Love Actually makes women more likely to accept the 'stalker myth', study finds

Stalkerish behaviour presented in a 'love conquers all' light can dangerously affect women's perceptions of male behaviour

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The Independent Culture

Love Actually might be the go-to Christmas movie for many but a new study has shown that watching the romcom may make women more likely to accept the “stalker myth”.

Julia R Lippman, a researcher at the University of Michigan, found that soppy movies may boast the feel-good factor, but can also dangerously affect our perceptions of “normal” male behaviour.

They studied female reactions to male characters who relentlessly pursue a would-be lover despite rejection in six popular movies.

Lippman discovered that those who watched romcoms such as There’s Something About Mary and Management were much more likely to tolerate stalkerish behaviour as it is often portrayed in a misleading positive light.

Remember that scene where Mark (Andrew Lincoln) turns up at Keira Knightley (Juliet)’s door with placards declaring his undying love, despite her being married to his best mate? For some she finds it adorable, even running after him to give him a kiss before snubbing him, but in the light of reality, such behaviour could easily fall under the “stalker” umbrella. That’s before you recall the hugely inappropriate wedding video he shot for them, featuring tons of zoomed in shots of her. 

On the other hand, women who watched the likes of Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping With the Enemy, which presents such behaviour as the male aggression it is, were much more likely to brand the offending character a stalker. 

Lippman defines the “stalker myth” as “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”.

The problem, she told Global News Canada, is that “instincts serve as powerful cues to help keep us safe” but the “love conquers all” tone of romcoms makes people less likely to question what they are watching.

“Love is great, but so is respect for other people, she says. This is true even when people tell you things you don’t want to hear.”