Romantic comedies most often focus on relatable protagonists experiencing situations and going through relationships familiar to the audience. Even though the heroes of these movies tend to be portrayed as likable people, that’s not always the case. Some rom-com protagonists are wrong, and their actions are morally wrong or ambiguous at best.
As a result, they appear more like a villain than a hero, and if the story were told from someone else’s perspective, they could easily be the antagonist of the story. Several romantic comedies prove that a protagonist does not always equal a good person.
5/5 Julianne – My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Friends should be happy, especially if they get married. That’s not the case with Julianne, played by romantic comedy star Julia Roberts. Julianne had planned to marry her best friend Michael if they turned 28 and were still single. However, when she finds out that Michael plans to marry another woman, she decides to win him over for herself and do everything in her power to destroy the marriage. She nearly manages to sabotage it, but ends up changing her mind and letting the wedding happen.
Julianne is a solid example of a selfish person who puts her own happiness ahead of the happiness of others. She had plenty of time, years in fact, to tell Michael that she loved him and wanted to be with him. Instead, she waited for him to find another woman he was happy with. Even though Julianne and Michael reconcile in the end, it’s still appropriate that she doesn’t convince him. She remains his friend, but does not become his girlfriend.
4/5 Sebastian and Kathryn – Cruel Intentions (1999)
Unlike other romantic comedies, cruel intentions does not pretend that the way the characters behave is correct. In fact, it actively alludes to the fact that they’re not such good people. The main character Sebastian, played by Ryan Philippe, takes pleasure in seducing women and dumping them soon after. He only changes his tone when he meets the only girl who resists him, and he falls in love with her in spite of himself.
Sebastian’s adoptive sister, Kathryn, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, is even worse. Unlike Sebastian, who recognizes the error of his ways at the end, Kathryn remains the villain until the end of the film and continues to break hearts and manipulate people. As a result, the bittersweet ending feels satisfying when it comes to Kathryn’s fate.
3/5 Mark and Harry – Love Actually (2003)
One of the most beloved Christmas classics, love in fact has several protagonists with more or less interconnected storylines. And despite the film’s popularity, many of these characters are wrong. One of the most obvious is Mark, who falls in love with Juliet, his best friend’s fiancée. Instead of trying his best to forget about the crush so as not to hurt his friend, Mark acts like he hates Juliette every time they meet. When it finally turns out that Mark doesn’t hate Juliette, he visits her at her house on Christmas Eve and tells her that he loves her even though Juliette is already married by then. Mark could have ruined his best friend’s wedding if Juliet returned his feelings. Instead, she decides to stay true to her husband, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mark isn’t such a good guy.
Another cheater in the film, Harry (played by Alan Rickman), has been married to his wife for years. When Harry falls in love with his young and beautiful secretary, he decides to buy her an expensive present, much more expensive than what he intends to give to his wife. He knows what he is doing is wrong but does it anyway and hurts his wife in the process. Even though they stay together, it’s clear that the trust between them is damaged.
2/5 Rachel, Darcy and Dex – Something Borrowed (2011)
Actress Ginnifer Goodwin often plays the good guys, as seen in her most iconic role in the fantasy fairy tale show Once upon a time. But what is Mary Margaret in Once upon a time and Rachel from something borrowed have in common is that they start an affair with a taken man. Worse still, Rachel is having an affair with her best friend’s fiancé, Dex. It’s true that Rachel had a crush on Dex before her friend Darcy started dating him, but that doesn’t change the fact that cheating on her best friend wasn’t a nice step.
However, she is not the only one with questionable behavior. Dex is also to blame (after all, no one forced him to cheat on Darcy). And as for Darcy, the movie later reveals that she also cheated on Dex and even got pregnant by someone else. Overall, three of the film’s four protagonists are the script’s villains. The only exception is Ethan, John Krasinski’s character, who gives Rachel good advice, but she doesn’t listen to him.
1/5 Noah – When We First Met (2018)
One of the least likable characters in modern rom-coms is Noah, who doesn’t take no for an answer. Noah loves her friend Avery, but she’s happily in love and engaged to another guy, Ethan. To win Avery for himself, Noah travels back in time and continues to arrange their first meeting to ensure Avery falls in love with him.
There are several things Noah does wrong that make him the bad guy in this case. First, he doesn’t respect Avery’s wishes. Avery makes it obvious early on that she only sees him as a friend. Worse, he manipulates others to get what he wants and risks harming their lives by playing with time. Noah comes across as a very immature and selfish person, so it’s hard to cheer him on and wish him success in his time travel mission.
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