News

Is Love Actually A Modern Christmas Classic or a Problematic Mess?

Do the intermingled stories of Love Actually still hold up, or are they dated and even potentially toxic?

by | December 10, 2018 | Comments

Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

What’s better than a love story set against the backdrop of the holiday season? How about 10 interconnected love stories set against the backdrop of the holiday season, populated by an A-list ensemble cast and directed by the man who brought us charmers like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones’s Diary? Thanks to Richard Curtis and stars like Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, and many more, 2003’s Love Actually has bred a generation of adoring fans who count the film among their regularly scheduled holiday programming. That said, the movie’s collection of romances has inspired no small amount of criticism over the years, and not just from joyless Grinch types, either. Some of the characterizations and relationships portrayed are, let’s say, questionable in nature, and for some, no amount of cheeky Christmas-themed cheer is going to cut through that.

Of course, this means it’s up to us — and you — to settle another Christmas movie debate here on RT. Is Love Actually a modern Christmas classic, or is it just a problematic mess of a film? We present an argument representing each side of the debate from a passionate RT staffer, but it’s up to you to make the call. Read on and vote below!


Yes, Love Actually Is All Around!

Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Let’s first get this out of the way: Love Actually is at times terrible, actually. And it is, almost all the time, problematic. We will not go point-for-point refuting the online thinkpieces that break down all the ways it is so, because we agree. Does it fat-shame Martine McCutcheon’s Natalie and Aurelia’s sister (a.k.a. “Miss Dunkin’ Donut 2003” and woman no one could ever possibly marry)? Abso-bloody-lutely. Is Andrew Lincoln’s Mark really just a terribly dressed stalker? Yes: Call Scotland Yard! Does just about every thread contain some iffy, arguably misogynistic undertones? Kinda, actually.

But here’s the thing: as the Internet has taught us, all your faves are problematic – but that doesn’t mean we have to cancel them in their entirety. Rather, as Molly Ringwald showed in her recent essay for the New Yorker on The Breakfast Club, enlightenment allows us to grapple with past pop culture, to criticize and dissect it and call out its failings, even as we remain attached to elements of it. These things are complex. Because for all the glaring issues with Love, Actually, the movie has huge globs of earnest heart (we’ve all been as lovesick as Sam), soaring moments of joy (spontaneous wedding performance!), and Emma Freaking Thompson giving us all the feels. Plus Bill Nighy. Plus the nude couple. Plus “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Plus Mr. Bean. And on and on. And most of all, it makes a sh– ton of people happy as hell every December – people of all backgrounds and shapes. Should we consign it to the trash, like so much torn-up wrapping paper? To do so would be to deny people their annual Love, Actually pleasure, and to shut down the exact kinds of healthy conversations about art that have led the world to reassess its merits.


No, It’s a Festering Turd

Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Before anyone starts pointing fingers, it’s not feminism that made Love Actually unsexy. It’s the film’s own misunderstandings of romance and attraction that make it problematic and, in many ways, revolting. Despite what Love Actually tries to tell you, it’s not cute to stalk your best friend’s beau, or your secretary (or your boss), or your housekeeper. Nor is it romantic to objectify your crush, or funny to fat-shame anyone. Also, it’s absolutely uncool to shame men for having emotions. (The next person to call anyone a “sissy” is getting coal in their stocking.)

“Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?” is an actual line spoken by the Prime Minister in Love Actually. But never fear, his assistant is right around the corner to answer his demands for snacks! Later, he goes to her house to profess his love for her — but “he” is Hugh Grant, so it’s… supposedly less creepy? (Hint: It’s still inappropriate; he’s her boss.)

And don’t even get me started on the British boy seeking a “good shag” in the United States. Maybe Love Actually was trying to make a point about hyper-sexualization in American media (British pot, meet American kettle), but in order to pose such a critique, it would have had to actually be critical. Instead, it lets predatory men gawk at cardboard women — stand-ins for women with professional lives and actual personalities — over and over again. It’s meant to be funny, but again, it’s just cringeworthy.

Love Actually so desperately tries to create endearing plots for each of its celebrated cast members that it reduces each of them to outdated, now-embarassing tropes. Love Actually is no classic; it’s a relic of problematic rom-coms past.


Tag Cloud

E! 45 book Spike streaming YA TBS Mary Tyler Moore Valentine's Day war Calendar screenings Brie Larson Video Games Nominations CW Seed slashers Sundance Now FXX social media Fox News cats versus Shondaland Watching Series Sneak Peek 21st Century Fox independent Stephen King Mudbound SDCC HBO Max science fiction kids Sony Pictures indie APB TCA hist Ghostbusters sports Logo cancelled TV shows movies Pet Sematary President Cartoon Network TCM Elton John animated award winner Ellie Kemper Adult Swim Animation Holidays talk show Disney+ Disney Plus TV finale spanish language diversity Acorn TV Disney streaming service Lifetime Christmas movies supernatural Apple TV Plus YouTube Marvel latino DC Universe The CW Drama cancelled television Awards foreign Crackle Opinion Super Bowl Sundance 007 Sci-Fi Peacock Pirates Tumblr Rock rotten movies we love Polls and Games X-Men A24 miniseries Spectrum Originals FX FOX HBO crossover First Reviews romantic comedy Music ghosts zero dark thirty adventure festivals CBS All Access Bravo Television Academy Lionsgate boxoffice Countdown anthology Women's History Month Martial Arts Western blockbuster Netflix Apple TV+ TV renewals Mary Poppins Returns transformers MTV Film psycho theme song Apple BBC Marvel Studios ESPN Chernobyl Freeform spy thriller TV Land true crime Rocketman NYCC Cannes Epix cinemax 2016 Ovation TIFF Star Wars spinoff Quiz DC Comics revenge free movies spain TruTV VICE YouTube Red Hallmark Christmas movies San Diego Comic-Con binge discovery Dark Horse Comics south america romance Comedy Central Interview OWN Election ABC robots cancelled Character Guide Thanksgiving sitcom Reality Competition CBS psychological thriller Marathons Fantasy Turner dc jamie lee curtis Crunchyroll Comedy Nat Geo Paramount Network Oscars Masterpiece unscripted Song of Ice and Fire Esquire space Heroines cooking dragons crime drama Arrowverse BBC America Lifetime travel LGBT First Look DirecTV NBC anime The Walking Dead 20th Century Fox strong female leads See It Skip It MSNBC Superheroe witnail Captain marvel Trailer harry potter cults Schedule crime nature natural history Nickelodeon CMT The Arrangement Syfy SundanceTV Emmy Nominations Comic Book VH1 dceu Black Mirror Box Office composers Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt BET Amazon Certified Fresh historical drama Pop Year in Review DGA batman tv talk IFC Films Star Trek mockumentary Family Starz stand-up comedy Amazon Prime WarnerMedia TCA 2017 Amazon Prime Video RT21 WGN Fall TV Superheroes El Rey Netflix Christmas movies GLAAD DC streaming service game show Writers Guild of America Toys 24 frames thriller The Witch USA Lucasfilm Premiere Dates TLC toy story Film Festival Universal Grammys casting game of thrones Mystery Pride Month technology justice league Pixar singing competition Disney Plus LGBTQ dramedy Kids & Family Shudder 2015 A&E Action Musicals Best and Worst Infographic Vudu Mindy Kaling Biopics Walt Disney Pictures GIFs Cosplay Anna Paquin Musical what to watch History facebook Red Carpet IFC Comics on TV doctor who medical drama series Spring TV video RT History cops blaxploitation based on movie Reality Teen Emmys green book GoT Disney Channel Paramount zombie ABC Family Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sequel Rom-Com New York Comic Con MCU biography Hallmark zombies breaking bad comic comiccon 71st Emmy Awards Extras ITV Mary poppins Trophy Talk hispanic ratings Summer Classic Film Christmas Podcast Hulu Showtime joker PBS Winter TV American Society of Cinematographers Disney 2017 period drama YouTube Premium Columbia Pictures serial killer 2018 disaster Photos cancelled TV series canceled TV shows golden globes E3 werewolf Britbox Tarantino Rocky Turner Classic Movies political drama Winners National Geographic Horror spider-man elevated horror police drama Marvel Television docudrama Country cars AMC Trivia SXSW Awards Tour CNN cartoon teaser renewed TV shows PaleyFest richard e. Grant halloween USA Network TNT aliens Creative Arts Emmys mutant children's TV vampires quibi crime thriller canceled Tomatazos television politics 2019 adaptation The Purge Food Network Binge Guide Set visit Warner Bros.