Yes, 'Love Actually' Is Sexist Trash, But Here's Why I'll Still Watch It Every Christmas
I’m not going to lie to you.
I’m one of those people who watches Love Actually every Christmas. It’s one of the few traditions I hold, along with baking gingerbread, cooking a hot lunch on a 38-degree day and drinking enough champagne at breakfast to make the family get-togethers an almost bearable occasion.
I’m also one of those people who advocate for the rights of women; specifically, the elimination of sexualisation and objectification of women in the media.
These days, the two appear to be mutually exclusive.
That I would watch this sexist, misogynistic movie by choice clearly makes me no better than the chauvinistic males responsible for the script behind it, or at the very least, makes me an enabler of the anti-feminist themes woven throughout this pathetic excuse of a Christmas movie.
I get it, I really do.
But please, can we keep our bras on for just a minute and firstly consider the movie was made 15 years ago before our #metoo culture was even an outer blip on the radar.
And secondly, can we just accept it for the trashy movie it is and stop crucifying one of the only traditions I look forward to each year?!
Further to that, here are six OTT Love Actually myths circulating the webosphere I’ve gone and debunked. You’re welcome.
1. Aurelia was not a victim of human trafficking.
Yes, she goes to France to work for a man. No, she can’t speak English. These two factors alone don’t make her a sex slave.
Also, Jamie doesn’t decide he wants her just because she takes her clothes off. They’ve already established a kind of (okay, literal) unspoken bond before she dives into freezing waters to save his manuscript; this is merely the catastrophic moment that brings them closer together.
And sure, maybe it’s dumb they fall for each other given they’ve never even been able to discuss their taste in music or whose job it’ll be to cook dinner each night, but in an act of true soul-mate love they learn to speak one another’s language, proving no obstacle is too hard to overcome when the universe sets you up with a foreigner.
2. Nobody was fat-shaming Natalie.
Her weight was first mentioned in reference to being dumped by her ex-boyfriend: he said no one'd fancy a girl with thighs the size of tree trunks.
Any reference to her weight from here was IRONIC HUMOUR. In fact, she says herself in an interview with Cosmopolitan:
"All the things she worried about and all the things that her boyfriend said she was because he wasn’t with her anymore... that was the whole point, you’re meant to go: ‘No she’s not, I think she’s lovely!' because that’s how men think about a lot of women who constantly criticise each other and themselves.
"That was meant to be the message and I think somewhere along the way, people didn’t get that. But that’s why I was happy to do it and play that part."
Get a grip, people.
3. Mark is not a creepy sociopathic stalker.
He is just some guy majorly suffering the agony of unrequited love, having to watch the girl he’s in love with marry his best friend. That’s gotta be tough.
But out of respect to his friend, he distances himself from her to the point she thinks he must hate her. He never actually tries to cut his mate’s lunch. Sure, he makes an awkward wedding video which is basically just the 2003 version of Insta-stalking (and who hasn’t had a crush and gone there), and he throws out some schmaltzy gesture of undying love with the whole carol-singing thing.
And then he’s said what he needed to say, it’s off his chest, and he walks away declaring, “Enough. Enough now.”
Dude just needed closure.
4. Colin objectifies women.
I actually can’t argue against this one. Colin is a major douche. But this entire male-fantasy storyline was so ridiculous in its execution it doesn’t even deserve the energy wasted to discuss it.
Only earlier this week Love Actually co-writer, Emma Freud, admitted in an interview with news.com.au that she fought to have some of the Colin scenes removed, but lost. Had the movie been produced today, I doubt his character would have made the cut.
5. Mia was not just cast as a vagina.
Granted, she doesn’t say a lot in the movie. Nor does she do much more than seduce Harry. But this entire storyline is far more complex than just a means to objectify women, with Mia being a powerful representation of the temptation faced by many men in the throes of mid-life.
But even more powerful than this was Karen’s very raw and moving response to Harry’s betrayal. Sure, the whole boss-secretary thing was a little clichéd, and Karen being cast in frumpy old-lady clothes was a major insult to her character, but this is without a doubt one of the more realistic and relatable storylines within the movie.
6. Prime Minister David was not a misogynist just because he called Margaret Thatcher a “saucy minx”.
Nor because he had Natalie fired over a major misunderstanding. The only politician who actually deserves that title is the American President who was the biggest womaniser of the entire movie, sexually harassing Natalie while on Presidential duty.
Where are the hate-blogs on him?! Why are people dissing the British Prime Minister instead of the American President?! Where’s the justice, people?!
Sure, the movie has its flaws. Daniel talks to his 13-year-old stepson about his sex life, the relationship between Karl and Sarah is just plain stupid, there’s far too much boob to watch it with anyone blood-related, Billy Mack is all kinds of awful and let’s not even get started on the turtleneck sweaters.
But still, it offers representations of love in all its varied and complicated ways while throwing in themes of struggle, sin, betrayal, forgiveness, second chances and redemption – it’s basically the Christmas story.
Yes, we could all rip this movie to shreds and would be justified in doing so. But there are plenty of other, more important, battles to fight than a movie produced over a decade ago that was never intended to be taken seriously in the first place.
And frankly, I find this time of year difficult enough without adding the need to push a political agenda -- sometimes, all I want for Christmas is to just to lay down my swords and watch a mindless, trashy rom-com in peace.