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Actually, Straight Men Love 'Love Actually'

To them, it is perfect.
December 23, 2015, 4:00pm
Screengrab via YouTube

In 2003, the makers of noted cute British modern classics Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary produced a film that would tyrannize both cold-hearted haters of sentiment and normal-hearted people who do not like seeing sexist representations of women on film: Love Actually. The sweater-y Christmastime romantic comedy featured an ensemble cast of several famous British people, including Hugh Grant, and presented a dilemma to straight men that they are still grappling with today: Are they allowed to like it? Known for their disdain of emotion as well as for their advocacy of probably-unthinking-and-not-malicious-right? portrayals of female characters—as well as for their love of Hugh Grant—heterosexual males were flummoxed by the bursting of this feel-good holiday rom-com onto the contemporary pop cultural canon. While the movie's subtle twists-on-genre and witty screenplay inspired men to laugh and cry with the hodge-podge of love-seeking characters onscreen, they were also unsure if this was OK within the constraints of early-2000s masculinity.

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As the position of straight women on the film has wavered in the years since, however, the position of straight men has solidified: They love it. Why, though, is less clear. Is it because straight men are desperate for annual sanctioned excuses to express care and emotion, even despite the gentler attitude the late-00s brought to gender expression? Is it because they envision, as do we all, a life in which all one's foibles and heartaches ultimately converge in a cozy contentment obliquely framed by the pleasant voice of a famous, womanizing charmer? Is it because it's one of the only holiday movies with boobs? We asked some straight men to find out.

Miguel Muñoz, 25, journalist

Why do you like Love Actually?
I like it because it makes you forget that you are watching another Christmas film where love is the moral of the story. Instead, this film uses the holiday as an excuse, for the viewer and its characters, to focus on the pain of being in love and the funny ways in which this can be worked out.

Who is/are your favorite character(s)?
I love Bill Nighy in this film. His final epiphany and encounter with his friend and manager is tender and luminous. It shows that friendship really is a form of love without transforming the scene into a homoerotic joke.

What storyline is worst?
The worst storyline is that of Colin Frissell ["a disgruntled Englishman who goes to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States to find love"]. It is obviously a joke on America, but its ridiculousness and implausibility doesn't add anything to the plot nor to the film's intents.

The Brits just always have a way of putting realism and underlying melancholy into their movies.

Does liking Love Actually ever embarrass you?
This whole interview is like coming out of the closet. If I had to, I would probably defend it, but always with some embarrassment. The fear and the prejudices are sadly real.

Have you ever imagined yourself as Hugh Grant?
Every awkward and not-so-handsome man has imagined himself as Hugh Grant. Someone should press charges against him for giving hope to the hopeless.

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Have you ever been tempted to woo a woman with signage specifically inspired by this movie? Do you think that would work?
I've always wanted to do the card thing. That would work, but I don't think it's really doable. And I would definitely learn another language, that would work, too I guess.

Ezra, 26, digital strategist

Why do you like Love Actually?
The obvious answer to "Why do you like Love Actually?" is that, to me, the movie is perfect.

Who is/are your favorite character(s)?
My favorite relationships in the entire movie are the non-romantic ones: Bill Nighy and his manager, Liam Neeson and his son, and even Laura Linney and her brother. Mostly because almost every romantic storyline is… problematic.

Are you ashamed to admit you like Love Actually, or would you defend it proudly in an argument?
I'll absolutely defend Love Actually for what it is: the perfect movie to watch as soon as the temperature dips below 40 degrees. And it's one of the most quotable movies that enough people have seen to get the references. "Eight is a lot of legs, David" might go down as one of the best movie lines in a romantic comedy ever.

The scene where Keira Knightly finds out the wedding video was of nothing but her. That strikes a chord with me as a photographer.

Spending time feeling embarrassed about my movie taste sounds exhausting. My friends needle me a bit, but it's usually in good fun. For instance: My last office was really close (a byproduct of working in close quarters for 70 hours a week). During a birthday party, my coworkers stole my copy of Love Actually, created an Instagram account for it, and then took photos of it around the world for the next two months while totally denying that any of them had it. At my going-away party, they gave the DVD back to me and performed the classic Keira Knightley/cue cards scene with rewritten cards that said how much they were going to miss me. I've literally never felt so loved.

Have you ever been tempted to woo a woman with signage specifically inspired by this movie? Do you think that would work?
Given the circumstances, I always saw the scene as more confessional/therapy than an attempt to woo. Which is to say, probably not.

CA Pinkham, 30, writer

Describe Love Actually in one sentence.
A cute, fun Christmas movie that is confusingly divisive.

Who is/are your favorite character(s)? What storyline is best/worst?
Bill Nighy is my favorite—every time he's onscreen in that movie, he cracks me up. (Rowan Atkinson is a close second.) As far as best storyline, either his, Hugh Grant's, or Colin Firth's. Worst is probably Laura Linney's; I didn't come here to be depressed, dammit.

I can't really be shit-faced when I watch this movie. I'll wind up calling my mom.

Are you ashamed to admit you like Love Actually, or would you defend it proudly in an argument?
I don't generally publicly proclaim my love for it, but not for the reasons you might think. I don't care that it's a girly movie; I'll defend Wimbledon to the death, proudly and publicly. But there's a backlash against Love Actually that's stronger than pretty much any romantic comedy I know of, and I think it's largely because it's so popular. Let's be honest: Damn near every movie has some problematic shit in it. The reason Love Actually gets singled out isn't because it's any worse than others. It's because it's a large, convenient target for people who really want to yell about something. It's still not my favorite romantic comedy (that would be the aforementioned Wimbledon), but it's probably second.

Have you ever been tempted to woo a woman with signage specifically inspired by this movie? Do you think that would work?
Absolutely not and absolutely not. I don't want to live in a world where that actually works.

Dylan, 28, photographer

Describe Love Actually in one sentence.
The greatest romantic Christmas movie in the history of time.

Would you say it's your favorite Christmas film?
It is. I don't want to fall into the American cliché of Anglophilia, but yeah, it's my favorite Christmas film. The Brits just always have a way of putting realism and underlying melancholy into their movies (and music and poetry), and I think that's why men seem to love this movie more than other Christmas films. It's not a princess-y fairytale.

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What storyline is the best/worst?
I think the prime minister-falling-for-his-maid [ed. note: It is unclear what Natalie's job is—Martine McCutcheon's Wikipedia page cites her as the "tea-lady"—but it is more accurate to say she plays a "miscellaneous staffer"] storyline is the sweetest. When he goes from house to house to find her and goes with her to the play and [brings] the whole story together—that really solidified it for me.

It's just a well-rounded movie.

There's also the father/son storyline with Liam Neeson that I think all men can respect. And the scene where Keira Knightly finds out the wedding video was of nothing but her. That strikes a chord with me as a photographer.

How did you feel the first time you saw Love Actually?
The first time I ever watched it was with my girlfriend at the time. I was 24, maybe? We worked together and fell in love, which I think is a large trope in that film—falling for people you're forced into proximity with. We split a few years ago, and I sometimes still feel like she's "the one," so I can't really be shit-faced when I watch this movie. I'll wind up calling my mom.

What sets Love Actually apart from other romantic comedies?
It's just a well-rounded movie. It's not like a Hallmark Channel movie, where they feed you the same two-dimensional storyline with a different guy and girl in a different setting. It has a wide range of characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds being placed together in a less-than-perfect world. Just like ours.

Have you ever imagined yourself as Hugh Grant?
I'm awkward, self-deprecating, and lanky, but I don't think I have that Old World charm that strings those things together into some kind of strangely sexy man-gumbo. Or maybe it's just the accent.