Rom-coms are a genre that many people love and many people love to hate or hate to love. While hating romantic comedies as a genre can be rooted in sexism, there are definitely some problems with the tropes in these films. While it’s alright to like problematic things, as we all do, there are definitely a lot of popular romantic comedy films that were pretty toxic when it comes down to it. Many of these films sent disturbing messages about gender roles, sexual assault, and other issues.
We’ve put together a list of 10 beloved romantic comedies that are pretty damn toxic.
10 HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS
The promise of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days might seem like a fun and silly one, but this movie relied heavily on gender stereotypes. When Andie Anderson has to write an article about the things not to do when dating a man, and Benjamin Berry has to try and make her fall in love with him to win a bet, things get pretty wild. This show portrayed women as clingy, overemotional, and dramatic and showed men as shallow and uncaring. In the end, Andie also gives up a career opportunity to be with Ben, which is another harmful stereotypes in rom coms.
9 WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?
This movie stars Chris Evans and Anna Faris and was created before Chris Evans was becoming super popular as Captain America. The premise behind the movie is that women are and should be judged based on how many sexual partners they’ve had, while men don’t get the same scrutiny. Plus, Evans plays a playboy character who treats women as sex objects and is another rom com where a man suddenly becomes a good guy after meeting the right woman.
8 LOVE ACTUALLY
This beloved rom com might be a favorite, especially around Christmas, but it’s definitely got a lot of issues. This film is full of fat shaming as well as stereotypes that show men as powerful figures like politicians with women in subservient roles such as assistants. Plus, many people have pointed out that Mark, played by Andrew Lincoln, exhibits stalker behavior. Showing persistent stalking behaviors as romantic is a problem that many films in this genre have, and it sends a bad message about how men should treat women.
7 THE PROPOSAL
The Proposal might seem like it flips the script in some ways when it comes to rom coms since Sandra Bullock’s character is the boss and has the powerful job. However, this movie reinforces the stereotypes that women who are successful in their careers are aggressive, cruel, and bossy.
It also sends the messages that women who care about their careers aren’t able to be in healthy romantic relationships. Plus, the relationship between the two leads is rather toxic and manipulative.
6 WHAT WOMEN WANT
What Women Want is definitely a film that did not age well. Starring Mel Gibson, which these days is problematic in an off itself, is predicated on gender stereotypes. Mel Gibson’s character, Nick Marshall, is a womanizer and sexist jerk.
When an accident with a blow dryer causes him to be able to read women’s thoughts, he learns to respect women. The idea that men can be changed by the efforts of women is pretty toxic. Plus, there are many stereotypes about men and women in this film.
5 CRUEL INTENTIONS
Cruel Intentions isn’t exactly your typical romantic comedy. This teen movie about rich kids in Manhattan and their manipulative sexual behavior is pretty bad. The character of Sebastian is sexist and uses manipulation tactics to get other teenagers to sleep with him. He exhibits behaviors of not respecting boundaries or even consent multiple times. Plus, he and other characters in this film are manipulative and cruel, but maybe that’s the point given the title.
4 PRETTY WOMAN
Pretty Woman might be one of the most well-known movies of Julia Roberts. She was definitely an actress that became known for her work in rom coms. This movie doesn’t hold up well, and it’s got a lot of toxic issues.
Pretty Woman holds up a lot of stereotypes about sex workers and portrays the character of Vivian Ward as a woman who needs to be saved by a man. While this might be one of the most classic and popular romantic comedies out there, it’s definitely not one that holds up to modern ideals of gender or how to talk about issues such as sex work.
Grease is both a romantic comedy and a musical, and while the songs might be beloved, it’s definitely got a ton of issues.
RELATED: 15 Rom-Com Films That Suck. Period.
First of all, in the opening song, “Summer Nights,” there is a horrible line where Danny Zuko’s friends ask if Sandy “put up a fight.” This casual attitude towards sexual assault is pretty disturbing. Plus, at the end of the film, Sandy ends up changing herself to be more like Danny Zuko so that they can have a more long-lasting relationship.
2 SWEET HOME ALABAMA
Sweet Home Alabama is another romantic comedy that stars Reese Witherspoon. While the movie seems like a sweet exploration of the important things in life, it has some toxic problems. First of all, the relationship between Witherspoon’s character, Melanie and ex-husband Jake is pretty volatile and doesn’t seem that healthy. The other big problem with this film is that it sets up a dichotomy of career woman versus wife and mother. Melanie gives up her high-profile career to be a wife and mother and that choice is portrayed as the right one. Instead of showing that you can be a career woman and mother, this movie falls into a typical rom com trap.
Hitch, starring Will Smith, is another romantic comedy that many people love. The performances in the film are charming, and in the beginning, the promise seems cute. But, this movie is all about men changing themselves, under the guise of matchmaking, so they can lie and manipulate women into liking them.
Also, this movie sends the message that all women are looking for a relationship and that no woman would ever actually want to be single.