We are one sleep from Christmas, so I figured it’s about time I started getting festive here on fivethreeninety. So, let’s list every problem with the iconic festive film, Love Actually.
I’m going to start by saying I actually really like this film. I first saw it as a kid, and have watched it at least once every festive season (or sometimes in the middle of summer just for the help of it) ever since. I always thought it was funny, romantic and just general all round good fun.
Obviously as time has gone on since the 2003 film’s release, and as society has got increasingly Woke™, more and more parts of Love Actually have become glaringly obvious as more than a little problematic.
Too many plotlines
The story features eight different storylines, and all but one are connected to each other in some shape or form. It is a weird type of story, that has been imitated in several other unsuccessful films since such as Valentines Day and New Year’s Eve.
It is a lot to keep up with, I’ll admit, but I’ve never struggled with it.
Derogatory treatment of women
Women are repeatedly shown as desirable objects, frequently in states of undress and very often
And of course, though I believe it’s deliberately tongue in cheek; the music video for “the bad grandad of rock and roll” Billy Mack’s Christmas single is the worst of it all; featuring scantily clad women in Santa themed attire suggestively licking their lips, faking playing instruments with legs spread wide at the drum kit. As I said, I’m pretty sure this is a clear farce; but it’s funny that the film makes that clear and yet has sexy close ups panning up a woman’s near naked body as she jumps into a lake.
The moment where Natalie is harassed by the the US President is also extremely notable, as she is never consulted about how it affected her. In fact, Natalie herself apologies for the incident, as if it had anything to do with her. Obviously this film was made in the early 2000s, and even if it were released in 2015 the #MeToo initiative hadn’t been kickstarted and therefore sadly, the issue would even then have been pushed under the rug. It’s only really in the wake of all this action finally being taken that people are taking note of truly how serious this is.
In one of the film’s most iconic moments, Andrew Lincoln’s Mark knocks on Juliet’s door and professes his love to her. All fine and good, except she has just married his best friend and they have never really had a relationship – Mark has deliberately watched her from afar the whole time, to the point of making an intimate video of extreme close ups of her.
And Juliet rewards him for this behaviour with a kiss.
It doesn’t endorse Mark’s behaviour, I don’t think. It perhaps romanticises it, but it’s pretty clearly creepy – but he doesn’t intend to harass her by doing it. He purposely doesn’t act on his feelings for the respect of his friend, and Juliet’s own happiness; and none of it would have come to light had Juliet not been honestly, a bit rude and invited herself into his home, and put his personal film on.
Mark is in a tough situation, and he actually deals with it in quite a respectable way. And when it comes to light, he’s honest with Juliet, and clears the air without expecting anything in return from her.
Colin Frizzle’s storyline
One side storyline follows lovable fool Colin Frizzle on his quest to find love in America. That’s it. It’s fun, but is the only storyline not to have a level of sweetness to it. It’s just pointless.
But who cares, because it’s fun.
Main character Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon, is repeatedly said to be fat. Though she is very much an average, healthy size she is called fat, chubby, ‘plumpy’ with ‘huge thighs’ and even talks about her ex-boyfriend breaking up with her because she was getting fat.
It is worth saying that the hero of this storyline, Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister, notably always disputes this, and even quips about having those who have said it murdered. It’s important to hear him say this repeatedly; especially as he is the literal leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world.
This fat shaming is a damaging message to put out to the public. As a child, these comments really confused me as I could see these women were obviously healthy and slim, yet I was being told they were fat.
It tries to wrap up Liam Neeson’s storyline
Though in the wake of his beloved wife’s recent death, at the end of the film Daniel is introduced to Carol, another mother at the school. Obviously the joke here is that Carol is played by Claudia Schiffer, the model that Daniel has repeatedly quipped about his interest in throughout the film; though it makes his storyline feel very much wrapped up in a neat little bow.
This is the big one.
As twitter user Gabriel Bisset-Smith pointed out, Love Actually has not one, not two, but three storylines depicting an older man forming a relationship with a younger woman he employs: Harry and Mia, David and Natalie, and Jamie and Aurelia.
Obviously, a relationship between a boss and employee is neither professional nor appropriate; and presents a potentially dangerous position of power that shouldn’t be part of a relationship. And it happens three times in this one film!
Disregarding inappropriate employment relationships, near every relationship in this film is wildly un-proportioned when it comes to age. Here is every romantic relationship featured in Love Actually, and the age gaps between the pairs:
The average age gap is 12.92 years. In the fourteen couples, in only two of them is the woman older than the man.
Obviously I’m aware that these are the actors ages, not the character’s. Actors have what is called “playing ages”, which is basically the age category that they could realistically play at any one time in their career: for example, Keira Knightley may have had a playing age of 18-25 at the time of filming.
But an average of thirteen years age difference is a pretty clear demonstration of a major problem in Hollywood, where older men are paired with increasingly younger women and depicted as the norm. Again, it’s a potentially dangerous position of power that should not be part of a relationship.
I do think Love Actually brings a lot of good to the world.
It’s a depiction of love in all it’s different forms, set at a time of year that holds so much pressure for love. There’s blossoming love, long-standing love, fading love, being unlucky in love, fatherly love, love between siblings, unrequited love and even love as an foursome in Wisconsin.
It’s sympathetic to all different circumstances, and all different kinds of love. It brought us a scene where the UK Prime Minister tells the US President to essentially fuck off; a scene where Liam Neeson calmly and casually checks with his stepson if it’s a boy he is in love with; and that scene with Emma Thompson discovering her husband is unfaithful. It’s insensitive in other areas, but not maliciously so.
I love this film, and I love it’s flawed characters. Hell, as a kid I used to have a crush on Colin Frizzle – not Kris Marshall, Colin. We can acknowledge when things aren’t great, but there’s no changing something of the past. If anything, a film like this is indicative of how far we’ve come since it’s release.
So, I will contunie to watch and enjoy this film for years to come. And not just because Bill Nighy’s Christmas is All Around is the best Christmas song of all time.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Love Actually is available on Amazon Prime