We Can’t Believe Anyone Actually Thought *That* Scene From Love Actually Was Romantic
It has some seriously funny moments, like when Hugh Grant gets sprung dancing around 10 Downing Street (we reckon we’d do the same thing if we were Prime Minister, to be honest).
It also has some tear-jerker moments, like when Emma Thompson opens her Christmas gift expecting a necklace but instead finds a Joni Mitchell CD — she realises that the jewellery she saw her husband buying was actually for someone else, and it breaks our hearts every time.
But the film’s most famous scene is probably the one where Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln) arrives at the home of Juliet (Keira Knightley) and her husband Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor). When Juliet opens the door, Mark tells her to tell Peter that there are carol singers at the door and he switches on a boombox to blare Christmas carols while he declares his love for her on a set of cue cards.
It was probably intended to be romantic, but when professional sex coach Georgia Grace and sex entrepreneur Lucy Wark of NORMAL went back and re-watched the scene, they realised that it seriously did not age well.
“I wonder what the difference in feeling is if you switch this scene up and replace the Christmas carols with creepy horror film music,” wonders entrepreneur Lucy Wark.
“So there’s a knock at the door, she looks scared, and there’s a creepy man standing there and he’s telling her to shush and to lie to her husband!”
It’s already weird enough that Mark is declaring his attraction for a woman who he’s pretty sure will never reciprocate because she’s married to his best friend Peter; but the fact that he’s doing it in such a way that makes it really difficult and uncomfortable for Juliet to respond is, realistically, pretty manipulative.
“He comes to her house uninvited, he makes her lie to her partner, and makes her complicit in hiding the fact that he is going behind his best friend’s back to express his feelings to his best friend’s partner,” Lucy says.
“Something that stands out to me in watching this scene is that even if his intent with this gesture is to put an end to his crush, he’s doing it in an incredibly selfish way.”
We get that this film was made almost 20 years ago, but how did this not read as creepy back in 2003?
This isn’t even the first time Mark had made Juliet uncomfortable. Mark was the videographer for Juliet and Peter’s wedding, and after acting super evasive for weeks while Juliet asked him again and again for videos of the wedding, he finally offered her the tapes and she realised that all he had recorded was her face. Not her husband, not their families, not their friends… just her face. For the entire wedding.
“Imagine how pissed off you’d be if it was just your face,” says Lucy.
“This is why you always have a backup wedding videographer — it’s actually not about having an issue with the film or the equipment failing, it’s in case one of the videographers is in love with you, forgets to fulfil the brief, and becomes an absolute creep.”
Sex coach Georgia Grace believes that it’s become really common for films to show characters expressing their love in ways that are ultimately uncomfortable and unwelcome.
“There’s such a trope in romantic films that says we sort of ‘lose our heads’ when we experience attraction, desire, and love, and that means that we’re no longer responsible for our behaviour,” she says.
Because Mark presents as a stylish and handsome guy, we’re also expected to see his behaviour as romantic when really, it’s just unwelcome advances.
“He’s very conventionally attractive and he dresses very cleanly and has all of these characteristics that we sort of associate as being ‘safer’,” Georgia says.
“So his behaviour isn’t meant to read as obviously creepy, even though actually what he’s been doing over time is, like, the apex of creepiness.”
Still, there are some lessons to be learned from Love Actually, especially for anyone who’s ever experienced attraction to a friend’s partner — which in of itself isn’t necessarily wrong, Georgia says.
“It’s pretty common and actually really human to be attracted to people who, for whatever reason, you shouldn’t be attracted to. Whether that’s a work friend or your partner’s friend… that is really human. But you also do have choices in what you do with that attraction.
“Sex therapist Jack Morin has an erotic equation that essentially says excitement plus obstacle equals attraction. So the excitement of being with this person, plus the obstacle that she’s in a relationship with his best friend, equals attraction,” she says, and TBH it makes a lot of sense.
“If I was working with someone like him, I would really support him in either going to therapy and working through these feelings or even journalling about it,” Georgia offers.
“Maybe speaking with a trusted person so he can kind of process the attraction and validate the fact that yes, you can be attracted to people, but just because there’s attraction doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to act upon it.”
“Consider processing your feelings alone or with a professional, as opposed to a music-based card presentation just because it’s Christmas,” Lucy agrees.
“Overall, to me, this is not my favourite storyline in Love Actually. By far. My favourite romantic gesture is the kid [Thomas Brodie-Sangster] learning the drums, obviously.”
Sex coach Georgia Grace and NORMAL founder Lucy Wark’s full breakdown comes out this Thursday – follow ReScript by NORMAL to hear the full story, and get more pop culture breakdowns every week. You can also check out clips every week at @normalco on Instagram. .