14 Disturbing and Heinously Sexist Things You Never Noticed About 'Love, Actually'

The 2000s gave the world some decent holiday movies and a few of flat-out classics (Elf, anyone?). None of these movies was more instantly beloved than Love Actually, which seemed to have been around since the dawn of time the day it came out. Set in London during the holidays, the film follows about a dozen relationships, as men, women, and even children fall in and out of love in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Its popularity has led to several imitators, films with star-studded casts set on a holiday and featuring a loose web of seemingly unrelated stories. 

Though legions of devoted fans treasure the film, it's undeniable there are plenty of weird things in Love Actually that should give viewers pause. From curious representations to inappropriate story lines and insane grand gestures, these disturbing Love Actually elements make it one of the most low key creepy romcoms. These quirks in may mislead its audience into gaining a superficial understanding of love and romance.

No viewing of this film is complete without at least acknowledging some of the creepy Love Actually plots. True, the film boats a brilliant cast of actors from both sides of the Atlantic, but more often than not, their great talent is wasted on shallow, rude, and self-centered characters. Ironically, the more "romantic" the story line appears, the more problematic it is. A closer look at the darker elements of one of the most disturbing holiday favorites of all time proves that love, actually, is not all around. 

Photo: Universal Pictures

  • The Film Uses 9/11 to Manipulate Its Audience's Emotions

    Here's the first line of the movie:

    "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport... When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."

    Apart from the hokey language, this quote is problematic and emotionally manipulative: it uses 9/11 to peddle in emotionalism. There were plenty of other ways a romantic comedy could have gotten its message - people, at their core, are loving - across without exploiting the final minutes of men and women who lost their lives in a senseless act of terrorism. 

    Moreover, it seems a tad tasteless, ironic, and a little bit cruel that a film using 9/11 to manipulate its audience frames itself around airports. The film begins and ends with montages of random people reuniting at the arrivals gate at Heathrow. Too far, Love Actually. Too far.

  • Daniel's Grieving Process Lasts Approximately One Minute

    When Love Actually starts, Daniel's wife, Sam's mom, is deceased. Her heartbreaking funeral at the beginning is a rare emotional moment in a film that peddles cheap, rank sentimentality like candy. The death of his wife brings a new problem for Daniel: supporting and connecting with Sam, his young stepson. Trying to help Sam with his romantic predicament offers a distraction for Daniel and a way to bond with Sam, which is great

    It doesn't take Daniel long to move on from his deceased wife. By the end of the film - which, according to the timeline, can be no more 5 weeks after her death - he has a new girlfriend. While it's wonderful Daniel is able to look for love again, it also comes off as unbelievable, especially since the memory of his wife completely disappears from the film at the halfway point, as if he has already forgotten about her.

    Also isn't Sam upset his mom died? No? Playing the drums got him over the passing of the woman who brought into this world in about a month? Okay, sure. That makes sense.

  • The Prime Minister Punishes and Shames a Victim of Sexual Harassment

    When David, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, walks in on the President of the United States in a compromising position with Natalie, his catering manager and would-be love, his first response is to blame Natalie, which he does by "redistributing" her in the office. The fact that Natalie is clearly uncomfortable in the encounter - she seems to freeze in shock when the President put the moves on her - and did not ask to be sexually harassed never crosses David's mind.

    Instead of supporting Natalie or calling out the President, David immediately places blame at the victim's feet and licks his own wounds. Ultimately, he makes the situation all about himself and the fact that he now sees his potential love interest as little more than a sack of spoiled goods. In fact, Natalie sends an apology to David, as if it was her fault it happened: "I'm very sorry about the thing that happened. It was a very odd moment, and I feel like a prize idiot."

    If anything, David should be the one apologizing.

  • The Body-Shaming Is Out of Control

    One of the most consistent types of joke in Love Actually is the "fat joke," and it's astonishing how often it pops up. Natalie, the Prime Minister's catering manager and potential love interest, repeatedly has jokes made about her body, even though she appears healthy and normal. Aurelia's sister, too, is ridiculed as "Miss Dunkin Donuts 2003" and exists solely to be the overweight foil to her petite sister, whom she calls a "skinny moron." 

    To be fair, the film is an equal opportunity shamer, since overweight men are just as likely to be teased for their imperfect bodies as women: Billy Mack repeatedly makes fun of his "fat manager," who turns out to be the only normal, down-to-earth person in his life. 

  • The Prime Minister Determines Foreign Policy Based on His Personal Relationships

    UK Prime Minister David stands in as a kind of Cool Britannia champion in the vein of real-life Labour ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair. At the start of the film, David is timid and cautious when it comes to Great Britain's relationship with the United States.

    What does it take for him to be awakened as the defender of Britain? The US President putting his hands all over David's love interest. In response to this turn of events, David unleashes his nationalistic masculinity and stands firmly against American imperialism (the American president is clearly a George W. Bush type and the film was released the year the Iraq War started. What was that about 9/11 again?). Though David's newfound assertiveness is what his staff wanted - they emphasized the need to rely less on the US, while David dismissed their concerns - the instigating factor came down to sex. Politics, then, is reduced to a sex competition between two men. 

    Ultimately, the President's sexual harassment of the Prime Minster's catering manager is not about Natalie at all. Its sole purpose is to rouse David into fulfilling a political destiny. Somewhere, the victim gets lost in the power game. 

  • Mark Is Definitely a Stalker

    One of the most iconic images in Love Actually is the famous "To Me, You're Perfect" shot, when an unrequited-lovestruck young man fearlessly declares his love for the object of his affection. Mark - the bearer of the sign - has been in love with Juliet for a long time. The problem? She's married to his best friend. So he makes a grand gesture to let Juliet know "his wasted heart will go on loving her" until her body is old and decayed. Nothing says romance like a mummy metaphor, folks. 

    But this isn't as romantic as it initially appears. Why? Because Mark is a stalker. Remember that wedding video he made for her? The camera practically strokes and caresses poor Juliet with the obsessive eye of a stalker as it moves up and down her body and focuses on the smallest details. 

    Moreover, the supposed grand gesture is actually a breach of honesty between Juliet and her new husband/Mark's best friend. When Juliet opens the door to him, he holds up a sign that reads, "Say it's carol-singers!" and she obliges. It's clear Mark means this to be an intimate secret the two of them share.