10 Rom-Coms That Are Offensive by Today's Standards
From Shallow Hal to Love Actually, these romances haven't aged well.
Being a romantic comedy fan often means having to go along with an outlandish plot or accept that two people can go from hating each other to falling in love in the course of 90 minutes. But, in some cases, it also means contending with the fact that your comfort movie contains some pretty offensive storylines and jokes. Whether it's because of a a misogynist plot, something played for comedy that definitely shouldn't be, or throwaway jokes that are actually racist or homophobic, there are a number of rom-coms that are offensive today—and should have been considered a problem in the past, too.
Read on to find out more about 10 rom-coms that would most likely be made differently—or not at all—if they were considered now.
The concept of 2001's Shallow Hal says it all when it comes to the reason this movie wouldn't be made today. A man, Hal (Jack Black), falls for a woman, Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), but only because he's been hypnotized into not seeing her as fat. Naturally, the movie is full of jokes about Rosemary's appearance and how she's actually unattractive because of her weight (unbeknownst to Hal). There was also backlash to the movie at the time it was released.
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's 2003 movie Gigli is infamous for how poorly it was received, but aside from not being very good, it's also offensive. Among it's problems are the depiction of a mentally disabled character (Justin Bartha) who is called the R-word, an offensive portrayal of lesbians (Lopez's character is gay), misogyny from Affleck's character, and a scene in which a woman (Missy Crider) is shown cutting her wrists that is played for comedy. Affleck said his own teen daughter called the movie "ableist and disgusting."
Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore stars in 1999's Never Been Kissed as Josie, a 25-year-old reporter who goes undercover as a high school student for her job. While researching the students and coming to terms with her own traumatic high school experience, Josie falls for one of the teachers at the school (Michael Vartan), who has conflicted feelings about her because he believes that she is a student. The two end up together in the end… not very long after he finds out she's not a teenager.
The 1984 John Hughes comedy Sixteen Candles has a couple of major points that make it offensive and dated. First, there's the character of exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), which presents an incredibly offensive stereotype of Asian people. Second, there are multiple comments and jokes about taking advantage of a passed-out character named Caroline (Haviland Morris), including by the romantic lead, Jake (Michael Schoeffling). Add to that the scenes in which a geeky character named Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) charges teens money to view lead character Sam's (Molly Ringwald) underwear, and it's an overall uncomfortable viewing experience now.
The premise of 2005's Wedding Crashers is problematic on its own. Two guys, played by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, pretend to be guests at weddings in order to prey on vulnerable women and get them to have sex with them. On top of that, there is a scene—meant to be comedic—in which Vaughn's character is raped by Isla Fisher's character. He even refers to it as rape within the movie. Of course, the two characters still end up together.
The romantic 2003 Christmas movie Love Actually is beloved by many but has been reevaluated in the years since it came out. Amongst its offenses are: insulting comments about a character's (Martine McCutcheon) weight, the women in the film having a lack of agency—including within workplace relationships between male superiors and their female employees, and other moments that have been deem misogynist upon rewatching, such as the storyline in which a Englishman (Kris Marshall) travels to America to find that women are wildly attracted to him because of his accent and throw themselves at him immediately.
She's All That
The 1999 movie She's All That is a classic teen rom-com, but the plot isn't at all progressive: To keep up his end of a bet, a high schooler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has to turn a nerdy student (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. This is done, essentially, by stifling the things that make her unique, changing her wardrobe, removing her glasses, and dating her—all while she remains ignorant of bet. The movie actually was remade in 2021 as He's All That, which put a little more focus on the inner growth of the bet-making character.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
There are multiple storylines going on at once in 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love, but the characters played by Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell get the most focus. Meanwhile, two side characters are involved in the most problematic part of the film. A babysitter named Jessica (Lio Tipton) has a crush on the father of the children she babysits (Carell) and takes nude photos of herself for him, even though she's 17 and he's an adult. In the end, Jessica gives the photos to the 13-year-old child (Jonah Bobo) she babysits, because she knows that he has a crush on her.
Bride Wars, starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, is about two friends since childhood who become enemies as soon as their weddings are accidentally scheduled for the same day. They devise multiple ways to sabotage each others big days, and the film depicts women as people who will give up anything—including life-long friendship—if it means they can get the wedding they want. This comedy was one on this list that was already considered pretty offensive when it came out in 2009.
Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones's Diary is outdated today—the whole point is that the lead character is seen as (and feels) pathetic, because she's single in her 30s. But beyond that, aspects of the 2001 movie are blatantly offensive, including the handling of Bridget's (Renée Zellweger) feelings about her weight and approach to dieting, as well as her relationship with her misogynistic boss (Hugh Grant) and his inappropriate emails to her. There are also a couple of racist and homophobic jokes in the film that would not be acceptable now.
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.