It would be pretty creepy if someone broke into your bedroom, read your diary, and then bought you a new one for “a fresh start”— but it’s super cute when Colin Firth does it to Bridget Jones, right?
A new study found we rationalize the stalking behavior—the classic over-the-top-win-her-back gesture—that’s central to many romantic comedies and start to think of it as sweet. So the guy holding up the signs on Christmas Eve in Love Actually isn’t romantic. Remember the video he recorded of Keira Knightley’s character at her wedding? It’s basically the definition of stalking. (Worth noting: Men aren’t always the offenders. Jennifer Garner’s aggressive character in 13 Going on 30 is also a perfect example.)
In the study, women watched part of a movie where a man pursues a woman. The movies were either portrayed as scary or romantic. Women who watched a rom-com were more likely to agree with common “stalking myths,” like “an individual who goes to the extremes of stalking must really feel passionately for his/her love interest.” Because love usually trumps everything else in these movies, it’s harder to see the romantic gestures as creepy.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to fall in love with your stalker if you’re the type of person who adores rom-coms. But you may think someone showing up to your apartment unannounced after you told them you weren’t interested is just trying to be nice, says Julia Lippman, the study’s author.