“Hey, I was
stalking going through your Instagram page the other day, whatever happened to that guy you were dating?”
There have been countless occasions where most of us, me included, have used the word stalking in jest. It’s almost become a joke regarding how quick girls can stalk someone’s profiles just to collect “receipts”.
But even though I’ve been part of the problem in the past, I want to talk about how the entertainment industry as a whole has been encouraging this behaviour. Almost making it seem like another way to woo a woman.
Stalking has been around for as long as we have, and we use it in so many different ways. But regardless of the context, the word essentially means unwanted or repeated attention by an individual toward another.
Now I’m not saying that we don’t understand that it’s a terrible word and action. However, most of us continue to use it in various contexts. And while “traditional stalking” was a more physically present activity, with how far technology has come, we get to do it without even leaving our house.
Especially when it comes to celebrities, all of us have a favourite! Regardless of the industry, some “fans” take it a little too far. In their mind, most people aren’t fans unless they know every single thing about them. And as if that wasn’t enough, they will make creepy fan accounts, or even leave comments or more. This phenomenon is calling stanning, which is the perfect blend of the words stalker and fan. Adorable, isn’t it?
While we have stanning on Instagram and the internet in general, Snapchat also helps with keeping a tab on some of your “friends”. The feature, released on June 21st, 2017, and was meant to be like an adventure for most of their snap users. You can travel the world and find your friends there. However, you can only find your friends if they’ve enabled the feature. But this feature can and has been used for various purposes in the past, one of which has been stalking.
People have been able to manipulate and feed their need for stalking with various apps in the past. But I want to talk about what’s collectively wrong with our society by analyzing (mostly attacking) movies and TV shows for encouraging this behaviour.
Seeing how I’m from India, we have a variety of movies that show stalking acceptably. And this has been going on for decades. But before I get into that, I want to talk about the show that ‘inspired’ me to write about this.
I’ve previously talked about the Netflix show in “Baby Don’t Hurt Me”, using these exact words:
“Obsession, unhealthy dependency, insatiable attraction, and more have all been mislabeled as love.
A prime example of this would be the popular Netflix series ‘You’. Penn Badgely, the main lead is looked at as a romance icon by some. The man himself looks at his character, Joe, with disgust. And while most share the same opinion as Penn, it goes to show what an all time low expectations have hit.”
The show primarily focuses on Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager in New York. He meets an upcoming writer, Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer and falls for her, immediately. We see him stalk her by following her IRL and on social media, which helps him win her over, and eventually date her. However, due to certain circumstances, he moves to Los Angeles and dons a new identity in the second season.
The common trope in this series is that we’re seeing everything through Joe’s perspective. So even though we know that he’s stalking her, it doesn’t seem as bad from his end. However, the show’s main lead Penn Badgley has talked about how he never liked the character on numerous occasions. Especially after seeing how women were saying things like “Joe should stalk me!”, or “Joe is so attractive” all over social media!
He’s gone as far as responding to fans to ensure that they know that it isn’t right to romanticize Joe’s character because he’s a stalker and a serial killer (Duh!). But that hasn’t stopped fans all over to fall in love with the series, and Joe. So much so that when it initially released on Netflix, it received an overwhelming response.
I’d like to believe that the series isn’t trying to normalise the behaviour. However, it ended up having the opposite effect on many women. It was accepted solely because of how most women found the protagonist attractive, which is worrying because IRL that logic can be dangerous.
For the longest time, Bollywood, wrongly considered to be the primary film industry of India, has been accused of glorifying stalking, harassment, and so much more. What’s crazy is that this has been going on for longer than we thought! Some have even garnered a huge following despite the worrying message it encompasses.
One of the movies I’d like to talk about is a cult classic, Sholay. The movie premiered first in 1975, and is a story of two criminals/friends who have been hired by a retired cop to capture a ruthless dacoit. So far, it doesn’t sound worrying. However, we’re soon introduced to both of their love interests, one of whom owns a horse tonga (a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle). Now this is where it gets worrying.
When the male protagonist first meets her, he jumps into her tonga and ambushes her from behind. The woman wasn’t a fan of this, and pushes him off, but he finds his way back in. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he’s serenading her, despite her increasing discomfort. But wait! It gets worse! We soon come across a scene where the protagonist threatens to kill herself, just so she agrees to marry him.
Seeing how this film did incredibly well, and continues to be talked about so many decades later, it is worrying how we’ve glossed over one of the lead’s toxic behavior. I’ve heard so many people discuss classic scenes from the movies, act out scenes, or even praise the dialogues and songs. But even when people discuss the dreaded “suicide” scene, no one calls it what it is; worrying.
While this film was a film of the past, let’s talk about one from 2013. Ranjhanaa is a “romantic” drama movie. It takes place in one of the sacred cities of India of all places, Varanasi! We first meet both the leads as children. Being from different communities, the boy happens to fall in love with the girl since the day he laid his eyes on her (shocking!). Throughout the years, the boy
stalks her tries to woo her.
Even though he initially has to deal with getting slapped multiple times, she finally gives in, tells him her names, and starts liking him because of his persistence. What follows after is just a whole lot of nonsense that takes up most of the movie. But do you know what the best part is? The male protagonist dies a martyr in the movie. It doesn’t matter if he’s creepy, it doesn’t matter if he was stalking, it doesn’t matter if he’s a bad guy. As far as Bollywood is concerned, HE. IS. A. HERO.
While I would LOVE to talk about some more movies that inspire the Indian dating scene, I’d like to shed some light on our western counterparts and call myself and other people out!
I don’t even remember when I first came across this movie, but I fell in love with the Notebook almost immediately, and that didn’t change until recently. And I wasn’t the only one, many other girls and women loved the movie for various reasons. How couldn’t they? It’s a movie about romance and second chances with two extremely attractive protagonists.
But even though this is supposed to be a cute love story, the first time we come across Noah’s (the male protagonist) stalker behaviour almost immediately. The scene in question happens to be when Noah lays eyes on Allie for the first time at the carnival. However, Allie is on a date, with another man. Does this affect Noah? No. Instead, he decides to scale the Ferris wheel and disrupts her date by threatening to jump off the top if she disagrees to go on a date with him. That is a major red flag, and I should have known back then.
Apart from the toxic “go out with me, or I jump” shtick Noah has practically bullied Allie into going out with him. And if that wasn’t enough, their whole relationship, unsurprisingly, ends up being extremely taxing. When I first watched the movie, I was a crying mess by the end of it. Not only did I think this was an incredibly romantic story, but I also wanted a similar story. Again, I wasn’t the only one!
But let’s move on before I sob at the thought of my favourite movie being extremely toxic.
Let’s now enter the “My Guilty Pleasure” section!
I wish I could discuss any other movie, but this happens to be the only movie that comes to mind. Twilight came out back in 2008, and to this day I don’t want to admit the fact that I ever thought that, watching this movie would be a good idea.
I still think the movie is absolute trash, but many of the things Edward (the male protagonist) did was justified because he was a vampire. BIG WHOOP! But the worst part is that he even admits how he climbs into her bedroom, watches her sleep because he likes it, and has been following her around.
It’s worse when you think about how Edward is at least a century old, while Bella happens to be a 17-year-old human being. Now apart from the usual toxicity we come across in a relationship between two human beings, Bella and Edward seem to take it up a notch. Their relationship consisted of passive-aggressiveness, interspecies issues revolving revenge, thirst, and Bella’s indecisiveness.
And if I haven’t already convinced you, let’s talk about Mark from Love Actually.
We initially are introduced to Mark at Peter’s (his best friend) wedding. Mark is the best man and the videographer, and Peter and Julie (his bride) assume that he just doesn’t like her. We see him being extremely cold, and just uncomfortable around her. He even refuses to show her the wedding tape, which is when she decides to pay him a visit.
And to her surprise, the tape includes various close-ups of her. This is when we find out that Mark loves her. After the video leaves them in silence, Mark decides to break it by telling her that he snubs her out of self-preservation. We later see Mark visit Peter and Juliet’s house on Christmas Eve, with large cue cards and a boombox playing Christmas Carols. He professes his love for her, without expecting her to feel the same way, and I remember being so smitten by this scene (cringe). But to this day, I’m incredibly confused about the fact that she runs after him to give him a quick kiss, only to go back inside to the man she loves.
Andrew Lincoln, who portrays Mark in the movie had this to say about his role:
“He is a stalker. That was my question to Richard Curtis, ‘Do you think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’ And he said, ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be alright.”
Now before anyone calls me out, I realise I’ve used horrible examples to emphasize my points, but hear me out!
One Way Or Another
Stalking has been an issue for quite some time now. So if that has been the case, why am I calling movies and TV shows out? Especially when it has been so prevalent in the real world?
Here’s the thing! I’m not specifically pointing fingers at the entertainment industry. All I’m doing is using a medium a vast majority of us have access to and questioning why normalizing it seems like a better idea? While stalking and harassment is a punishable offence in our world, the tinsel town doesn’t seem to see the issue by showing it in a positive light. This is considering how most men look at this as acceptance.
I get that people are capable of making their own decisions, and possibly come to this conclusion by themselves. But there is so much wrong with stalking and harassing the girl you love until you bully her into dating you shtick. And even if we stop pushing this false narrative through our TV shows and movies, things might not change. But change is necessary.
Think about it, what if Joe Goldberg was a creepy looking 40-something-year old man, would the fans of the show still prefer being stalked by him? The only reason they’re interested is because of Joe being conventionally good looking. How is that not worrying?
What is your perspective on the stalking culture? Does your favourite movie include a stalker? Let me know in the comments. And if you enjoyed reading me calling myself and other people out, you can check out more of my work here!