Every movie has its villain: aliens, stepmothers, bosses or sea monsters. But how did the stereotype of a pushy, controlling girlfriend become such a common villain in 2010s movies and TV shows? While the typical main character of this type of movie is a fun loving, devil-may-care figure, their girlfriend is the responsible one. So, of course she becomes the antagonist.
A prime example of the controlling girlfriend stereotype is Patty Di Marco in “School of Rock”. Patty demands too much of her boyfriend Ned, saying that his best friend who is the main character, Dewey, has to leave their apartment if he doesn’t start paying rent. She consistently nags Ned, causing him stress and creating pressure in the plot.
Another fitting example is Vivian Kensington from “Legally Blonde.” She is dating Warren, who is the love interest for the protagonist, Elle. Warren is Elle’s ex-boyfriend, and Vivian worries about being cheated on because she believes Warren could have unresolved feelings. Vivian acts controlling over Warren when Elle is around. As a result, Vivian is hated by the audience. Though she simply tries to maintain her relationship, the movie paints her behavior as evil.
This archetype plays into sexist gender roles. The “pushy girlfriend” perpetuates the idea that women are responsible caretakers who are no fun and don’t have their own lives apart from their boyfriends. The girlfriend’s world revolves around the boyfriend, controlling him, obsessing over him, and managing his life. More specifically, she must manage the harder parts of his life and force him to grow up, taking away his boyishness or true-self. While this role is widely vilified in movies, it is also influenced heavily by the patriarchy. The idea that women’s lives should revolve around men is a product of sexism, as it aims to restrict women’s independence.
While society tends to criticize these figures, their existence was created by that same society. The fact that we see this stereotype most often in media for teens is particularly impactful, as teens’ views on relationships are very malleable. Although the pushy girlfriend was a much more common figure in media during the 2000s and 2010s, its influence remains prevalent due to the current popularity of these movies. Films like “Mean Girls”, “Legally Blonde”, “School of Rock”, “Clueless”, and “High School Musical” will always be classics in our culture.
Thus, it is crucial to acknowledge that rom-coms from this time period often include stereotypes that promote harmful views on women and sexist gender roles influenced heavily by the patriarchy.