I’ve watched Love Actually every Christmas season for more than a decade—delighting in Otis Redding’s rendition of “White Christmas,” imagining what it would be like to date the Prime Minister, and still not understanding how Joanna could do the finale of a nighttime Christmas concert and still make it to Heathrow on time for an international flight.
But after each subsequent viewing following the film’s 2003 release, I’ve grown more put off by the sexist humour. More uninspired by the unbalanced love stories. More deflated by the male characters, who seem to fall head-over-heels in love with the beautiful women they’ve never actually spoken with. And more grossed out by director Richard Curtis’s painfully male POV.
What I’ve discovered after 14 years of repeat viewing is that while love actually is all around, the movie’s men actually are all trash.
So, as my gift to you this holiday season, I’ve ranked the five most problematic men in Love Actually. And I’m not even including the boringly obvious ones: Daniel (“I started dating five minutes after my wife died”), Harry (“I committed emotional infidelity with my receptionist”) or Billy Mack (ew).
5. Colin (Kris Marshall)
Love interest: Any woman
Why he’s the worst: He’s a pest
“Pestering” is a mostly British term that perfectly applies to this gross, entitled Brit who sees every woman only as an opportunity to get laid, and will not take a hint. Even when he’s delivering food, he tells women to “try my lovely nuts” and refers to them not by their names, but as “a beautiful lady” or “my future wife.” Only in a man’s fantasy world would this guy ever sleep with anyone—let alone the all-star team of January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Ivana Milicevic and late-’90s super-hottie, Shannon Elizabeth. The “persistent creep” trope was never funny and is even less funny in 2017.
4. Jamie (Colin Firth)
Love interest: Aurelia
Why he is the worst: Wields his power for bad
“I hate uncle Jamie!” chimes a chorus of nieces and nephews after the novelist dumps his presents to run to the airport to fetch his bride-to-be. It’s supposed to be the ultimate romantic gesture, but that’s only if you can forget the icky power dynamic. Aurelia is Jamie’s much younger housekeeper (falling in love with younger employees seems to be a running theme in this film, prepare yourselves for numero uno on this list). She literally waits on him hand and foot. What kind of pretentious writer needs a maid to pick up his day-old scones anyway? He is by himself in a cabin. It’s not that hard, Jamie. NOT. THAT. HARD.
And don’t even get me started on the idea of falling in love before ever having a real discussion with this woman or hearing her perspective at all. Remember that in their car rides, she remains silent while Jamie bumbles. Did he base a marriage proposal solely on her ability to clean up after him and the periwinkle bra and undies she revealed whilst jumping into the lake to save his pages? Please.
3. Karl (Rodrigo Santoro)
Love interest: Sarah
Why he is the worst: God complex
While we don’t actually know what happened between Sarah and Karl, “the enigmatic chief designer” at the non-profit organization they both work at, the audience is left to assume that Sarah couldn’t sacrifice her relationship with her mentally ill brother in order to sufficiently placate her potential new bf. We’re supposed to blame Sarah for messing things up… because who would choose difficult familial relationships over a super-hot Brazilian, AMIRITE? If only Karl could have lived by his words, “Life is full of interruptions and complications,” a little longer than one night.
2. Mark (Andrew Lincoln)
Love interest: Juliet
Why he is the worst: Basically Mike Pence
Beyond the pretentious, “Actually, they’re not funny, they’re art” moment where he scolds schoolchildren in his stuck-up gallery, there are plenty more reasons to hate Mark throughout the the film. (Shockingly, there are a lot of #TeamMark folks out there. This is utterly baffling to me, especially when he’s up against a young Chiwetel Ejiofor.) Most glaringly, this asshole refuses to speak to his best friend’s woman. “It’s a self-preservation thing,” pathetic loser Mark tells her after refusing Juliet’s generous offer of banoffee pie (a delicious English dessert made from bananas, cream and toffee, yes please!).
I know what you’re thinking: Maybe Mark knew Juliet first, and he’s truly heartbroken that she chose Peter. Nope. When Juliet goes to Mark’s flat, she says, “You’ve never particularly warmed to me,” implying that they were introduced after she was dating Peter. Come Peter and Juliet’s wedding day, Mark films—and edits—an ultra-creepy montage of Juliet close-ups, cutting out his best friend (the groom) and the rest of the wedding. This begs the question: What is he doing with this video??!!
1. David (Hugh Grant)
Love interest: Natalie
Why he is the worst: Male fragility
Unfortunately, the #MeToo movement came about 14 years late for Natalie’s career. From the moment British Prime Minister David meets Natalie, one of his much younger female employees, her hotness is a problem for him. Literally all she does is exist and do her job as a member of his household staff, and he cannot handle it. Then the PM fires—sorry, “redistributes”—her because he sees the sleazy POTUS (Billy Bob Thornton) whispering sweet nothings into her ear. Keep in mind that literally NOTHING has transpired, not even a substantial conversation, between David and Natalie at this point, a.k.a. SHE’S NOT HIS PROPERTY. Redistributing her because *he’s* petty and jealous is peak sexual misconduct.