We all know that cheating is bad, right? Right. And if you condone or actively engage in cheating and are reading this, kindly fuck off and re-evaluate your morals elsewhere. It’s never OK to betray someone’s trust, particularly someone who loves you. So why do romantic comedies constantly condone this?
Picture this, it’s Sunday and my film of choice is 13 Going on 30. I am hungover and therefore already emotionally unstable (I’d already burst into tears four times before Jenna Rink realised that she wasn’t dreaming). Now, I love that film, I really do. I love the soundtrack and the self-discovery and Jennifer Garner’s impossibly shiny hair. But what I don’t love? 30 year old Jenna’s rekindling of her relationship with 30 year old Matt. Like, yeah, he’s cute in a disheveled photographer who only wears old band t-shirts kind of way, BUT HE ALSO HAS A FIANCE. Damn, Jenna. I know you’re really only 13, but where’s your sense of sisterhood, girl? Apparently, the makers of this otherwise wonderful movie thought it OK for Matt to cheat on his fiancé. I don’t care how romantic it is, or how ‘meant to be’ they were. It’s not OK and it completely romanticizes cheating.
Yes, sweet and ENGAGED, Jenna - ENGAGED!
13 Going on 30 is not the only culprit. One of my very favourite festive watches, Love Actually, quite often has the nation furious over Alan Rickman’s character and his utter betrayal of his wife. That. Goddamn. Necklace. And who the fuck wears devil horns to a Christmas party?! Anyway... she was devastated, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who now can’t listen to Joni Mitchell without crying. But what about Mark? The snakey little fucker who ‘oh so romantically’ went behind his best mate’s back to tell his brand new wife that he loved her!!! WTF!?!?! It’s not romantic to try and steal someone’s spouse. It’s cruel. And whilst we’re on the subject, Kiera Knightley just about justified his behaviour by rewarding it with a secret kiss. Shame on you. Shame on all of you.
Now, I am a very busy woman and I have a whole host of other billion dollar industries to call out for varying offenses, so I can’t stay and write up a list of every single plot and story-line which, whether intentionally or not, romanticize cheating. So I’ll just leave you with these few to think about – Mad Men, Gossip Girl, Game of Thrones, Friends, Brokeback Mountain, The Girl on the Train. Yes, there are fucking loads. No, it’s still not cool.
Hun, call your boyfriend out here to whoop his ass.
So, Hollywood, listen up. I love your stories. Nothin’ gets me quite like the shining lights of the silver screen. But Jenna and Matt's story would have been just as good if he had told her from the get go that he was engaged, refused to entertain her persistent flirting and denied her of a sandpit kiss. He should have told her he was spoken for, and she should have listened to him. And, then, when he sacked off his bride to be BEFORE engaging romantically with Jen, it would have been so much more dramatic and surely more likely to rake in the Oscars. Stop giving the baddie the happy ending. You’re welcome.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been cheated on, but it isn’t something I would wish on any of you. Adultery isn’t a romantic gesture. It isn’t exciting, sexy or invigorating. It’s deeply unsettling, painful and unnecessary. And, as it is behaviour that most of us are disgusted with in real life, this should be mirrored in its portrayal on the TV. How can we call out ex partners, friend’s spouses and literally anyone who disrespects someone else in such a way, lecturing them to call it off with anyone they are unsure about before acting on impulse with someone else but cheer, weep and applaud the inevitable bastard who ends up with exactly what they want before the credits roll; having their cake and eating it?