Are we romanticizing not taking no for an answer?
Written by Parnil Khamesra
Let’s talk about movies that celebrate men who refuse to take “no” for an answer.
Now, if you have seen this trope repeatedly used in the media, you’ll know what I am talking about. But if you don’t then let me brief you quickly before we move on.
There is an unreasonably romanticized trope in movies where a guy falls in love at first sight but the girl doesn’t know it yet. He finally thinks up some big gesture and approaches her. Unsurprisingly, she rejects him, making it clear she wants nothing to do with him. That is where it should end, with the girl’s refusal. But unfortunately, it doesn’t. That is usually the start of any movie in this trope.
After being rejected, the male lead takes it as a hit to his ego and assumes that she is just pretending to dislike him and in a matter of time, with the correct amount of pestering, she will come around and declare his love to him.
He takes this ‘You shouldn’t give up on love' idea as an excuse to keep harassing the girl, continuously, being extra “affectionate” and sending her expensive gifts.There are even times when he stalks her and she finds it romantic after she has “magically” fallen in love with him. The worst part is that in the movies this just seems to work.
An Excerpt from the article “Movies Celebrating Men Who Refuse to take No For an Answer” from The Lewiston Tribune.
Now the problem with this trope is that it is wildly romanticised to the point that people think this is a lovely way to win a girl. But in reality, this is actually a very creepy thing to happen because these are the kind of stories that sometimes end in sexual assaults and not “happily ever afters”.
As an Indian, I have seen almost every Bollywood movie (like Kabir Singh) to follow this vague theme in their plots. I’ve also come across innumerable Hollywood movies like ‘Love, Actually’ and books that swear by this trope. The next section explains briefly how these movies portray men.
Love, Actually : How is it endorsing 'stalkerish' behaviour?
The scene in question is the infamous cue cards scene when Mark turns up on Juliet's door and declares his undying love for her even though she is married to his best mate.
As opposed to what the audio visual cues make us believe, the behaviour that Mark showed, throughout the "romantic scenes" that preceded the cue cards scene is plainly called stalking. And just as the trope goes, he succeeds in winning over the girl.
"That was the argument put forth by University of Michigan psychologist Julia R. Lippman, Ph.D., in her study “I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You” — a title that captures the issue most people have with the situation between Keira Knightley and her husband’s BFF. This dude is not sweet; he’s a stalker. Just look at all of those close-ups in the wedding video he made! Lippman’s paper, published in the journal Communication Research in 2015, suggests that movies like Love Actually, which portray this sort of behavior in a romantic, idealized light, dangerously skew what people perceive as normal male behavior."
An excerpt from "Psychology slams Love Actually, for encouraging creepy stalkers", Inverse.
How is this trope affecting teens and young adults?
This trope has manipulated millions of young minds into believing that this is the right way to seek romance.
Young boys have grown up seeing this theme so much throughout their lives that they start implementing it when the time comes they “fall in love at first sight” with some girl. As a teenage girl myself, I have seen this kind of stalking, pestering, “I won’t stop until I get you.” attitude in boys all around me.
"From an early age, we’re taught bumper-sticker-ready lessons “never give up” and “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They offer us necessary lessons about the value of perseverance, but rarely do they illustrate the importance of consent. Rarely are we taught that it’s OK to try your best and not get what you want—because your desires aren’t the only ones that are important. Rarely are we taught that "no" deserves respect.
An Excerpt from The guys who won't hear "no”: Movies, masculinity and the toxic myth of the romantic stalker from Salon
I have seen people threatening to kill themselves if a particular girl does not accept their love or confess hers. I have heard of assaults just because a girl refused to go out with somebody.
All this just because a movie trope has systemically manipulated young minds all over the world to believe that stalking and harassing someone even after them refusing is romantic and not at all wrong.
I understand that this is not the only thing that leads to violence and assaults but isn’t it a part of the problem? Doesn’t it encourage dangerous behaviours?
If this trope is so wrong then why did it come into existence at all?
The answer is just one word. Patriarchy.
Male authors and readers have created and popularized this trope to justify situations where women ignore and/or reject them. Their fragile male ego couldn’t take this hit so they created this illusion that when a woman says “fu*k off”, she actually just wants to fu*k them.
It is when you think and read about things like this that you realize how deep rooted patriarchy and toxic masculinity is and the first step against it is always being aware of what’s happening and the messages you are consuming.
1. The guys who won't hear "no”: Movies, masculinity and the toxic myth of the romantic stalker by Nico Lang, Salon.
2. Movies celebrate men who refuse to take no for an answerfrom the Lewiston Tribune 3. 8 Gendered Relationship Tropes To Stop Romanticizingfrom The Bustle 4. "Psychology slams Love Actually, for encouraging creepy stalkers", Inverse. 5. “I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You” put forth by University of Michigan psychologist Julia R. Lippman, Ph.D