How many times have you seen this plot in movies and television? Man and woman are friends. Man harbors romantic feelings for woman. Woman isn’t interested and/or doesn’t even realize the man loves her. Man is determined to make her see the light. Man does all sorts of ridiculous, over the top things, and sometimes even creepy things to make the woman see how perfect they would be together. By the end, the woman miraculously does see the light and falls madly for this man she previously hadn’t considered.
Now, all of that plays out as romantic and funny, yet in real life having someone repeatedly ask you out or even show continued, persistent interest after you’ve clearly said “no thanks, move along now” is anything but romantic and it sure isn’t funny. I don’t know that I’d call it stalking, but, from first hand experience, it is extremely offputting. Depending on the person, it’s even harrassment. I could certainly see it leading up to worse things. I’m going to cheat here in highlighting all that’s wrong with the above scenario and direct you to an older post on The F Word, a link provided to me by someone on my LiveJournal in response to my complaints of yet another man (two, actually) who couldn’t take no for an answer. The author there is pretty concise, and she makes a very good point about how the same type of behavior in women garners a far different reaction.
This weekend, I realized just how pervasive this particular trope is. I have weaned myself off of children’s programming, but caved on Saturday and watched Nickelodeon’s newest show, iCarly. Right there on the screen, from the very first episode, we have this scenario playing out. Carly’s neighbor and pal Freddy has a huge crush on her. She tolerates his advances like he’s a silly boy, because he is. She does nothing to encourage his devotion (unless, and this is odious, she wants him to do something for her), but he is prepared to follow after her like a puppy for the slightest chance. She’s not bothered by his behavior, and the behavior is always greeted with canned audience laughter.
Obviously, it’s too soon to say if Freddy’s love will go from unrequited to reciprocal, but the point is more how this scenario is catered to a young audience, and that audience will continue to get these messages over and over and over.
For women, the ultimate message in this seems to be “relax, let your guard down and let the guy that’s exhibiting stalkerish behavior in, because he could be The One.” (Never mind that he’s being creepy.)
For men, the message is “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try again – and don’t worry, you’re entitled to get the woman in the end, just like all those guys in the movies.”
Both messages are troublesome.