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Picture this: a guy shows up at your door with some giant posters that say things like “to me you are perfect” and “my wasted heart will love you until you look like a mummified corpse”. He brought all these visual aids so that your boyfriend, who’s sitting just inside the door, doesn’t know that there’s some cray-cray guy outside declaring his love for you. You surreptitiously pull your phone out of your pocket as he flips through his signs (he’s got about 20 so this should take a while). One poster is full of little pictures of you that he cut out and stuck together. He’s smiling sweetly from behind this human collage, so you’re probably supposed to think: cuuuute, this guy is the world’s cutest cutie! But you don’t. Instead, you’re dialling 000 behind your back because there is a serial killer at your door and if you refuse him he’ll turn your face into a flesh mask and prance around his house to the tune of Kylie Minogue — Slow while wearing it. A horrifying vision, I know.
Thanks to Hollywood (in this case Love Actually) this is the bleak definition of romance us ladies get to work with. The far-reaching impacts of such grand gestures reared their ugly head again this week when a man said that he would play the piano in a public park until his ex took him back. “I’ll play if it rains, if it snows, if I fall over, or if I get arrested, I will be here as long as I have to be here,” Luke Howard told reporters. This statement doesn’t even make any sense, but ~the media~ still labelled it as the romantic act of a heartbroken man because of course they did. Pretty sure if a woman refused to stop playing the piano in a park till her ex took her back, the public reaction might be more “She needs help!” or “Arrest this woman!” than “How sweet, how nice”.
This guy’s low-key psycho behaviour is seen as socially acceptable because of the kind of romance that mainstream Western popular culture condones. The — she can’t possibly not be into you, if you fail try, try, try again!, say it with 10,000 flowers, write a message in the sky — kind of romance. We see this mostly in rom coms, where grand gestures are designed to show women (who don’t know what they want) exactly what they’re missing, so that men can get what they want. The idea is that a bunch of balloons or a boombox will help a silly little lady realise that true love has been staring her in the face the whole time. Besides, it is literally impossible for a woman to reject a man so don’t even think about trying it girl! Studies have also shown that rom coms make us more tolerant of stalkers, and this is probably why guys won’t stop sending you random texts two years after you slept together one time (fuck off) or throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night (seriously, fuck off).
Oh behalf ‘Rapunzel’ — the girl who fell victim to piano guy’s scheme who he would only refer to as such (I shudder, I spew) — we’d like to expose grand gestures for exactly what they are: creepy AF. Here’s how I’d react to all the weird stalker-y things that movies reckon are ‘romance’.
1) The Boombox Trick
This Say Anything… scene is widely celebrated as the most romance movie moment of all time but I’d like to make a complaint, a noise complaint to be specific. Yes officer, there’s a man outside my house blaring a shit rock song and I would like you to remove him.
2) The Dream House
There are a lot of creepy romantic gestures in The Notebook, but the creepiest one has got to be Noah building the exact dream house of a girl that he dated briefly and then living in it. This is made even more suss by the fact that it’s the very same house where he and Allie had consummated their relationship years earlier. Can someone please call the FBI, we’ve got a full-blown stalker on our hands.
3) The Diary Travesty
The final scene of Bridget Jones’ Diary tries to make a guy invading a girl’s privacy seem romantic. After she discovers that Mr Darcy just read her journal Bridget, a goddess in zebra-print underwear, chases him down the street and apologises to him. I’m sorry but no. No, no, no, no! If Mr Darcy read my diary I would delete him immediately.
4) The Fire Escape Invader
Hey movies, looking at you Pretty Woman, can you please stop telling guys to scale fire escapes? These staircases are designed to save our lives, not to provide all sex pests with working legs and a little bit of energy free 24-hour access to our homes. I don’t even live in America and I still find the fire escape invasion romantic gesture deeply disturbing. Think of the children!
5) The Hitch History Lesson
Hitch has got to be one of the sketchiest rom coms out there. It’s an entire movie about manipulating women into falling for men by finding out what they like and then exploiting it. Hitch’s schemes reach fever pitch when he breaks a jet ski (on purpose) then takes his date, Sara, to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and shows her the signature of her dead grandfather. Sara bursts into tears because it turns out her grandfather was a mass murderer. Maybe check Wikipedia next time you’re planning on giving a little history lesson, Hitch.
I could go on all day long but I’ve got to go scream at random men on the street. Laters!