There's this thing the news does these days wherein a man commits a terrible crime, and then the next week we get a headline about how he was upset about his divorce or had been otherwise wronged by a woman. You know, because that explains it.
But pop culture has been doing this forever, particularly with male characters, who are justified in all sorts of behavior ranging from petty dickishness to outright felonies by their sad, broken hearts.
Ugh, this movie.
Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is secretly in love with Juliet (Keira Knightley), who just got married to his best friend Peter and has no idea how Mark feels about her. Mark hides his feelings by being standoffish around her, which makes her uncomfortable. Then she discovers how he truly feels when she realizes he videotaped only her during the wedding. Mark then admits that he's been an unnecessary dick to her out of "self-preservation." I'll let you take a moment to count the red flags so far.
Later, in the film's most iconic scene, he shows up at her door while she and her new husband are cuddling at home. He asks that she keep quiet and tell Peter it's someone else, then shows her giant handmade cards declaring his love for her.
What's interesting here is that to any readers who haven't actually seen this movie and are just going by the summary, all this sounds terrifying. It has all of the trappings of every woman's worst-case scenario. If a weird guy shows up at your house with a stack of signs he's made and kicks off his presentation with a demand for silence and a lie, go ahead and start screaming and lock the door. Those alarms sounding in your head are your survival instincts trying to keep you alive.
Anyway, here's what his big cards say, in part:
LET ME SAY
WITHOUT HOPE OR AGENDA ...
TO ME YOU ARE PERFECT
AND MY WASTED HEART WILL LOVE YOU
UNTIL YOU LOOK LIKE THIS
[Picture of a corpse]
Sadly, since the movie isn't titled The Lawsuit States That You Must Stay Over 50 Feet Away From Me, Actually, Juliet greets Mark's flirtatious battering ram with a kiss. See, he's sad that he can't have her, and in movies, that excuses absolutely anything. After all, what do a woman's personal boundaries matter when true love is on the line?
Despite their predilection for casual racism, I love classic novels. I've spent many a night on the couch curled up with some literary oldies, and the Bronte sisters always came through. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (which has gotten many, many film adaptations) is one of the first classic romantic novels I'd ever read in which both the female and male leads were described as straight up ugly. As a young lady getting smacked in the face by puberty, I found that intriguing. Throughout all the twists and turns and trifling side chicks, I kept rooting for Jane and Mr. Rochester to beat the odds and end up together. Two 5s coming together to make a 10. It oddly won me over as a preteen.
In fact, at the climax, Rochester winds up badly burned and thus "uglier" than ever, one more tragedy in a miserable life he needs rescued from. But there's just the minor problem that ROCHESTER WAS HIDING HIS WIFE IN A SECRET ROOM THE WHOLE TIME.
Not that there were no red flags prior to that. At one point, Rochester disguises himself as a female fortune teller solely to fuck with Jane's head. Annoying people on Facebook share a meme that says "Back in my day, when a relationship was broken, we didn't throw it away. We fixed it." But I don't think that quote ever counted on the "broken" part being due to your dude dressing up a lady magician to cause you psychological torment. Also, Rochester maintains an engagement with another woman for a period of time just to try to get a rise out of Jane. Nothing gets your ladies excited like proposing to another woman, fellas.
But neither of these relationship absurdities come close to the fact that this man has a secret wife trapped in his house that no one in the whole damn city knew about. And Jane only finds out about it on their wedding day. Of course, Edward "Master of Disguises" Rochester plays it off like "Well, you know, we all come with some baggage." True, Edward, but if we're talking about baggage, you're basically wearing a suitcase as a shirt. You have a secret wife that you've kept in the house that JANE IS LIVING IN. "Secret imprisoned wife nobody knows about" is a step away from being a Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel.
But the secret wife dies by suicide, and so Jane can swoop in and marry him herself. So ... it all worked out, I guess?
J.K. Rowling probably meant well. Instead of letting Severus Snape serve as a cartoonish, greasy-haired fairy tale villain, she gave him a redemption arc and a tragic backstory. So we Harry Potter fans got six books' worth of watching Snape shit on Harry, Harry's friends, Harry's family, Harry's classmates, basically anyone who was even slightly on Team Harry. Then in Deathly Hallows, we got the twist: Snape was on Dumbledore's side the whole time, and had been showing immense bravery by spying on Voldemort. So he gets to die a hero, and it turns out he had a reason for his cruelty.
We learn that Snape was secretly in love with Harry's mother, Lily, which explains his animosity toward Harry for all those years. Snape fangirls and Snape/Lily shippers were vindicated (if you were a part of online Harry Potter fandom, this was a life-changing paradigm shift). See, all that nasty Snape stuff was due to pent-up rage that came from his unrequited love. How romantic! Harry even names his son after him, proving that all is forgiven. It's beautiful, as long as you forget about literally every detail of it.
The reality is that Snape, if he were real, would be nothing more than a troubled, petty man who bullied a child for years because the child looked like his dad. And remember, Harry isn't the only child he relished torturing, as he was all about making Hogwarts' resident punching bag Neville Longbottom's life a living hell, too.
He pined after a woman who (rightfully) stopped associating with him after he called her a wizard slur, and he only switched sides when his boss set his kill-sights on her -- an event which Dumbledore used to convince Snape to help him take Voldemort down. He only did his one nice thing in his whole life because he got pissed at Voldemort for going after his high school crush. He's not a tragic figure; he's an obsessive, cruel dick who refused to move on from a woman who didn't want him.
500 Days Of Summer was everyone's first date movie in 2009, and probably a lot of couples' last date movie as well. Zooey Deschanel is charming as ever as the bubbly manic pixie girl of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's dreams, in a story that slowly turns sour as she jerks him around. She acts interested, then distant ... when they don't end up happily ever after, you feel his pain. They were perfect for each other! Why didn't she just see that? What's with all the games, Zooey??
This movie is a great indication of how a story changes based on which character is the protagonist. If you follow the events entirely from Summer's point of view, you realize that she was clear about what she wanted from the beginning, which was a no-strings-attached relationship. And while way too many romance films dictate that you need to be in a long-term relationship to be truly happy and that no-strings relationships are only for degenerates and Jon Hamm, this is not that kind of film. She had a guy who was projecting all of his wants and fantasies on her, regardless of how she acted in response.
When it becomes clear that they are on two different levels (he considers her the woman of his dreams, she considers him an increasingly creepy friend whom she's having sex with), Summer breaks up with Tom, and he freaks the hell out. He has a crazy breakdown at work, lashes out at everyone around him, and when he goes on a date with another woman, he just talks shit about Summer and then insults said woman for not being her. He even buys LIQUOR in the DAYTIME (that's movie shorthand for "This man has truly spiraled"). Through it all, he's a "good guy who good things just don't happen to," in his own words.
In this genre, there's supposed to be a turn in the third act in which the girl finally realizes that what she wants/needs is a guy who is as passionate and devoted as JGL. He's the hero of the movie, the leads are both adorable, we all know how this is supposed to end. So many people read this the wrong way that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has publicly stated, "I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is." In reality, it's the portrait of someone who thinks that love doesn't involve caring about what another person wants at all.
Xander Harris is the geeky everyman of Sunnydale High, and saves the world a few times even though he has no supernatural or magical skills to speak of. And that's why this one hurts, you guys. But I have to admit it: Xander Harris is just relentlessly angry when it comes to women he's attracted to, and we're supposed to just let it slide.
Let's start with how cruel he is to Buffy, one of his best friends and someone he has an unrequited crush on for years. In the episode "Halloween," when Buffy protects him from a bully, Xander yells at her for "humiliating" him instead of thanking her ... and she's the one who ends up apologizing to him, as he is a man-baby. Or see "Revelations" and "Becoming Part 2," in which he manipulates Buffy multiple times for having the gall to be in love with someone who's not him.
But all that might not be as bad as "Entropy," wherein Xander beats the hell out of Spike (if you're a Buffy novice, he's the white-haired vampire with impeccable, ungodly cheekbones) because he had sex with Anya, Xander's ex. Never mind that he left Anya at the altar and they weren't together anymore because of him, or that Anya, being a single woman, could have sex with anyone she wanted to, male, female, or super demon. He even tries to slut-shame her ("I look at you. I feel sick. Because you had sex with that"), and then turns it right around on Buffy when he finds out that she'd had sex with Spike too.
And no one calls him out on it, because poor nerdy Xander is just too fragile and likable to ever face the repercussions of the shittiest parts of his personality.
Hey, here's an idea: Let's make it a goal to never tell stories this way ever again.
Get to writing your own sane male love interests with a beginner's guide to Celtx.
Support Cracked's journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.
Hey. You. Follow us on Facebook.
The main benefit of watching TV is seeing the plight of sad bastards who aren't you.
The 'wellness' market is thriving right now.
Most people have a pretty basic idea of what it's like to be a parent.
There's no shortage of downright absurd conspiracy theories out there.
Instead of rebooting and recasting, we have a chance for something new.