Three Romantic Gestures from the Movies That Will Tell Your Lover You're a Sociopath

Before I get started, let's get something straight: taking any kind of romantic advice from me is not a good idea. Asking me for help with your love life is like screaming financial questions at the dead salmon in your refrigerator. Everyone around you can see that you're making a huge mistake, and any good that comes from it is probably all in your head.

Me, pursuing a mate in the wild.

With that said, I'm still a better source of advice than the average romantic comedy. Before you try to replicate something you see on the big screen, be aware that the following shows should only be imitated by sociopaths.

The Notebook: Do Not Dangle Yourself From a Ferris Wheel

The Notebook is the sappy romantic movie by which all other sappy romantic movies are compared. Based on the generic, formulaic romance novel written by Nicholas "I'm not a romance novelist" Sparks, The Notebook tells the story of Noah and Allie, a couple whose love survives war, separation, dementia, and the ridiculous, abusive tactics of a man who refuses to take 'no' for an answer.

Helpful Hint: that ridiculous, abusive man is the one we're supposed to be rooting for.

Noah first spots Allie at a carnival in South Carolina in 1940, and from the moment he lays eyes on her, it's love at first sight. But right from the start, their love is fraught with problems - he's a poor country boy from the wrong side of the tracks. She's a well-groomed rich girl with high society parents. Oh, and also, she's happily dating somebody else and doesn't have a fucking clue who Noah is or why he's following her around. 

And based on his fill-in-the-blanks personality, he doesn't have a fucking clue who he is, either.

Right from the start, Noah is faced with a huge problem. He wants to get the attention of his beautiful, wealthy girl he knows nothing about, but she's too focused on her date to entertain the affections of total strangers who stalk her at carnivals. So Noah takes drastic measures to get to agree to a date. And by "drastic measures", I mean he dangles himself off a beam on the Ferris wheel and threatens to let himself drop to his death in front of her if she doesn't agree to go out with him. 

If you think this is romantic, I hope you're reading this from the waiting room of a good therapist's office.

There really are no words for just how fucked-up that is. Threatening to harm yourself in order to secure someone's affections is a textbook sign of an abusive relationship, and even a girl living in a "women are fancy, breathing toys" era like the 1940s should have known better than to speak to a man who blackmailed her into a date by threatening to off himself in front of her. Suggesting that a gesture like that could be the start of a passionate, lifelong relationship is insane; she agrees to go out with him not because he's charming, or attractive, or kind, or because they have things in common, but because she doesn't want to watch him plummet to an early death. In reality, the best possible outcome of this relationship would be for her to spend a couple of months enduring an emotionally abusive relationship that slowly isolates her from her friends and family and erodes her self-identity before he finally hauls off and slaps her and she runs home to her parents' house. The worst possible outcome is for her to end up in a series of trash bags at the bottom of a lake. Don't fucking do this.

Say Anything: Do Not Show Up on Someone's Lawn With a Boombox

Okay, full disclosure - I would 100% be okay with someone showing up on my lawn with a boombox over their head. It doesn't even have to be a romantic gesture. If you have ever had any kind of feelings for me - romantic, hatred, or otherwise - you are hereby invited to express them via outdated music player on my front lawn.

With that said, Say Anything is not a movie any sane, reasonable person should emulate.

Yeah, you should be scared.

Say Anything is a 1980s teen romance movie that is 80% shockingly healthy, well-adjusted teenagers with astounding emotional maturity, and 20% bizarre crime drama. The movie follows Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), who, despite being something of a human pizza crust, decides to pursue Diane Court, the school's valedictorian, because why the fuck not? He calls her up and invites her to a party and she accepts, even though she doesn't actually remember who he is. They go out to the party and instantly connect with each other, her classmates all tell her how happy they are to see her coming out of her shell, she responsibly calls her father to tell him she'll be late, and a good time is had by all, which is not usually the expected outcome when a girl agrees to get into a car with a stranger in a flesh-coloured trenchcoat.

Teen heartthrob, or psychopath who wants to peel off all your skin and wear it? Finding out is half the fun!

Eventually, Lloyd takes Diane out in his car to give her some stick shift lessons, and the evening ends with Diane playing with a stick shift of an entirely different variety (sorry, mom). The two of them start a romantic relationship characterized by mutual respect, genuine affection and Peter Gabriel songs, and there would be no fucking conflict in this movie if it weren't for the fact that Diane's father is secretly stealing antique jukeboxes from elderly people.

Not joking.

Diane finds herself up to her blue-mascara-laden eyelashes in stress. Her father is facing some serious jail time for stealing money and possessions from dead senior citizens. She's a few weeks away from going off to college in England, half a world away. And worst of all, she's having regular, illicit back-seat sexytimes with a boy who loves her dearly. What's a girl to do? Her father makes the not-at-all-insane suggestion that she simplify her life by breaking up with Lloyd for absolutely no reason, thereby cutting herself off from the main source of affection and support in her life. And since all teenage girls follow their father's advice about who they should date, she does so. Immediately. Lloyd is devastated, and when Diane fails to answer any of the seven phone messages he leaves for her, he heads out onto her front lawn with a boombox and a Peter Gabriel cassette tape to win her back.

You and me both, sister.

Here's a handy hint: if someone breaks up with you and stops taking your calls, and your first instinct begins with the phrase "show up at their house", you need to leave your chair right now and head directly to a good therapist's office. The only reason this scene in Say Anything doesn't appear in domestic violence PSAs is because we get to see that Diane is heartbroken and wants to get back with Lloyd. But Lloyd doesn't have any way of knowing that. From his perspective, Diane has no interest in hearing back from him - an unreturned phone call was the 1989 equivalent of those little "Seen at 5:32 pm" messages that destroy all of our friendships today. He knows she's ignoring him. For all he knows, she's fallen hopelessly in love with some other guy, or she's trying to spare herself a painful long-distance breakup down the road. And instead of respecting her decision, he decides to show right the fuck up on her front lawn, boombox in hand, and literally blast his feelings at her because he knows she can't escape. If you call the police and tell them "I broke up with this guy a week ago and he's outside my window right now", they will have a cruiser dispatched by the time you finish your sentence, because every so often, that exact scenario ends with multiple knife wounds. Don't fucking do this.

Big Fish: Do Not Cover a Stranger's Lawn in an Entire Industry's Worth of Flowers

Big Fish is what happened that one time that director Tim Burton didn't try to make a black-and-white film with a colour camera. The movie tells the story of Ed and Will Bloom, an estranged father/son duo who finally have a happy reunion as Ed is lying in the hospital, dying of cancer. To make up for all the years they lost to a petty argument, Will forces his father to spend his dwindling time and energy telling him all the bullshit life stories he's been hearing since he was a little kid.

"Son, my every breath is agony, but let me tell you again how I once saw a wolf chewing on a stick."

A large portion of Ed's story focuses on how he met and wooed Will's mother, Sandra. Like every part of Will's life story, the romance is absolutely insane. But unlike other parts of the story, which are filled with legends, mythical creatures, grand adventures and whimsy, the story of how Ed seduced Sandra is filled with stalking, privacy violations and the creepiest romantic gesture since Christian Grey drew up a contract to beat the shit out of Anastasia.

And also, the need to act like a decent human being stops.

In the story, Ed glimpses Sandra in the audience of a circus big top show, but isn't able to speak to her before she leaves. When he finds out that the ringmaster knows the girl, he offers to work at the circus, unpaid, in exchange for learning one Fun Fact about her each month. After a few months of indentured labour, he's learned that the girl likes daffodils and music, which is something that any asshole could have figured out with a good guess and a dartboard. He's also learned her first and last name, and where she goes to school, which is a little bit more concerning. So what does Ed do? Write her a letter, introducing himself and conveniently leaving out the part where he stalked her vicariously through a circus ringleader? Enroll at her school and get to know her gradually over time, to see if he's a good fit for her? Fuck no! He just turns right the fuck up at her school with 10,000 daffodils and publicly declares his love for her. And when I say "10,000 daffodils", I don't mean cut flowers. Any asshole can do that. No, he actually plants a field of 10,000 daffodil plants outside her dorm room, because you're not really in love unless you're flipping off a university groundskeeper.

She says, desperately scanning the horizon for an escape route.

Are there even words for how insane this is? My favourite flower is Bleeding Hearts, but if a complete stranger planted a fucking flower shop's worth of them on my lawn, I wouldn't go running into his arms. I'd be running back into my house to grab the meat cleaver, because there's no way that someone willing to change the entire ecosystem of my front yard isn't dangerous. Remember, this man is a complete and total stranger to her. This isn't a guy proposing to his daffodil-obsessed girlfriend of five years. This is a guy turning up out of the blue to let her know he exists. Most women would feel uncomfortable accepting a bouquet of flowers from a strange man, never mind accepting an entire flower industry from someone who mysteriously knows your name and address. I know he's aiming to send a message of "I'm madly in love with you and I give enough of a shit about you to know your favourite flower", but to me, the only thing this says is "I know where you live and I have been hiding in your bushes with a shovel for two days".

Which means this response isn't entirely unreasonable.

And before someone goes screaming to the comments section, yes, I know that the whole point of the movie is that Ed Bloom is full of shit. Everything we see in the film is an exaggerated or outright fabricated story that Ed told to his son. But does that really make this any better? Children learn about the world from their parents, especially when it comes to topics like choosing and impressing a partner. So Ed Bloom chose to teach his son that the key to finding love is to pick a random woman, sell yourself into slavery to learn her personal information, and then show up unannounced at her place of residence with a literal truckload of flowers and let her boyfriend beat the shit out of you until she hops on your dick. That's love, kids! We never hear any other version of this story, which tells us that this is literally the only love advice Ed has ever given his son. Also, at the end of the movie, we find out that all of Ed's stories have a grain of truth to them. And every grain of truth in this story is creepy. It's pretty reasonable to assume that the true story goes something like this: Ed saw Sandra at a circus show, asked the ringleader for a bunch of her personal information, tracked her down at her university with a comedically large bouquet of flowers, and refused to take no for an answer when her boyfriend got upset. Even in that version of the story, Ed is pushy, creepy and places far, far too much value on a girl's favourite kind of flowers.

Don't fucking do this.

What other terrible romantic gestures have you seen in the movies? Leave 'em in the comments.

No comments

Back to Top