5 Romantic Comedies You Shouldn't Watch This Valentine's Day


Rom Coms have always been notorious for feel-good, light-hearted romance that makes audience members envious of the fictional relationships showcased in this specific sub-genre of film. While unrealism is a major theme in these types of movies, that isn’t the biggest issue with them. It is the inaccurate depictions of healthy relationships and overgeneralized enforcement of gender stereotypes.


Knocked Up  (2007)

Starring Katherine Heigel and Seth Rogan, Knocked Up follows an up and coming journalist and an irresponsible slacker who lives off funds received from compensation due to a leg injury. These two characters must deal with the repercussions of a one night stand that resulted in an unexpected pregnancy. The plot isn’t the key issue here, but how the characters are depicted, Katherine Heigel said it best in a 2007 Vanity Fair interview, “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”


Love, Actually (2003)

Love, Actually showcases eight very different love stories set behind the romantic backdrop of Christmas time in London. At first glance, this movie is seemingly unproblematic, but with further analysis, this movie among many others romanticizes men viewing women as objects of desire in hopes to be acquired. This is showcased through Mark and Juliet’s storyline, Mark is secretly in love with his best friend’s wife, whom at their wedding films her in very zoomed-in angles showcasing this act as romantic and not creepy in the slightest. Mark puts Juliet on this pedestal solely for her looks being as though he knows nothing about her. One of the most iconic scenes in Rom-Com history is Mark showing up to Juliet’s house confessing his love for her through cue cards while her husband is in the other room. This entire scene is not cute or romantic, it’s inappropriate and morally wrong. 


Notting Hill (1999)

In many romance movies, a common trope is one character having this huge secret that they are lying to the other person about and when this lie is inevitably exposed the couple has a fight resulting in a sad montage with the soundtrack to match. While this isn’t the biggest issue with these types of films, it is sending the message that no matter what your partner is lying about you two can overcome it because love conquers all. In this movie specifically, William Thacker played by Hugh Grant, a divorced bookstore owner meets Anna Scott played by Julia Roberts when she comes into his shop, the two fall into a love affair despite their difference in social class. William eventually finds out that Anna has a boyfriend and doesn’t want to really talk to her after that understandably so. A relationship built on lies is normalized in Rom-Coms, movies should be able to create tension and drama without jeopardizing a character’s entire arc. When characters are duplicitous about being in another relationship, movies portray this is as just an obstacle the couple needs to overcome, but in real life, this betrayal wouldn’t be as easily forgivable. 


What’s Your Number? (2011)

Before Chris Evans was notoriously known as Captain America he played a playboy type character, Colin, who treats women as sex objects. The premise of this movie essentially is about Anna Farris’s character, Ally Darling who reaches out to her ex-boyfriends to find out if any of them could be “the one”. When she can’t find them, that’s where Colin comes in to help her since he sleeps with a different woman every night and sneaks out the morning after to avoid talking to them. This movie judges women for the number of sexual partners they’ve been with, whereas men don’t get the same scrutiny whatsoever. Another Rom-Com trope this movie showcases is a “bad guy” turning into a “good guy” because he finally found the right girl, this one is definitely a pass. 


The Notebook (2004)

One of the most classic tales of love in cinematic history, Allie and Noah are separated based on social class but their love story takes place over years going through many different trials and tribulations. I understand that this movie is a timeless classic, but after rewatching it in 2020 it’s more problematic than romantic. A big theme in this movie is grand gestures, one of the first scenes in the film Noah threatens to kill himself when Allie initially rejects him. He dangles himself from the Ferris wheel, which forces Allie to agree to go on date with him, this would not be cute at all outside the movie world. This manipulation is disguised as a romantic gesture which once again is a recurring theme in Rom-Coms. A lot of people deem the letter every day for a year gesture as romantic, but if a man sends a letter every day to a woman he wasn’t in a relationship with at the time he would be labeled a stalker and or a creep. He really needed to lay off especially when she wasn’t replying, unwanted obsession should never be romanticized. 


There are so many more romantic comedies that have toxic traits and dangerous messages, but this is just a handful of ones I wanted to touch on. Movies can tend to not age well, and this was simply the case for all these seemingly lighthearted Rom-Coms.


Thanks for reading, V