So there's a movie out there, and the plot is this:
A young man, who regularly participates in a violent, boxing-like sport, starts seeing a girl.
They hit it off, and they start spending a lot of time together.
He's a bit obsessive about it: he doesn't have a job, and really just wants to spend all his time with her.
All his time. He even tells her this.
Eventually she calls it off, but he won't take no for an answer.
He goes to her house at night. He looks at her window.
And then he starts playing loud music -- their song -- so that she'll hear it.
The movie, of course, is Say Anything, and on a private board I lurk around, one of the posters there posted this:
"What's weird is the way stalkers are lionized in films. A teenage John Cusack holding the boom box over his head with his spindly little arms was apparently a romantic moment, but damn if that film, and Frankie and Johnny, and countless others depend on the idea that She Will Grow To Love You If You Simply Refuse To Take No For An Answer. Now I call Bullshit on that old yawner. I hope I never see that crap in a movie again".
Now, the knee-jerk reaction to this is to say he is wrong. That clearly John Cusack in Say Anything isn't really a stalker, because he has real feelings for Ione Skye, because we think they should be together, and because he would never do anything to hurt her. And because playing music outside her house is clearly a lot more innocuous than anything that Mark Wahlberg does to Reese Witherspoon and her family in Fear.
Still, the guy has a point -- it's a very, very, very fine line that movies like this tread.
The idea that because two people belong together, and so anything goes in making that happen, is okay (to a certain extent) if it is mutual -- in Say Anything, I think we are to believe that it isn't a case of her growing to love him -- she already loves him, and he just wants her to realize how important that is.
But clearly if you are obsessed enough, and you believe that you are destined to be with someone, this idea can also feed any amount of bad behavior.
I mean, ultimately it doesn't matter how nice a guy John Cusack's character in Say Anything is. It really depends on Ione Skye's character. Because we sense that, deep inside, she is receptive to his radio-raising attentions, they are romantic. If she was afraid of this guy who won't leave her alone, if she's calling the police because he's out there playing music late at night, he's a stalker.
Exact same behavior by him both times.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. The idea that John Cusack's character might be seen by anyone as a stalker frankly never occurred to me until now, and I think the movie finesses it well enough that, to most people, clearly what he is doing is romantic.
If anything it goes to the importance of writers bringing the right context to things. If we believe our hero's motivations are pure, there is a lot that he can get away with, that would be bad behavior by a lesser character.
When Dustin Hoffman is bursting into the church at the end of The Graduate, we're rooting for him, even though this is another rather stalker-ish moment.
It's just interesting to chew over.