. Other users have criticised Purple Hearts for being “anti arab anti hispanic racist misogynistic AND pro military propaganda”.
Speaking to Variety in response to the criticism, Rosebaum said: “I hope that people understand that in order for characters to grow, they need to be flawed in the beginning. So we very much intentionally created two characters that had been bred to hate each other.
“They are flawed at the beginning and that was intentional. In order for the red heart and the blue heart to kind of turn purple, you have to have them be kind of extreme. Some of the people that they’re surrounded with are even more flawed than they are.
“They both have been neglected by the system; he’s hurt in a war that doesn’t seem to be ending and she’s slipping through the cracks of the healthcare system. So they’re both neglected by the system, and then they live under one roof, and in these extreme circumstances, they learn to become more moderate and to listen to each other and to love.”
Rosenbaum explains she wanted to depict a “very flawed” country, adding: “I do hope that anyone who’s in any way insulted by it understands that our intentions are very pure, and it’s because we feel like people need to grow and need to start to become more moderate.”