Things everyone ignores in Love Actually

Love Actually still has the power to draw us into its ensemble dramedy, even when Christmas isn't all around us. There's just something about the beloved holiday rom-com that you can feel in your fingers and in your toes.

Following a large group of British folks and their interlocking love stories during the holidays, Love Actually begins and ends at London Heathrow Airport's arrival gate with a message of hope that weaves its way through a story filled with love triangles and bizarre meet-cutes. Recently elected British Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant) has a crush on one of his assistants Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Juliet (Keira Knightly) have just had an epic wedding, and, unbeknownst to them, Peter's best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with Julie too. Mystery writer Jamie (Colin Firth) finds out that his partner has been having an affair with his brother, while movie stand-ins John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) meet while filming a sex scene for a movie. Yeah, there's a lot that happens.

But for all its quirky, sometimes heart-wrenching, and often hilarious scenarios, Love Actually is actually far from perfect. Here are things everyone ignores in Love Actually.   

It's sexual harassment for David to fire Natalie because he's attracted to her in Love Actually

Love Actually's Prime Minister David is handsome and charismatic, and he's a breath of fresh air in British politics thanks to his young age and unmarried status. He's likely the first-ever Prime Minister to dance down the stairs of 10 Downing Street.

It makes sense that he would be attracted to one of his assistants — the gorgeous and bubbly Natalie who has an accidental potty mouth. But while their flirtation may be inappropriate, it is consensual. That is until the United States President (Billy Bob Thornton) visits and sets his sights on Natalie as well, cornering her and hitting on her as she looks extremely uncomfortable. When David sees, he bristles into a quiet British rage that ends up publicly severing the "special relationship" enjoyed by the American and British governments. 

While a political win for the Brits, David is angry at Natalie for her (nonconsensual) moment with the American president and fires her. This is blatant sexual harassment from one of the world's most powerful men against an administrative assistant, and should have caused a huge scandal. Not cool, David.

David could have just looked up Natalie's address from her employee file in Love Actually

After receiving a sweet Christmas card/love letter from Natalie in Love Actually, Prime Minister David decides to go to her home in Wandsworth to apologize. Since David doesn't know which "dodgy end" of the lane, as Natalie described, she lives on, he goes door to door, accompanied only by his driver, looking for her. This begs the question: Why didn't David just look up Natalie's home address in his employee records? If he didn't want his other staff to know what he was looking for, he could have just asked for a list of all recent employees. Instead, he goes out on his own, without any security detail to boot, and makes a fool of himself as he knocks on every door down Wandsworth, lying about why he is actually there until he finally finds Natalie. 

On one hand, it's a sweet, romantic gesture showing that David is willing to do legwork to get to Natalie. On the other hand, this is what stalkers do, and it is also a complete abuse of power from the prime minister.

The Harry and Mia scenario in Love Actually is also workplace sexual harassment

Sorry, folks, but there is a whole lot of sexual harassment in Love Actually that most people totally ignore. 

In Love Actually, Harry (Alan Rickman) seems happily married to Karen, until his assistant Mia (Heike Makatsch) shows she would like to have an affair with him. Unlike his wife — Emma Thompson in a padded suit — Mia is young, exotic, and openly sensual with such force that Harry gives in to his attraction and begins entertaining the idea of having an affair with her. But just because Mia initiates the potential tryst doesn't change the fact that Harry is her direct supervisor, and pursuing a relationship with her would still likely be considered sexual harassment by most human resources standards. 

While Harry never sleeps with Mia (or so we think), he does buy her an expensive necklace for Christmas, and he goes on to buy his own wife a Joni Mitchell CD. So he's also a super jerk. Karen is right in saying he made a fool of her.

Why didn't Billy Mack bring his manager to Elton John's party in Love Actually?

Aged rock star Billy Mack is poised for a comeback with his Christmas cover of "Love Is All Around," thanks to his sweet manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher). Billy is the only character in Love Actually who doesn't cross paths with the other main characters, but his song is constantly on the radio and his crass television appearances provoke laughs from the extended cast. 

When Love Actually came out, shock television was still in the process of becoming mainstream, so Billy's comments — like "Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give them to you for free!" — are jarring. Radio and television producers in Love Actually seem genuinely disturbed by Billy's statements, but, for some reason, he keeps getting booked for appearances. 

But what's somehow worse is when Billy's song hits No. 1 on the charts and he gets invited to Elton John's Christmas party. Billy goes on his own, but he later shows up at Joe's house and tells him, in a platonic way, that he's the "love of [his] life." But, um, why didn't he bring Joe to Elton's party in the first place?

Love Actually's Mark is actually a super creepy stalker

It's a Love Actually scene that has been endlessly parodied: Mark shows up at Juliet's door pretending to be Christmas carolers. He proceeds to lay out all his feelings on poster board, confessing that he will always love Juliet and telling her, "To me, you are perfect." This is all very sweet and romantic, except that Juliet's husband, Peter, is Mark's supposed best friend. Juliet and Peter have just gotten married, but Juliet goes off to kiss Mark in the street. That's not a good start for a life with her hubby! And that's not to mention that Mark is absolutely betraying his best friend

Worse yet was Mark's footage of Juliet and Peter's wedding, which was the stuff of a horror movie stalker. Hours of extreme close-ups of Juliet's face isn't just inappropriate, but it's also super disturbing. Most people would be weirded out if they saw someone had been obsessing over them in this way and would likely run straight to their partner to tell them their friend is an apparent creep. 

But Juliet says nothing to Peter about any of it, which is just weird.

The entire airport scene with Sam and Joanna in Love Actually would never happen post-9/11

Love Actually opens by mentioning how, as planes crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11th, the messages family and friends received from victims were primarily those of love. That might be true, but Love Actually doesn't seem to get how 9/11 fundamentally changed air travel as security ramped up in efforts to prevent another attack. While it's dashing that Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) would jump airport turnstiles and run from security to tell the girl he loves, Joanna (Olivia Olsen), well, actually nothing before he gets taken away, this scenario is a fantasy. 

Nobody gets past security these days, and, if they do, they face serious repercussions. Both Sam and his stepdad would have been detained, questioned, possibly arrested, and likely hit with a fine for their stunt. Also, anyone who has ever traveled by air knows that even in the old days before 9/11, once you're at your boarding gate, there's no going back. Joanna would never have been allowed to come out and kiss Sam, and, as a child, she especially wouldn't be allowed to go on her own. 

Sarah's story begs many questions in Love Actually

In Love Actually, Sarah (Laura Linney) is an American working at the same firm as characters Harry and Mia, and Harry is her biggest ally. Since it's Christmas, Harry wants to know why Sarah hasn't asked out Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), the man she's been in love with for "two years, seven months, three days, and, I suppose, an hour and thirty minutes." Sarah doesn't believe she can because of her mentally ill brother Michael, who is hospitalized nearby and who has Sarah on a short leash. 

Later, when Sarah and Karl finally hook up after the office Christmas party, they are interrupted by a call from Michael who needs Sarah to get the Pope or Bon Jovi on the phone. Yes, Sarah is a loving sister to be there for her brother, but why couldn't she explain the situation to Karl? Karl clearly likes her, and, if given a chance, he might've been understanding. He could've been the support that she needs to live more fully and with love. 

Why did Sarah limit herself? She could still fulfill family obligations and enjoy a boyfriend, especially one she's loved for so long.

Colin Frissell's tryst with the American girls in Love Actually is absurd

Goofy Colin Frissell can't get a date and assumes it's because British girls are snobs — not that he's actually pushy, rude, and openly sexist. After a rejection, he tells his friend Tony that he's bought a ticket to America. With his British accent, he thinks he'll be considered sexy there. Tony, the voice of reason, explains that it's not Colin's accent that's the problem, but rather it's his entire crappy personality. 

But Colin goes anyway, landing in Milwaukee and popping into the first pub he can find. While there, he meets three stunning American women who are immediately entranced by his accent. They invite Colin to stay with them, but warn him they are so poor they can't afford pajamas and all sleep naked on one small mattress. They all get together, and later a fourth roommate joins in. 

Never mind the fact that implied group intimacy takes place in a family Christmas movie — Colin's sexcapades in Love Actually highlights a problematic trope that foreign women are promiscuous. We've seen this trope in all kinds of movies, but it's particularly unsettling in a holiday film.

Jamie's work ethic is bizarre in Love Actually

As if it isn't bad enough that author Jamie, played by Colin Firth, finds out his wife has been cheating on him — with his own brother — Jamie is also arguably the most pretentious writer who has graced the silver screen since Jack Torrance in The Shining. It's all well and good that Jamie is old school and works on a typewriter, but what kind of professional author doesn't keep copies of his work in progress? Worse yet, Jamie even types next to a body of water with only a mug to hold down the entirety of the draft he's working on. The setup is perfect for a comedic moment when his housekeeper Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz) lifts the mug and his entire novel goes into the lake

But this scenario in Love Actually makes no sense. Why did he have his whole draft outside with him? Why not just have the current pages he's working on? And why weren't the pages in a folder or binders? Jumping into the lake builds the bond between Jamie and Aurelia, but a professional writer should have better work habits. 

In Love Actually, the Prime Minister of the U.K. should not be traveling commercially

Fitting with the opening arrival's gate monologue, Love Actually also closes at the arrival's gate, giving us a last glimpse of the ensemble characters and more of their connections. David, the prime minister, even shows up, greeted by his ex-employee and now-girlfriend Natalie in a huge show of affection as she jumps into his arms. But the problem here is that the prime minister of the U.K. does not travel commercially by airplane, at least not until he leaves office. There would never be this kind of public spectacle at the arrivals gate with a key global political figure just walking among fellow citizens. He would be absolutely shrouded in security, likely leaving through a side door or a more secure exit, so as not to threaten everyone's safety. 

Love Actually takes place in a post-9/11 world, a world acknowledged in the story itself, and this breach of security would be astronomically dangerous for every single person at the airport.

Love Actually features a lot of body-shaming

Love might be all around us, but unfortunately Love Actually also promotes a number of unhealthy messages through its various storylines. One of these is an uncomfortable reliance on body-shaming for laughs. Aurelia's sister is body-shamed by their father for being overweight and is called "Miss Dunkin' Donut 2003."

Then, a very-not-fat Natalie is constantly body-shamed for her "huge thighs," being the "chubby girl," and, of course, her family nickname "Plumpy." The irony of Natalie's body-shaming is that many of the people doing it to her are actually overweight themselves, only making their comments to and about her even more painful to hear. 

Bad grandpa of rock Billy Mack also constantly refers to Joe as his "fat manager" and "chubby employee" as if fatness is somehow a pathology and not just one of the body types that exists in this world. This kind of punching-down humor — making fun of marginalized or vulnerable groups — has been making its way out of vogue since Love Actually hit theaters. But somehow this doesn't stop us from watching the movie at least once a year.

Love Actually relies on grief-shaming for laughs

In the years since Love Actually came out, society as a whole has gotten much better about discussing formerly taboo subjects like trauma and grief. In the movie, Daniel (Liam Neeson) has lost his beloved wife, and his stepson, Sam. is also hugely in pain over her death. Daniel openly cries and encourages Sam to also get right up in his sad feels until the acute emotions around the loss subside. This kind of nurturing masculinity is rare on film, and it's beautiful to see play out. That is until Daniel's friend Karen (Emma Thompson) actually grief-shames him for his absolutely healthy behavior in the wake of a tragedy. 

"Get a grip. People hate sissies. Nobody will shag you if you're crying all the time," Karen says. Not only is Karen demonstrating some extreme internalized sexism in using the word "sissy," her reaction is deeply troubling. The man just lost the love of his life! Can't she give him time to process in his own way without making him feel worse about the situation? 

Maybe Karen really does need that Joni Mitchell CD. Her emotional intelligence is way off here. 

Why are there only heterosexual relationships in Love Actually?

There are plenty of couples in Love Actually. With the exception of the platonic love between Billy Mack and his manager, Joe, as well as the women involved in Colin's American girl fantasy, every single couple is heterosexual. This extreme heteronormativity is glaring, and seems to ignore that some of London's population identifies as LGBT. 

Sadly, Love Actually did originally feature a storyline involving the school principal and her same-sex partner, but we never saw it. Writer and director Richard Curtis unfortunately cut the touching scenes before the movie's release. About the deleted scenes, Curtis said in DVD bonus footage (via the Daily Mail), "The idea was meant to be that you just casually meet this very stern headmistress, but later on in the film we suddenly fell in with her and you realize that, no matter how unlikely it seems, any character you come across in life has their own complicated tale of love." He also said he was "really sorry" to see that storyline go. 

Love Actually is a Christmas movie with graphic simulated sex scenes

The bizarre meet-cute between John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) is arguably the thing that families in particular collectively ignore when watching Love Actually in a group setting. John and Judy are movie stand-ins, and the set we find them on in Love Actually involves a series of love scenes in various stages of undress. They quickly move on to more and more graphic scenes as well as nudity, all the while the couple chats and gets to know each other as if they aren't buck naked and being watched by a crew. 

While John and Judy model consent beautifully — John is constantly checking in to make sure Judy is okay with everything they are are doing —  their scenes can be a super awkward aspect of the movie, especially when sitting down with our families. But, out of our love for the film, we end up watching it anyway.