Love Actually is the kind of movie I loved as a teenager: romantic, lots of handsome guys (hello Colin Firth and his warm puppy gazes), comedy and light-heartedness. I love feel-good movies, because I hate seeing people go through drama and pain, even if the people in question are fictional. That’s why my favourite movie is Pride & Prejudice: beautiful nature, beautiful music, beautiful dialogues, romantic Mr. Darcy who is smitten with Elizabeth, emotional growth of both characters, beautiful dresses and a happy ending!
Anyway, I digress. So on Christmas Eve, Love Actually was on and with crips and a christmas tree nearby, it seemed like the perfect thing to watch. I knew that I loved it when it first came out and was confident I would still love it. So, full of expectation and with a smile on my face, I let the story unfold.
Except… I didn’t like it! When the credits rolled, I was left with an empty and slightly annoyed feeling. I admit that there were scenes in the movie that didn’t seem entirely unbelievable and thoroughly moved me:
1) Karen just found out her husband had an affair and was listening to Joni Mitchell and crying. She only gave herself a few moments before she forced herself to stop crying and pretend everything is okay.
2) Sarah and her love for her brother
3) The funeral of Daniel’s wife. However, this story line was kind of ruined for me when Daniel met a new woman (Claudia Schiffer…because only models deserve love in this movie) only two or three weeks later and this was seen as healthy and entirely natural. Perhaps it’s part of a light-hearted movie that the trauma which happens to people is treated as a mere passing black cloud and people are back on their feet in no time. But it annoys the hell out of me.
So what bothered me so much about this movie that it left me feeling anything except good?
1) The persistent fat-shaming: hahaha, you’re fat. Hahaha, of course you’re unworthy of love and alone on Christmas. Hahaha, you’re pathetic and it’s so much fun to crack jokes about how fat you are. Hahaha, of course Colin Firth is horrified when Aurelia’s father thinks that he wants to marry her fat sister. Because, as we already established, she’s fat and doesn’t look like a bloody model and therefore she’s unworthy of love, single and her dad seems to hate her. Who cares about her personality, her dreams or what she does in life? Also, she seems entirely too wilful in contrast to the other demure and beautiful women who only live to please men.
Same with the ‘fat’ manager of Billy Mack. Hey, if I was twenty years older, I’d date him because he’s the most likeable man in this entire movie. He has a heart of gold. But no, because he doesn’t ‘look’ right, he’s treated as a loser who has no friends and is consistently referred to as ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’. Tell me again how any of this is funny?
2) The totally unbelievable love stories: I guess if you want to make a movie about so many people at once, you don’t really have time to develop a thoroughly believable bond between two people. Jamie has just been cheated on by his girlfriend and his own brother, runs off to France and finds love with his cleaning lady Aurelia, who is beautiful and doesn’t speak a word of English. But good communication doesn’t matter and he has seen enough of her during those few weeks to decide that he wants to marry her. I remember finding this incredibly romantic as a 13-year-old but now it left me completely untouched.
Same with Natalie and the prime minister. She looks good, they don’t have too many conversations and she, too, has a job serving him and those qualities seem irresistible to the men in this movie. Who needs feminism in this day and age?
3) Single = pathetic: Good-looking, worthy men and women don’t stay single for long. It doesn’t matter if they have been cheated on or their wife just died or they have been in an abusive relationship, they will find love again with other beautiful people. Someone will be there to ‘save’ them so they don’t have to think about what happened to them or take the time to process their emotions and grow. None of that silly-williness.
I admit, it might be because I’m single myself that I find this message so irksome.
4) Only models are worthy of love: I know, I know. I’ve already mentioned this point several times. And yes, it’s probably the hall-mark of romantic comedies and most movies for that matter that the leading characters (especially the women) are pretty. But it never has bugged me so much as now, when the movie begins and ends with shots of normal people embracing each other on the airport and when the movie deliberately makes a contrast between ‘good-looking’ people and those who don’t fit that rigid ideal. I find it insidious, like all the light-heartedness is just a glittery, superficial cover for something very disturbing that leaves a bad aftertaste for the ‘normal’ viewer. We have been so blinded by all the sick norms in society that we find it entertaining when a man or woman who’s not considered beautiful is made fun of. Never mind how the viewers who identify with that man or woman feel. Never mind your personality or values. Actually, maybe you should feel bad for looking like that. Maybe actually, you are deserving of insults and a life without love. Hahaha. How funny and light-hearted and cosy this movie is.