Our favorite movies can help us cope after breakups and bad dates. Romantic comedies may make us laugh, but the love advice they dole out just doesn’t cut it in the real world. We took a look at Hollywood’s worst love lessons and shed some light on the romantic gestures that definitely shouldn’t be tried at home (or anywhere).
Love Lesson #1: “If you really, really love someone, you should stalk them until they love you back.”
You might recognize Ryan Kwanten as Sookie’s hypersexual brother on True Blood. In the 2013 romantic comedy The Right Kind of Wrong, he plays an overzealous suitor who crashes a woman’s wedding, sends her flowers while she’s on her honeymoon and repeatedly shows up at her workplace—despite how many times she’s told him to leave her alone. Cameron Diaz’s character in The Sweetest Thing (2002) takes a similar cue and follows a man she met at a dance club to a stranger’s wedding. How do both movies end? Well, the stalked victims of each characters’ ardor falls in love with them, and it’s happily ever after.
In real life, stalking behaviors can get you arrested. It’s also terrifying if you’re on the receiving end. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 46 percent of stalking victims felt fear in not knowing what would happen next, whether the stalking would become violent or how long it would continue. Stalking means more than checking a guy’s Facebook profile to see if he’s really single. The BJS defines stalking as unwanted contact, such as phone calls or emails, or gifts, following or spying and showing up where the person works or lives uninvited, or engaging in online harassment or rumors.
Love Lesson #2: “Men and women cannot be just friends.”
In the 2011 film Friends With Benefits, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis play two successful, career-oriented adults who become friends and decide to have sex with each other because they’re too busy to date and don’t want a relationship anyway. They, of course, fall in love by the end of the movie, and we absolutely love it. When Harry Met Sally (1989) is probably the most famous romantic comedy to explore the question of whether men and women can be friends, or be friends who have sex, and not fall in love. That movie also ended with the two characters falling head over heels for one another.
Why is this bad love advice? Sometimes you just like to hang out with certain people, or have sex with them. It doesn’t mean that it will turn into everlasting love or lead to the wedding altar. Sure, it could, but setting yourself up for the expectation could lead to disappointments, broken hearts and ruined friendships. It also implies that being friends with someone of the opposite sex requires a future romantic response if the other person earns your favor, which starts getting into the territory of sexual entitlement and creates another set of problems. No one is ever owed sex or love.
Love Lesson #3: “You must constantly test someone’s love to prove it is true.”
Isn’t it charming when your significant other asks you to do something you’d rather not do, or that is against your values or makes you uncomfortable, in order to prove your love to them? Right, it’s not. This technique can come in many forms. For example, Kate Hudson’s character in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days(2003) does not verbally require the guy to love her or leave her, but she does go out of her way to be someone she’s not in order to see if he’ll stick around. Think Like A Man (2012) takes a different approach by requiring a set of rules for relationships with rigid expectations for both sexes.
Love stands the test of time, but what if your expectations of love are, well, your expectations? The basic components of a loving relationship should include mutual respect, honesty and trust. But should you feel slighted if your boyfriend doesn’t buy you flowers several times a month? “Having unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations is a sure way to ruin a relationship,” writes Jaclyn Marcus, Ph.D., Certified Life Skills Coach. “When an individual has a strong desire that their partner meet their impossible expectations, they become blinded to who their partner really is.” And if he’s asking you to change for him “if you love him”? Then he might be controlling, and maybe you should bid adieu.
Love Lesson #4: “You either need a fabulous facade to reel him in or to get a complete makeover before he can fall in love with you.”
There’s a difference between showing your best self and being someone you’re not. In Maid in Manhattan (2002), Jennifer Lopez’s character is a maid who’s mistaken for a wealthy socialite. She chooses to keep up the facade because she doesn’t believe that the man would notice her otherwise (and because playing dress up is fun, no matter who you are). Then there are the movies in which the female lead must change who she is in order to meet the male lead’s expectations of the ideal woman. In She’s All That (1999), all Rachael Leigh Cook’s needs is a makeover to get Freddie Prinze Jr. to fall in love with her.
Culture already provides a laundry-list of expectations women are expected to meet. In sweeping generalization, women are supposed to be a particular brand of beautiful and only interested in finding a future husband. So what happens if that isn’t who you are? According to some romantic comedies, you’re supposed to conform to the expected standard to find love. But if he can’t appreciate you from the get-go, is it really love?