The Politics of Attraction in Love Hard

spoiler warning!

I love a good Christmas movie and we’re at that time of year when Netflix starts to release a bunch of holiday goodies. Admittedly, some of these films are great cinematic masterpieces! Others are… guilty pleasures.

From The Princess Switch trilogy (yes trilogy) and The Knight Before Christmas to the mandatory viewing of The Holiday and Love Actually, Netflix knows how to keep its customers busy during the holiday period. With this new age that is supposedly more inclusive, intersectional, and hyper-pc, you’d expect Netflix Originals to be a little more self-aware. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with Love Hard.

Love Hard is a story about a woman called Natalie (Nina Dobrev) who seems to have finally found her perfect match, Josh, on a Tinder-esque site. Natalie decides to surprise her match and spend Christmas with him without having seen him in person before. Josh seems perfect… except for the fact that he’s a catfish! Josh used his friend Tag’s face as his profile picture because Tag was deemed ‘better looking’.

When watching this film, I questioned the record scratching sound effect and the sudden camera change from a smooth upward tilt of Josh’s body to a shaky close up of his face. Why was Josh so much more of a ‘disappointment’ than Tag? I came to the sad conclusion that it wasn’t just the fact that he lied or that he was less attractive, but also that he was much more identifiably Asian than Tag. You see, ordinarily with all the Asian representation in this film I would be jumping for joy, but alas what makes Tag attractive isn’t just his muscles and his smolder but the fact that his mixed heritage gives him a certain racial ambiguity that is valued as more attractive in our society. Yes, Love Hard has fallen victim to featurism.

Image Source: Still via Youtube // Love Hard | Official Trailer | Netflix

Featurism, simply speaking, is the notion that the more European your features (nose, eyes, etc.) the more attractive you are. Of course, this notion negatively impacts the way that BIPOC and people who don’t have these European features see themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, Love Hard is an alright film! It’s got sweet chemistry between characters, the fabulous comedy of Jimmy O. Yang, and a brilliantly Christmassy feel. However, like most things these days, its inclusivity is somewhat performative. It is difficult to be perfectly politically correct twenty-four-seven and it’s forgivable to slip-up, but we can make choices as to whether we should reinforce harmful ideas or dismantle them and Love Hard does the former in this case.

Look, I’m not discouraging you from watching this rom com as for the most part, it was enjoyable. I’m just saying, isn’t it about time we do away with the constant reproduction of the arbitrary beauty standards that exclude so many in society?

Love Hard, it’s all well and good to pay homage to Love Actually in your film but maybe let’s leave out the isms and tropes next time.

– Chloe Jarrett-Bell

Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube // Love Hard | Official Trailer | Netflix // Netflix

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