- Love Actually’s humor, particularly its fat-shaming jokes about Natalie’s weight, is no longer funny and has been criticized over the years.
- Director Richard Curtis is now aware of this, admitting he didn’t mean any harm but feels he was unobservant.
- It’s important to evaluate the intent and tastefulness of the storytelling, and recognize that some outdated comedies may not have redeeming qualities and are best left in the past.
Love Actually may be considered a Christmas classic, but writer and director Richard Curtis has revealed he regrets some of the humor used in the movie. The romantic comedy followed numerous couples as they navigated their relationships throughout the holiday season. Love Actually was packed with a star-studded cast that included the likes of Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Keira Knightly. As it reaches its 20th anniversary, this has led to many of the cast commenting on their experiences while filming.
Most recently, Curtis has weighed in with reflections of his own. While appearing at the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival (via Today), Curtis, who also directed hits such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Notting Hill, opened up about a conversation with his daughter in which she commented on the language he’s used in his movies, particularly regarding Martine McCutcheon’s character in Love Actually, Natalie, who often takes jabs for her weight. Curtis said:
I remember how shocked I was like five years ago when (my daughter) Scarlett said to me, “You can never use the word ‘fat’ again.” And wow, (she was) right. I think I was behind the curve, and those jokes aren’t any longer funny, so I don’t feel I was malicious at the time, but I think I was unobservant and not as clever as I should have been.
Is The Humor Of Past Classics Worth Revisiting?
As times change, so does that of public opinion when it comes to comedy. Often the phrase “a product of its time” is used when describing jokes of the past that don’t seem to fit with the present. Love Actually, a movie released in 2003, frequently comments on Natalie’s weight when it isn’t needed; even her love interest, played by Hugh Grant, gets in a jab during what is supposed to be a wholesome reunion. Over the years, many have criticized Love Actually‘s tendency to fat-shame Natalie.
When revisiting old films, some of the humor may come across as hurtful today. For example, the Jack Black romantic comedy Shallow Hal recently gained a new following after many clips were shared around TikTok. The plot itself is heavily centered around the idea that Black’s love interest is fat and that he can’t see it. Many of the jokes used are extremely outdated, but the message that the film tries to convey is that Black’s character judged others without ever truly seeing what was on the inside. Upon seeing what he couldn’t before, the movie truly comes into its own by showing just how wrong he was about others.
Some older comedies reaffirm stereotypes with no other intent than making others the butt of the joke. One could say Love Actually falls into this category, as the comments about Natalie’s weight add nothing to the story. Because of that, it’s a relief to see Curtis reevaluate things and take a different stance. In the end, it’s important to follow the intent of the story, if it’s portrayed tastefully, and to remember the state of the world and comedy at the time. While some outdated comedies hold a few redeeming qualities, the same can’t be said for others, and that’s when it is best to leave things in the past.