Every so often, I seem to hit a kind of perfect storm of things coming at me from a variety of angles that makes me realize something. Lately, oddly enough, it's been the way that really creepy behavior is so often portrayed as romantic.
I guess part of what started me down this train of thought was a picture I saw on Facebook of the Phantom, from Phantom of the Opera, sitting on his throne, and with a caption saying something about how he now realized that the way he'd pursued Christine might have come across as rather creepy and unsettling. That made me laugh because that's always been my view of the story. I've never been able to see that relationship as romantic, never saw it as a beauty-and-the-beast tale. I was Team Raoul all the way (plus, in the musical, the original Raoul was a fellow Longhorn). Then I watched the original Ghostbusters over the weekend, and I found the way Sigourney Weaver's character was treated to be very unsettling. That was a big case of having had way too many experiences that were way too similar. The way the Rick Moranis character acted toward her is a lot like the way I sometimes experience science fiction conventions, where people mean well and aren't really doing anything mean, but they can sometimes be a little over the top while not picking up on clues that their interest isn't reciprocated in that way. I haven't had anything quite that bad happen, but I have had a lot of experience with people who misinterpret generic author-mode friendliness. The way Bill Murray's character acted was the other end of the spectrum, where he was being creepily present and intrusive, but with the air that the relationship was already a done deal and the implication that he knew she was interested, regardless of what she said, and acting like she was the one more interested than he was, even though he was the one practically stalking her.
Then, to cap off the train of thought, I left iTunes playing while I was cooking dinner last night, and there was enough noise from the kitchen that I couldn't quite hear the music, until there was a bloodcurdling scream from the living room. I realized it was part of the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, leading to the ending where Christine has to tell the Phantom that she's not into him that way (though she still has to kiss him).
I find all that behavior horrifying and rather scary. There have been way too many cases in real life of women and girls being hurt or killed because they didn't return a man's affections or because they dared to break up with a man who claimed to love them. And yet, fiction is full of men engaging in creepy, stalker-like behavior that's portrayed as romantic. There was the Twilight series and 50 Shades of Grey, but it's also all over romance novels and movies. In Ghostbusters, it was played for laughs, and the behavior worked for Bill Murray's character even if it didn't work for the dweeb, which sends the message that it's only creepy if the woman isn't interested, but it's cool if the woman is. And that just makes things even more confusing.
It's something I try to be conscious of as a writer, especially now that I'm overtly writing for teens (though I've always had a big teen readership). I may not get the obsessive fandom that the creepy stuff seems to attract, but I hope to portray more positive relationship models, and I like to show healthy relationships as romantic. I just don't get the idea that the more "wrong" a relationship is, the more sexy and exciting it is.