Love was in the air Tuesday night at the University of Michigan's Central Campus Recreation Building. Approximately 30 students and faculty attended a screening of the 2003 Christmas-themed romantic comedy “Love Actually” followed by a dialogue about consent, healthy relationships and respect.
The event, hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, was part of the group’s Consent, Outreach and Relationship Education Program. According to the SAPAC website, the event was created to help students understand their relationships during the holiday season and throughout the new year.
SAPAC is a University-run organization with the goal of fostering a respectful and safe environment through educational and supportive services. In June, the University was recognized for its alcohol abuse and sexual assault prevention efforts by the Campus Prevention Network.
LSA junior Sai Pamidighantam and LSA senior Rachel Liebergall, who are both SAPAC volunteers, moderated the discussion. Liebergall said when picking a movie, they wanted something that was part of pop culture, fit the timing with the holidays coming up and has complex meanings that are often missed by audiences.
“We were looking at movies that you maybe wouldn’t expect to have hidden meanings,” Liebergall said. “That’s the biggest issue in all of our actions is — and what SAPAC and specifically CORE seeks to address — that we may not realize we’re doing something wrong.”
“Love Actually” follows 10 people in romantic relationships during the five weeks leading up to Christmas in London. The movie has been scrutinized for its negative stereotyping of women and unhealthy relationships.
During the discussion, attendees discussed the antiquated portrayal of discrimination in the workplace, cheating in relationships and the treatment of women in the movie. They also talked about the non-romantic relationships and the role of race.
Engineering senior Hannah Ferriby said she was interested in “Love Actually” and wanted a new perspective on it. She said the discussion with SAPAC changed the way she thought about the movie.
“I just really liked ‘Love Actually’ and I just thought with SAPAC it’d be really interesting to get a new perspective,” Ferriby said. “I definitely saw the movie in a different way than watching it on Netflix alone. It was clear that there was a lot of problematic scenes and relationships, and there was something we can all learn from the movie.”
Pamidighantam said she hoped attendees left with a new understanding of “Love Actually” and a culture as a whole. She said that people may not notice overlooked pieces of this movie, it is important to recognize when there are problematic storylines and their impact on audiences.
Pamidighantam also noted SAPAC’s resources and events available for all community members. Both Pamidighantam and Liebergall emphasized SAPAC’s continued efforts in the community and other events in creating a safe and accepting campus culture.
“This movie is something that is so ingrained in our culture,” Pamidighantam said. “It’s really popular, so we don’t step back to think that some parts of our culture aren’t exactly appropriate. They’re not celebrating people, they’re not celebrating love, they’re not celebrating things in the right way. These things we don’t really think about when we’re watching movies and we don’t really consider, so it’s important to hit on those nuances.”