Image: movie still from There’s Something About Mary. Image source.
Only in the land of romantic comedies are stalking narratives somehow portrayed as less dangerous than they actually are. Take There’s Something About Mary, for example, where the creepiness of Ben Stiller hiring a private detective to track down his high school crush is somehow glossed over. These kinds of subtle narratives in rom coms can have real world impacts though, as a new study by gender and sexuality expert Julia R Lippman, of the University of Michigan has found. According to The Guardian, Lippman’s report I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You found that rom coms featuring men engaging in stalker-like behaviour can make women more likely to tolerate obsessiveness from prospective romantic partners.
The study examined women’s responses to certain questions about aggressive romantic behaviour, directly after watching one of six different films. What the results showed is that women who had watched films involving persistent romantic pursuit — and yes, There’s Something About Mary was among them — were also more likely to accept so-called stalking myths than those who watched films depicting frightening male aggression like Sleeping With the Enemy. And also more likely than those who watched benign nature documentaries such as March of the Penguins and Winged Migration.
“After watching excerpts from one of these six films, participants completed a series of survey measures, including one that assessed their endorsement of stalking myths,” Lippman said. “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.”
According to Lippman, exposure to films depicting persistent pursuit in a negative way made women less likely to tolerate stalker-like males. Meanwhile, women who watched rom coms were more likely to accept this kind of behaviour as normal. “[Such movies] can encourage women to discount their instincts,” Lippman told Canada’s Global News. “This is a problem because research shows that instincts can serve as powerful cues to help keep us safe.”
The biggest problem here, she says, is that many of these kinds of films trade in the ‘love conquers all’ myth. “Even though, of course, it doesn’t,” Lippman points out. “Love is great, but so is respect for other people.” Suddenly a slew of film’s sympathetic stalker depictions come to mind — from John Cusack hounding his former partner in High Fidelity, to many a Bollywood film. In fact, earlier this year a 32-year-old Indian security guard escaped a jail term in Australia after his lawyer successfully argued that his unwanted texts, messages and personal advances were a by-product of his passion for Bollywood movies. With that in mind then, perhaps we really need to question the typical filmic narratives to which we’ve become accustomed.
Via The Guardian
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