Heads up: this article contains a fair number of spoilers, so if you’re really committed to watching Noah Centineo make out with every 19-year-old C-list actress, be warned.
If you follow me on any social media, you probably know I have finally returned home from studying abroad. That means I’ll be spending the next few weeks hate-watching my friends’ tropical vacation stories and cheesy Netflix rom-coms.
Full disclosure, I love a good (and by good, I mean really bad) rom-com. There are few things I find more entertaining than watching Mila Kunis act “emotionally unavailable.” Not to brag, but I, too, have been called emotionally unavailable, which means my best efforts to do her proud are paying off. However, as Netflix continues to churn out sh*tty rom-coms faster than FashionNova makes knock-offs of what the Kardashians wear, it’s important to ask ourselves if these movies are doing more harm than good to the target audience—namely, young girls. Generally, rom-coms tend to take behavior that is questionable at best and make it into this romanticized, melodramatic story that is totally irresistible. After watching SEVEN Netflix originals and three classic rom-coms, I have produced a list of the top four unhealthy behaviors these movies promote.
Treating People Like Second Choices
This behavior seems to be a staple in Noah Centineo movies. Seriously, the only real differences between To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Perfect Date are that Centineo is way hotter in the first and a PG-13 escort in the second. It’s like Noah Centineo is the Little Mermaid, and instead of trading his voice with Netflix in return for legs, he gave up his good looks for a multi-picture Netflix deal. Anyway, I digress.
View this post on Instagram
No one should get in a relationship with someone who treats them like a second choice, which is extremely common in rom-coms, specifically in Netflix’s newer films. In To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Centineo’s character Peter Kavinsky pretends to date Lara Jean, but only because he wants to get his ex back. Surprise, surprise, he ends up falling for Lara Jean, even though it seems pretty clear that it never would have happened if his ex took him back in the first place. In The Perfect Date, he basically asks the girl that likes him, Celia, to fake-break up with him in public, complete with personal attacks and all, so that he can get the girl he thinks he wants, as if that wouldn’t leave serious emotional damage. However, Netflix wraps this behavior up pretty neatly, with the two main characters declaring their love for each other on the school’s lacrosse field or a sub shop as if suddenly, all is well.
Call me cynical, but if it was me, it would be pretty f*cking sus if some guy spontaneously stopped being in love with his ex-girlfriend and claimed that he was all in for me. I don’t buy it when I see that happen in real life, and I’m sure as hell not buying it from a cheesy Netflix movie.
If you haven’t seen the movie After, stop everything and watch it. Immediately. Not sure if it falls into the rom-com category, but it was, by far, the most absurd thing I have ever seen. Honestly, it was a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. The movie delves into a lot of problematic behaviors, but one I want to address upfront is cheating.
Our protagonist, Tessa, is a sweet, studious girl entering her freshman year in college and keeping her high school boyfriend. But, like, all it takes is one glance at a ~mysterious~ hot guy at a frat party and gone are all her morals. Okay, Tessa, we’ve all been there, but just do the right thing and break up with your guy from high school first. And for Christ’s sake, do NOT go hook up with your new man while your boyfriend is visiting! Yes, Hardin (aforementioned mysterious hot guy) also has all sorts of problematic qualities, which I will address later on, but right now I am just focused on Tessa’s cheating and how the movie makes us think it’s okay because she’s just super passionate.
Whether or not you believe “once a cheater, always a cheater,” it should give you pause if someone cheats on their significant other with you and then wants to have a relationship. First of all, wtf ever happened to the rebound period? Second of all, how do you even set boundaries on appropriate behavior with this person? The whole foundation of your relationship is based on them being a cheater so… good luck with that.
Cheating is literally never okay. It isn’t any less awful because you have feelings for the person you did it with (or, in the case of After, want to have a few super-hot, hate-fueled make-out sessions with).
View this post on Instagram
I don’t think this should have to be said, but I guess it’s necessary. Sierra Burgess is a Loser might actually be one of the best movies Netflix has ever made (don’t @ me, I said what I said). Nevertheless, the premise of the film is still pretty questionable. In the movie, Sierra Burgess catfishes Jamey, played by none other than Netflix’s resident generically hot guy Noah Centineo, texting him under the guise that she is a hot cheerleader named Veronica (who, conveniently, attends a rival high school, and, of course, is Sierra’s bully). Sierra and Jamey text regularly, and while there’s something to be said for falling for someone’s personality and not their looks, she still catfished him. To make matters worse, Sierra goes so far as to befriend the real Veronica so that she can keep up the act when Jamey inevitably asks to FaceTime.
Naturally, Jamey kisses the real Veronica when he sees her for the first time at a football game. Sierra assumes Veronica is still bullying her by kissing Jamey, whom she is now in love with, and publicly humiliates her during halftime. Uh, no, Sierra, Jamey literally has no idea who you are BECAUSE YOU NEVER TOLD HIM!!! How much easier your life could have been if you had told the truth from the beginning.
These huge lies are the foundation for the plot in so many romcoms, from How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days to Sierra Burgess is a Loser. But obviously—and again, I can’t believe this is something that even needs to be said—this behavior is unacceptable in real life. There’s a reason most of the relationships on Catfish don’t work out, and it’s because (among other things) people generally don’t like being lied to.
Listen, I’m not totally against some innocuous game playing, especially where f*ckboys are concerned. However, when the games become the whole relationship or when the other person isn’t into it, sh*t starts to get messy. And not in a fun Real Housewives way.
Back to my new favorite movie to hate on, After. The whole reason the male lead, Hardin, even talks to Tessa (and makes her cheat on her boyfriend) is because he bet his friends he could have sex with her and make her fall in love with him, and also he wants to make another girl jealous. She consequently loses her virginity to him, and
in the book One Direction fan fiction version of the movie, he SHOWS HIS FRIENDS THE SHEETS. It’s all just f*cked up on so many levels.
Hard pass on using a person to make someone else jealous without their knowledge, using a person to win a misogynistic bet, and an even harder pass on making a person fall in love with you under false pretenses. However, when alllll of this ludicrous behavior is reconciled with a half-assed apology and a hot kiss in the rain, it’s easy to forget just how toxic the behavior is.
Just because I can recognize these behaviors does not mean I’m not above falling victim to the negative messages these movies send. When I was a 16-year-old, nothing was more romantic to me than Chuck and Blair’s passionate relationship, which I now realize was toxic as hell. Despite what teen movies and shows will tell you, in reality it’s super unlikely that a f*ckboy will change his ways, and constant screaming and fighting is not the same as passion in a relationship.
And, really, I’m not trying to ruin the fun of rom-coms, mainly because I’ll be spending the next few weeks of my life binging them. But, before you start thinking that if Lara Jean and Peter could make it work, maybe your douchebag booty call will finally step up, it’s important to face the facts.
When we watch movies that romanticize cheating, manipulation, and borderline emotional abuse, we are teaching people that it’s romantic and okay. Because of these movies, instead of seeing the guy that hooked up with another girl while you were supposed to be exclusive as the douchebag he is, we start thinking he needs to (and can) be fixed. And then, of course, we start dreaming of the future relationship we might have with him once we fix him, and at the very least, end up disappointed.
Listen, not every movie can be He’s Just Not That into You (which, despite the name, does not present the healthiest relationship dynamics). But in 2020, I’m kind of thinking we can do better to provide young girls with positive examples of healthy relationships.
Images: Bettina Strauss / Netflix; aftermovie, sierraburgessisaloserig, toalltheboysnetflix / Instagram
Guys, I know it feels like all I write about on this website are Hollywood’s favorite barely legal thirst traps and Bella Thorne, but the heart wants what it wants, and I won’t apologize for that! Speaking of my limited interests, a few weeks ago I was over here hyping my boyfriend Noah Centineo’s new movie The Perfect Date. I may have alluded to it being the next To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on the rom-com scale of one to I WOULD DIE FOR PETER KAVINSKY, and, y’all, I may have spoken too soon on this one. I know what you’re thinking: how can the guy whose big acting break involved playing “Jose #2” on a network that does nothing but cater to the whims of 8th grade girls (and myself) ever do any wrong? Well, Sierra Burgess was strike one, not responding to my thinly veiled come-ons in his DMs was strike two, and Brooks Rattigan is goddamn strike three.
Even though I did call out sick from work to watch this movie the minute it dropped on Netflix (and, no, HR apparently doesn’t consider looking at Noah Centineo’s abs a proper mental health day. This means war, Melissa!), I had, like, so many emotions after watching it, and most of them weren’t great. So, to spare you from the same fate I suffered, here’s my
cautionary tale recap of the movie.
The movie opens with us immediately being introduced to Noah’s character: Brooks Rattigan. We learn that Brooks is both smart and hunky, but was born on the wrong side of the tracks. Being poor means that of course Brooks can’t get laid to save his life )despite the fact that he has that face and presumably people in this movie have working eyes) or get into college (despite the fact that it is established that he is a smarty pants). K. And I thought his character’s name was going to be the hardest pill to swallow. Sighs. Nevertheless, I shall persist.
We quickly find out that it’s not that Brooks can’t get into any college; it’s that he can’t get into Yale. I guess his dad’s professor pension wouldn’t cover much of a bribe. He wants to go to an Ivy League school because, just like every f*ckboy I’ve ever matched with on a dating app, his idols are Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. If he did even one simple Google search on his idols he would have learned that neither of his idols actually attended an Ivy League, but fine.
DAD: Why don’t you want to go to UConn? I teach there so the tuition is virtually free. You’d have no debt and get a great education!
Actually his exact words were “UConn is like that girl down the street who eats food in bed and smells like it,” which I take personal offense to because I am that girl and THOSE ARE FIGHTING WORDS, BROOKS.
To hammer this “I’m poor” point home, we find out that Brooks works at an off-brand Subway in the hopes of paying for college, one five-dollar footlong at a time. Just as he’s losing hope, a rich guy from his high school shows up complaining about having to take his cousin, whom he all but describes as Quasimodo, to her school dance.
RANDOM RICH GUY: I have to take my cousin to her school dance tonight even though Madison said I could put just the tip in later tonight!!
I’ve seen the trailer for this movie so I knew this was coming, but I’m still so alarmed. Brooks, a virtual stranger to this guy, immediately asks to step in so long as he can drive his nice car and get paid AND THE GUY SAYS YES. This is your flesh and blood, and you’re willing to foist her off to the first guy who offers just so Madison can give you a half-hearted blow job later?? I’m disgusted.
Enter the sad girl aka Celia Lieberman. We find out that the reason Celia is sad and undateable is because she’s a feminist and hates wearing strappy heels! Her family not only doesn’t question that a stranger is picking her up instead of her cousin, but they actually seem grateful to get this shrew off their hands for an evening. The life lessons I’m taking away from this movie are… astounding.
Cut to the dance, where we get a lot of forced banter and lukewarm chemistry from the two of them. It’s like the writers are trying too hard to make Celia quirky and Brooks charming and it’s just not working for me. After coercing Celia onto the dance floor even though she says she doesn’t want to dance and she’s the paying customer here (Haven’t you heard, Brooks? The customer is always right!) he all but hobbles Celia with his sh*tty footwork as he tries to spy on beautiful, rich girl Shelby, who’s taking shameless selfies in the corner.
So, let me get this straight. He steps on his date’s foot while BLATANTLY checking out another girl right in front of her and this is supposed to be a perfect date? I mean, this is a date that I’ve been on before, but I wouldn’t call it perfect by any means.
Brooks, despite all of his actions proving otherwise and Celia even saying she did not have a good time, decides he’s so good at being a date that he will create an app to turn this stand-in thing into his side hustle! First of all, he makes creating an app sound about as easy as creating a Gmail account. Second of all, THIS IS TEENAGE PROSTITUTION. He is essentially pimping himself out for money! If the roles were reversed and a girl was playing Brooke Rattigan, the movie would end with her death!
Brooks gets his tech wizard of a best friend to help him create the app. To convince him to help he implies that this app will look great to colleges. As if an app that promotes the prostitution of a minor is the equivalent of joining the drama club. K. They fondly refer to the app as Grubhub but with a human trafficking twist. I paraphrase.
Cut to a montage of him going on various dates with women. I know it’s several dates based off of all the costumes. Why does this town have more themed events than my sorority did in the entire 4 years I was in college?
Celia ends up calling him because she needs his services for a second date to make her crush, Franklin, jealous and Brooks shameless drops the name of his app. Again, he sounds like every f*ckboy I’ve matched with on a dating app. Celia does not look appropriately enough disgusted by this info.
They show up at Shelby’s party where Brooks immediately tries to ditch Celia so he can shamelessly flirt with Shelby EVEN THOUGH HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE CELIA’S DATE. Celia, sweetie, I’d be taking that out of his tips if I were you.
They both separate to flirt with their intended targets: Shelby and Franklin. Both conversations feel about as painful as listening to a recording of your own voice. I’m cringing. Brooks finds Celia after he’s done hitting on another woman (remember, ladies, he’s the perfect date!), but it’s all good because he found ice cream. Celia compares Brooks to her favorite flavor of ice cream, vanilla, and it’s the most I’ve appreciated her wit all movie.
Brooks and Celia’s weird pimp/hoe relationship continues to blossom. Celia gets Brooks an interview at Yale, Brooks tells Celia she’s weird and confident and someone might find that attractive eventually, and Celia learns that Brooks has mommy issues. This is the real turning point here. She goes from “you’re a cocky asshole I would never date” to “you’re a cocky asshole because your mom abandoned you and now I’m wet.” See, Brooks, she is just like all the other girls!
Celia tries to deny her feelings by going on a date with Franklin. Remember, this is her crush, the guy she was into because she thought he was artistic and real. She quickly finds out that he’s got about as much artistic integrity as a bride-to-be trying to defend her farmhouse chic aesthetic. Ain’t that the way the cookie always crumbles, Celia?
FRANKLIN: You and Brooks remind me of a couple of dung beetles.
Honestly, I couldn’t have phrased it better myself, Frankie.
Moving on to the scheduled breakup. Celia wears strappy heels for the evening letting us know that she’s ready to compromise her sense of self for a dude who has commitment issues. Honestly, so relatable. During the very public breakup he throws her private insecurities that she divulged to him in secret in her face in front of the entire school. While Celia is getting emotionally eviscerated, Shelby is trying (and failing) to look like the whole thing isn’t getting her wet.
SHELBY: I heard you just verbally assault your girlfriend back there…
Like, am I taking crazy pills here? Why does everyone think this guy is a catch? Is being the “perfect date” synonymous with being a perfect d*ck? Because I do not understand why all of these girls are into him. Shelby and Brooks immediately start making out while I question my entire gender.
Fast forward to Shelby and Brooks’ date, and it’s not going well. Shelby is starting to find out what we’ve known for the past 60 minutes of this godforsaken movie: that Brooks has no personality and zero ambition other than getting into Yale. He’s really lucky he has that great smirk tbh.
Upon entering yet another high school dance (how many can this school possibly have in the span of a few weeks?) Shelby finds out about Brooksie’s little side hustle. Okay, I know she’s supposed to be the big shallow bitch here, but she is the only one in this entire movie who has an appropriate reaction to finding out Brooks is a teenage gigolo. THE ONLY ONE.
It’s only after Shelby dumps his ass out of sheer disgust that Brooks crawls on back to weird but confident Celia (his words, not mine).
CELIA: It turns out I’m more into oblivious, self-absorbed pricks.
God! She’s insulting you, Brooks! Could you just this once not look like a smug piece of sh*t?
After two different girls dump Brooks, he starts to realize that maybe pimping himself out for money isn’t the desirable of a quality to have. I’m slightly alarmed that there’e only eleven minutes left in this movie and he’s only just figuring this out. I’m even more alarmed that upon telling his dad he’s a male gigolo all his dad says is “I was wondering what those late nights were about.” That’s it, I’m calling child services.
BROOKS: I just feel like you gave up on life. You’re a loser, dad.
BROOKS’ DAD: Um, I’m actually a tenured professor and we live in a modest home and I can afford to send you to college for virtually nothing so why don’t you get off my hump?
THANK YOU, SIR. I’ve only been yelling this at my TV for the last 90 minutes.
Brooks realizes there’s only one girl he wants and it’s
Celia the one with self-esteem issues who might take him back. He lures her to a coffee shop under the pretenses that he wants her to read his college essay, when really, it’s a letter of his intent to be with her. It’s the only cute thing he’s done all movie. She takes him back, and, let’s face it, I would too. The end.
Despite the fact that I have done nothing but sh*t on this movie for the entirety of this post, I didn’t completely hate it. But the reason I watch these rom-coms is to find a little of that rom-com hero magic we got from Peter Kavinsky, and Brooks Rattigan was no such hero. If you were on the fence about watching this one, I’d say maybe wait and hold out until Noah actually reprises his role as Peter Kavinsky because this one left me with more feelings of rage than that absurd excuse for a Mueller report.
Images: Giphy (6)