Fictional Romances That Were Actually Pretty Weird
In our world today, it’s hard to admit that many of the things that we enjoyed as children were actually pretty weird. We watched giant creatures with televisions in their bellies, 1980s garden monsters, or just an early Internet site that was composed of a screen full of dancing hamsters and nothing else. However, once we grew up, we were able to see how strange these programs were and moved onto other things.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to do this with our favorite TV show, movie, and literature characters — especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. We’ve started to see a lot of writing differently. As such, we are now realizing how strange certain fictional “romances” actually are.
Wuthering Heights is a classic novel by English author Emily Bronte. The central plot follows the upbringing and eventual romance of Catherine and Heathcliff.
Although the two were raised together as siblings, they eventually fall in love. Their relationship is very turbulent as they soon realize they’re unable to be together. Due to his feelings for Catherine, Heathcliff treats his wife, Isabella, with total disdain and cruelty. While this treatment of Isabella is generally meant to show Heathcliff’s deep love for Catherine, it only shows how unstable, cruel, and troubled he is as a person.
Although Heathcliff has been touted by some as the ultimate romantic hero, this viewpoint treats women as objects without agency of their own.
In true rom-com fashion, both the book and movie version of The Notebook portrayed Noah and Allie as star-crossed lovers whose deep feelings for each other transcend the deep class and cultural divide that separates their families. However, what you may not have noticed was the way in which the couple first got together.
The couple goes on their first date because of some pretty drastic measures. Noah repeatedly pesters Allie to no avail. Despite being turned down, Noah interrupts Allie’s date with another man. During that date, he threatens to throw himself off the top of a Ferris wheel if she didn’t agree to go out with him.
Grand romantic gestures are great, but not after dozens of previous refusals.
Another case of a movie romance that was only possible because of a male character’s complete unwillingness to take “no” for an answer is Love, Actually. In both the workplace and personal lives of many characters, we see time and again that men are rewarded for being persistent to the point of harassment.
Although Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister is a lovable goon, he still picks up a subordinate, then asks for her to be removed from his service when he witnesses what he deems to be an “inappropriate” interaction with another man. Another character comes to his best friend’s house with the intention of wooing his wife behind his back — even though he knows that she does not feel the same way.
Although it’s a beloved Christmas favorite, maybe it’s time to give Love, Actually a break this year.
Although there are many popular movies that make use of damaging tropes to entertain viewers, it’s most troubling when these movies are marketed to young people. It’s concerning because young people are often unable to figure out why the character’s relationships are troubling. Twilight, which began its life as a popular series of books before being adapted into a five-film series, is one of the most problematic of these movies.
In Twilight, vampire Edward controls his love interest even before she’s actively consented to being in a relationship with him. Bella is so smitten and has such low self-esteem that she accepts everything that Edward does without question. Even when he goes into her room to watch her sleep or tampers with her car so she can’t leave.
The Phantom of the Opera
Another example of a pairing whose relationship could be attributed more to Stockholm Syndrome than love is that of Christine and Erik in The Phantom of the Opera.
In both the book and movie, Christine is a young ingenue who is stalked by Erik. Erik lives in the walls of the Palais Garnier to hide his disfigured face, which he believes prevents any woman from loving him. After pursuing Christine, Erik forcefully takes her to his subterranean lair. There, he agrees to let Christine free after two weeks as long as she wears a ring and pledges her fidelity to him. In the end, Christine’s kiss allows Erik to experience love for the first time and he agrees to let her go.
General Hospital, which has been on the air since 1963, is currently the longest-running American soap opera of all time. Its star couple, Luke and Laura, have been referred to as a “supercouple”, or a pairing whose interactions are so interesting that they’re thought of as the central draw of the show.
Although their relationship has gone through many ups and downs — it is a soap opera, after all — many people forget that the couple first got together after Luke raped Laura. Although it was originally intended as a rape, the act was softened to appear more like a seduction. However, as the show went on, the writers went back to the original intention in order to show spark more drama.
Gone with the Wind
Although there are many issues with Gone with the Wind — including the excuses as to why slavery should still exist — one of the most troubling is the way that the relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara is portrayed.
The couple, who are undoubtedly the two most interesting, nuanced characters in the book, are shown over the years completely unable to let each other go. Once they marry, their turbulent relationship continues with Scarlett unable to refuse her husband intercourse, even though she doesn’t want another child. Rhett threatens her with physical violence, then finally carries her up the stairs to bed in a scene that’s alternately been described as a ravishing, or a rape.
Anne of Green Gables
The central protagonist in Anne of Green Gables is the aforementioned Anne, a young and spunky orphan girl who wins her way into the hearts of a small farming community in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne’s primary troubles come from being too outspoken. This virtue attracts the attention of local boy Gilbert Blythe, who teases her mercilessly from the moment that they meet. This story gives credence to the belief that little boys who tease girls are just doing it because they like them, which ensures that the responsibility for mature and reasoned thought lies only with the female. Although Anne and Gilbert go on to marry, it’s hard to forget that only Anne was punished for fighting back when Gilbert hurt her.
Game of Thrones
One of the first times that we see Daenerys in Game of Thrones, she’s a young girl barely out of childhood forced to marry Khal Drogo to cement an alliance between the Dothraki and Targaryens. Although their relationship does later bloom into understanding and love, it’s hard to forget that one of the very first scenes between them is their wedding night. During their wedding night, Drogo forces himself on Daenerys. Although their relationship eventually reaches a place of understanding, this uncomfortable scene is hard to forget.
The love that Pip has for Estella in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations has continually been seen as one of the greatest love stories in literature. However, when you read the book through a modern lens, it takes on a troubling tone. Are we really telling girls that they should say “yes” to men who pursue them without ever listening to the word “no”?
Pip’s lifelong pursuit of Estella, like Heathcliffe’s love of Catherine, has been treated by readers for decades as the height of romance: a man willing to do anything for the woman he loves. However, the more you think about it, the creepier it becomes. Even Dickens himself eventually changed the ending of Great Expectations to be more ambiguous.