University researcher Julia Lippman conducted a study and found that romantic comedies normalize stalking behavior.

In her study “I Did it Because I Never Stopped Loving You: the Effects of Media Portrayals of Persistent Pursuit on Beliefs about Stalking,” Lippman explored representations of stalking in Hollywood movies to see if women have become numb to taunting male behavior disguised as romance in such films. Potentially dangerous stalking behaviors are often portrayed as romantic in films, according to Lippman.

Lippman showed her 426 female subjects 30 minute-long clips from from one of six movies: There’s Something About Mary and Management, which both portray romantic pursuits in positive light; Enough and Sleeping With the Enemy, which convey stalking negatively; or March of the Penguins and Winged Migration, both of which are neutral films.

Even before the study was published, people have had qualms about the nature of romantic comedies:

“Stalking myths are false or exaggerated beliefs about stalking that minimise its seriousness, which means that someone who more strongly endorses stalking myths tends to take stalking less seriously,” Lippman wrote in her study.

After watching the excerpts from the films, subjects answered surveys, one of which posed questions about stalking myths.  Those women who watched the first two films were generally accepting of the aggressive stalking behavior.

This study was inspired by Lippman’s belief that terms such as “Facebook stalking” trivialize and downplay stalking behaviors and gendered aggression.

 

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