Stalking Isn’t Romantic — No Matter the Movies Would Have You Believe

“I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You.” This phrase describes the plot of many romantic comedies. It’s also the title of a popular study on stalking.

In 2015, researcher Julia Lippman found that movies showing stalking in a positive light made viewers more likely think the behavior was romantic.

They were more likely to say that the target of interest was playing “hard to get” and would change their mind later. They also tended to say that the pursuing character was just so “passionate” about someone that they had to resort to stalking. 

Years later as another National Stalking Awareness Month begins, media keep feeding the myth that stalking is romantic – or worse, dark but sexy. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is releasing its most recent movie next month, which features a protagonist who keeps constant tabs on his partner’s whereabouts — even when she wants to be left alone. Meanwhile, Maroon Five’s song “Animals” continues to play on the radio.

This music video may be disturbing, but the reality is even scarier. One in 6 women and one in 19 men have experienced stalking. Unfortunately, there are no statistics on non-binary individuals.

Stalkers are most commonly former romantic partners — the most dangerous. And as with many domestic violence cases, the victims are often not believed.

Lawyer and single mother Peggy — her last name isn’t reported — told Forty Eight Hours that she repeatedly called the police, but they discounted her until her ex started pursuing multiple victims.

“Unless you are physically harmed, they wait, and they reinforced this feeling no one was going to help me,” Peggy said.

According to Deputy District Attorney Wendy Segall, the internet has made stalking more prevalent. Predators can now use social media to locate their victims more easily.

As Forty Eight Hours reports, “NCIS” star and anti-stalking advocate Pauley Perrette calls for better protections for victims. They include creating a national stalking registry, training police more effectively and updating laws against internet stalking.

In the meantime, people should stop conflating stalking behaviors with romance.

Countless romantic comedies like “Love Actually,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World” are not the only culprits. You can stream television shows like “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City,” where men and boys incessantly follow their female interests — and eventually end up together.

And people are still playing the King of Pop’s catchy “The Way You Make Me Feel,” despite the music video’s predatory feel.

Even the persistent tradition of having a “secret admirer” encourages the receiver to see persistent anonymous advances as sweet, no matter if they’re not interested.

And even when artists mean to portray stalker-like behavior in a negative light, many still mistake the behavior described as romantic.

Take the persistent 2004 earworm “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. People played the tune at their weddings, even though Blunt wrote the song from the perspective of stoned man creepily following a woman.

“‘You’re Beautiful’ is not this soft romantic f*****g song,” Blunt told The Huffington Post. “It’s about a guy who’s high as a f*****g kite on drugs in the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend when that guy is there in front of him, and he should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv.”

Though some now label the song a ”stalker’s anthem,” people have interpreted “Every Breath You Take” by The Police as a love song for quite some time — but singer Sting called the lyrics “sadistic.”

With so many people misinterpreting these songs as romantic, it’s time to examine our assumptions — and eliminate stalking as an acceptable behavior in our culture.

Photo Credit: Paul Garaizar/Unsplash

86 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

ty

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Dave f
DAVID f2 months ago

No To Stalking

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KimJ M
KimJ M2 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M2 months ago

Tfs

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silja salonen
silja s3 months ago

musical ... phantom of the opera, is about a stalker rapsit, this was my first reaction when I to the theatre and saw this.. so I left during intermission. I realize that it is a favourite of so many .. however it was a trigger. Thank you NO

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Karen H
Karen H3 months ago

Celine R, we're talking about humans here, not animals. If we're devolving to being no more than animals, we're in a very sad state indeed.

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Celine Russo
Celine Russo3 months ago

But... does this happen also in the animal kingdom? Were there species where they follow for a period of time a possible mate? Sometimes I wonder how much their relationships are consensual.

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Sonia M

Good article thanks for sharing

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Judie B
Judie B3 months ago

Sarah McLachlan wrote about a stalker she had in "Possession:"
(excerpt)
oh you speak to me in riddles
and you speak to me in rhymes
my body aches to breathe your breath
your words keep me alive
And I would be the one
to hold you down
kiss you so hard
I'll take your breath away
and after, I'd wipe away the tears
just close your eyes dear
Into this night I wander
it's morning that I dread
another day of knowing of
the path I fear to tread
oh into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride
nothing stands between us here
and I won't be denied

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