A new study published at the University of Michigan has determined what might be obvious to any woman who has ever watched a few rom-coms on the couch on Saturday morning: They’re pretty damaging to our perception of “normal” male behavior!
The study used six films to gauge women’s reactions to depictions of aggressive, “love conquers all” male characters who simply won’t take “no” for an answer. The researcher, Julia R. Lippman, used, among others, the romantic comedy There’s Something About Mary and the Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping With the Enemy. She found that women who watched romantic comedies, which often portray male aggression in a positive light, were far more likely themselves to view such behavior as acceptable.
Lippman says these movies make women more likely to accept the “stalker myth,” which she defines as “false or exaggerated beliefs about stalking that minimize its seriousness, which means that someone who more strongly endorses these tends to take stalking less seriously.” On the other hand, women who saw movies like Sleeping With the Enemy, where stalkerish behavior is betrayed as … stalkerish behavor, were far more likely to call it what it is: stalkerish behavior.
To be honest, all of this makes a lot of sense. That scene with Keira Knightley and the cue cards and the scary guy from The Walking Dead? Yeah, we knew that was creepy.