We need to stop glorifying the creepy actions of men as romantic or cute. Every day is a story of a girl being the subject of a guy’s strange and downright creepy gesture, and social media claims it is romantic – “get you a man like this”, they say.
One prominent example was that of the Bristol “piano man”, whose girlfriend broke up with him, leading him to sit outside her accommodation, stating that he would play continuously until he won her back. Ultimately, he stopped, but not because she got back together with him – he was punched in the face by a rugby player. Buzzfeed was one media outlet that said that it was romantic, and many on social media backed that up. However, it wasn’t romantic, it was creepy. Saying that this kind of behaviour is romantic glorifies people who believe themselves to be entitled to their relationships. It may be a crazy concept but people are allowed to break up with you, leave you and seek happiness elsewhere if they are not content with their current situations. This is the nature of human existence.
A big issue with this behaviour is that it isn’t inherent, it is learned. It stems from watching similar situations (that are, in fact, creepy) on television and in films, where the ‘nice guy’, who is pursuing the ‘hard-to-get’ girl, eventually wins her. In the world of romantic-comedies and love stories, persistence pays off and leads to a positive outcome. So, why shouldn’t a person do the same thing in real-life in order to get the ‘woman of his dreams’?
Take Love Actually, one of the most famous Christmas films in recent history, that depicts a man who is effectively obsessed with his best friend’s wife. At their wedding, he films her constantly and keeps it for herself and then shows up at her door to decidedly proclaim his love. People say it’s romantic, but really it is, at best, weird. Another example is romantic comedy Say Anything, whose protagonist Lloyd Dobler stalks love interest Diane throughout high school and tries to win her back by standing outside her house with a boombox. It is an iconic scene and has been recreated in the links of Easy A and How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). Ted Mosby in HIMYM talks about the Dobler/Dahmer theory, citing infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, where an action is considered romantic (Dobler) if the other person reciprocates the feelings or creepy (Dahmer) if the other person does not.
These kind of films and shows, glorifying creepy actions as romantic, enable the perpetuation of stalking myths – that the person being stalked is just playing hard to get. And it means that “persistent pursuit” isn’t the indicator of stalking behaviour that it is meant to be. Where, in real-life, the reactions will range from a gentle let down to a restraining order, rom-coms and tv shows reward this behaviour instead. They show that the girl in question was just confused or didn’t know what was good for them, and the resolution at the end tells us that a guy continually pursuing you is romantic and beautiful. Let me clear something up right now; it isn’t.
We need to stop buying in to the creepy actions that popular culture and media give us and examine how it feeds into the power structures that many men benefit from. Because it isn’t cute, it isn’t sweet, it isn’t romantic – it’s disgusting.