Why I’m Afraid of a 13-Year-Old Boy

Crazy Stupid Love (2011) is not a very good movie. It might be worth the price of admission to see the way Ryan Gosling wears a suit, and it is certainly worth it to see Gosling and Emma Stone’s chemistry, particularly in one scene that so effectively balances emotional depth and subtle hilarity that it seems out of place among the easy one-liners and thinly strung together plot lines of the rest of the film.

But at the heart of my distaste for the film is a seemingly innocent, rather cherubic-looking 13-year-old boy. Enter Robbie Weaver (Jonah Bobo), the son of protagonist Cal (Steve Carell). Robbie essentially acts as his father’s foil; a believer in true love and romance faced with a father whose romantic life is in shambles following a divorce.

Harmless, right? I wish.

Robbie’s idea of romance is tied up in his infatuation with his babysitter Jessica (played ““ quite well, I might add ““ by former America’s Next Top Model contestant Annaleigh Tipton). Jessica is three years Robbie’s senior, and struggling with an unrequited crush of her own. Upon Robbie declaring his undying love for Jessica, she graciously declines his advances. Repeatedly. Over and over again, she explains to Robbie that she does not share his feelings, and over and over again he continues regardless. She is clearly and vocally uncomfortable with his advances, and yet he continues to push her. In his mind, his love for her means she has to love him; she owes him a return of his affections.

This kid is exhibiting stalking and emotionally abusive behaviour. Moreover, he is aware that his behaviour is harmful. Toward the end of the film, he actually apologizes to Jessica for making her feel uncomfortable, before turning right around and declaring that he will never stop fighting for her.

This behaviour would be problematic in any situation, but it is all the more so in Crazy Stupid Love, because it is presented as eminently romantic. Robbie is presented not as a misguided tween who needs to learn the concept of boundaries and respect, but rather as a wise wunderkind, who teaches all the adults around him how to fight for love.

Crazy Stupid Love scared me. Because when behaviour like this is presented as romantic, when it is woven into the fabric of a popular romantic comedy without a second thought, and when even my BFF favourite film critic A.O. Scott makes no mention of it in his review, it shows me that it is deemed acceptable. And when it is presented in the guise of a 13-year-old boy, it tells me that the misguided blurring of the lines between emotional abuse and romantic infatuation has found root in yet another generation. So, yeah. I’m afraid of a 13-year-old boy.

Editor’s note: This has been your weekly Tuesday dose of filmschooled, brought to you fresh and hot, right from her tumblr.  Which, I might add, is always full of neat pictures.  You should tumbl-follow her if you don’t. 

4 replies on “Why I’m Afraid of a 13-Year-Old Boy”

It’s funny, I was just thinking the same thing (“this is scary, not romantic”) about a picture I saw bookmarked/pinned somewhere (polyvore, maybe) of a cute guy wearing a shirt that said, “I will follow you until you love me”. This was described by the bookmarker as romantic. Um, no. That sort of thing is never okay, and you’re so right to point out how problematic its glorification is.

Great post! But you’re right to be scared. I think a lot of really disturbing behaviour is codified in movies and TV as “romantic”, and this just sounds dreadful. I can only imagine how that girl would feel in real life, and we all know that’s not an imaginary scenario for many women.

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