Watch THIS, Not THAT: Valentine's Day Edition

By Jessica Skinner

Whether we are chasing it, experiencing it, or watching it, love is a universal theme in our lives. That is why romantic movies appeal so much to us. However, not all romantic movies are created equal; many contain stereotypes and romanticize toxic behavior. Here’s your guide to what and what not to watch when it comes to romantic movies this Valentine’s Day:

So You Want an Exploration of Teen Sexuality

Don’t Watch: American Pie.
To most of the men in the movie, women are just sex objects. Everything the men do is in pursuit of getting the female characters to have sex with them. Not to mention, setting up a camera to watch a girl change? Not okay. The film does not recognize the creepy, invasive, and illegal nature of such an act. What could have been a funny and relatable movie for teens everywhere, American Pie just comes off as sexist.

Watch Instead: Blockers

Yes, this movie also has a sex pact. But in this case, there is no coercion because the men in the film are just as willing as the women. As raunchy and even funnier than American Pie, the movie still manages to create poignant messages about the stigma surrounding female virginity, questioning one’s own sexualtiy, and growing up.

So You Want Some Good Ol’ 80’s Teen Romance

Don’t Watch: Sixteen Candles

The character of Dong is basically just a mashup of offensive Asian stereotypes. This movie is not only racist, but it also perpetuates rape culture. Ted has sex with Caroline, who is so drunk that she mistakes the Ted as her boyfriend, Jake. When she awakes, Ted asks her if she enjoyed it, to which she replies “I got the strange feeling I did.” A movie that romanticizes boys having sex with barely conscious woman and exploits Asian stereotypes is not a good movie.

Watch Instead: Pretty in Pink
We still get Molly Ringwald portraying a teenage girl navigating love. However, she not only navigates love, but also how class differences permeate high school. It’s a lot like Sixteen Candles, just without all the offensiveness.  

So You Want an Exploration of Family

Don’t Watch: Monster-in-Law

Though there is nothing in the film that is blatantly offensive, the story of the overbearing, crazy mother in law feels tired. The film presents no legitimate reason for Viola clinging so dearly to her son, the motivation for her actions is seemingly just “women be crazy.” It’s a version of comedy which pits two women against each other, which basically means the movie upholds this stereotype that women are naturally conniving.

Watch Instead: Crazy Rich Asians
This film is about a woman struggling to gain approval from her betrothed family. However, it is not as shallow as Monster-in-Law because it explores themes of duty and class differences. Not to mention that this film was a huge stride forward for Asian representation in Western media.

So You Want a Predictable Teen Romance

Don’t Watch: The Kissing Booth

Elle ends up with Noah Flynn, who has trouble controlling his anger and frequently gets in fights, even furiously yelling at Elle at one point. A man who exhibits such dangerous behavior is not attractive, no matter how great his abs are. The Kissing Booth perpetuates the idea that hot-tempered boys with anger issues are hot and can be “fixed” by a woman.

Watch Instead: To All the Boys I Loved Before

It’s the movie that landed Noah Centineo twitter’s “white boy of the month.” Another Netflix Original, this romcom portrays a teen girl’s struggle with love and her first relationship. However, she clearly has her own agency and the men in her life in no way try to own her. Overall, it’s just very cute.

So You Want a Little Audrey Hepburn

Don’t Watch: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Yellow face. Need I say more?

Watch Instead: The Children’s Hour

One of the first films to have a queer woman, it explores the societal stigma surrounding lesbian relationships and the painful effect that has on anyone who does not fit into heteronormative standards.

So You Want a Plus Size Protagonist

Don’t Watch: Sierra Burgess is a Loser

She kisses a boy who thinks she looks like someone else, fakes being deaf, and posts a girl’s private pictures for all the school to see. Just because a movie casts someone that isn’t a size 0-4 as a lead, doesn’t mean the movie is feminist or revolutionary. Sierra Burgess could be good, if Sierra wasn’t such a horrible person.

Watch Instead: Dumplin’

A movie that realistically portrays what it is like to be a girl who does not fit into societal standards of beauty and teaches its audience to have more confidence in themselves? Yes, please!

So You Want a Bawdy Comedy

Don’t Watch: There’s Something about Mary

PSA, hiring a private detective to spy on a girl because you like her is extremely invasive and pretty much makes you a stalker.  

Watch Instead: Girls’ Trip

At a glance, it may seem like these movies don’t have too much in common. The main appeal of There’s Something about Mary seems to be it’s humor, and Girls Trip features the same bawdiness. Therefore, Girls Trip is a good replacement that will keep you laughing. The film also contains deeper messaging as it explores the pressures of appearing put together and “having it all” that is impressed especially upon POC. It’s the perfect film for your Galentine’s Day celebrations!