No means no. Well at least it should. It seems like an easy enough concept to grasp, but our society, time and time again, has a really difficult time fully understanding this concept. Entertainment is hugely responsible for this lack of understanding of the word “no.” In my opinion, the genre most responsible for this shaky understanding of “no” is entertainment focuses on romance. The worst part about their contribution is they are supposed to depict what relationships and love should look like. And sadly, they get it so horribly wrong most of the time. They contribute to a toxic culture that allows abuse and rape to find their way into everyday life. You may be hoping for an example of where romantic cinema takes a wrong turn, and boy do I have one for you. Perhaps the most famous romantic hero of all is, actually, well, a zero.
Noah Calhoun: a name we all know and (sorta) love. For almost anyone born after 2004, he was the man we all wanted. He had a love for Allie from the instant that he met her, that was unparalleled. He’s who we should want, right? Um, wrong.
Noah asks Allie out and she says no. But this isn’t good enough for Noah. He knows his worth; he knows what he wants, and he’s going to get it. He follows Allie around, until she finally agrees to go out with him, when he not-so subtly manipulates her into going on a date with him, telling her that he will let go of the ferris wheel he’s climbed to inevitably injure himself, if she dares to say no. It’s framed as romantic and sweet and a grand gesture in the film but, taken out of context, this gesture is far from those things. This type of behavior is harassment and it’s very, well, creepy. But in the movie, it works. Moments like this are harmful to both the young girls and boys that watch the Notebook. It teaches girls to give those boys and men, who are making them uncomfortable, a chance. It teaches them things like this are cute and sweet. It teaches boys that these methods works. It teaches them that “no” means try again, and again and again. The reality is ignoring a girl’s rejection to your advancement doesn’t display how much you like her. It shows how little you respect her, and it is harassment.
Harassment is usually talked about as a violent and obvious act, but that’s not always the case. Harassment can be subtle and it can have great intentions. I don’t think Noah Calhoun was trying to be a bad person, I think he was trying to be great actually. The boys that initiate this behavior think they are being great too. Romantic comedies are seemingly innocent but play into rape culture. No means no. In all contexts.