A Look at the “Abduction As Romance” Trope

By  · Published on July 11th, 2018

This video essay examines a particularly troubling movie trope.

Problematic movies have become a significant point of discussion recently, whether it’s about the actions of the filmmakers themselves or the concerning tropes that are still the norm. One of these tropes came under particular scrutiny in 2016’s Passengers, in which Chris Pratt’s character intentionally put Jennifer Lawrence in a situation where he was the only other person she would see for the rest of her life.

The way the film portrays this scenario as a romantic one rubbed many viewers the wrong way. Audiences were unsettled by the choices made by the filmmakers, even if they may not have known how exactly to label this concept. The latest video essay from Pop Culture Detective takes a deep dive into this troubling storytelling device.

The video explains how the trope often involves a violent white male kidnapping a woman, usually framed as him “protecting” her. The woman loses all of her agency, and her submitting to the whims of the man are portrayed in a positive light. To add to the uncomfortableness, these movies often end with them starting a romantic relationship. When explained, the trope rightfully sounds extremely harmful. The violent actions and threats from the man are not only justified but rewarded. A disturbing expression of toxic masculinity. By having this underlying message in so many films, we are learning entirely wrong lessons about the consequences of our actions.

And the trope doesn’t belong exclusively to bad movies. In fact, many of our favorite movies feature some variation of it. V for VendettaThe Terminator, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are just a few examples. But does this mean we should disown these movies?

Many of the responses to this video are about how certain films have now been “ruined.” Which is a completely valid position to take. Regardless of how much you’ve enjoyed a film in the past, having these problematic elements pointed out can certainly affect how you watch them in the future. And it’s only natural that some viewers may be turned off from ever enjoying the films again. Once something like this is identified, it’s difficult to put the cat back in the bag.

But should you even try? And should we feel the need to renounce our favorite movies once their problematic elements are pointed out? Well, when it comes down to it, nobody can really tell you how to view a piece of art. How you respond to these tropes is likely going to depend upon your life experiences. And those are entirely unique to you.

But it is greatly important to be aware. Aware of what these tropes are, how they find their way into popular media and how they can impact the viewer. You may not stop loving a movie after realizing that they are problematic. But there is a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge certain harmful tropes. And especially to take your knowledge of them forward to the way you view movies in the future.

As film lovers, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye out for these things. And creators like Pop Culture Detective offer great lessons in how we have accepted them for so long. Whether it be a look at the predatory nature of Harrison Ford‘s characters or the “born sexy yesterday” trope, these videos are worth your time. A fantastic resource for those interested in the subtext behind movies, presented in a way that doesn’t look down on viewers but seeks to educate them.

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