On Hating ‘Love Actually’
The beloved holiday film represents everything bad about England
I would like to say that I hate Love Actually, but the truth is that no word I possess — hate, contempt, loathing, disgust — can properly capture my rejection of this film. It’s like the onset of food poisoning: The mention of the film or the sight of the DVD on somebody’s shelf at a party or the promos for Christmas reruns now that it’s established as a classic, provoke a short, sharp spasm in me, a paroxysm of my whole being, followed by a lingering, draining malaise. The existence of Love Actually makes me like Christmas less, and I love Christmas. That others seem to enjoy it makes me think less of the world. And, worst of all, I don’t know where all this revulsion comes from. It’s just a movie after all.
Love Actually is objectively a very bad movie, but that explains nothing. The world is full of bad movies. Besides, I don’t believe in hating movies, no matter how bad. Honest critics can find a movie stupid or dishonest or boring or shoddily made or politically dubious. But hatred? That’s just a sign of something missing in yourself. If you hate Marvel movies, you’re probably just not in the target demographic. If you mock Tyler Perry movies, you’re really just mocking the people those movies are made for.
The problem is that Love Actually is made for me; it couldn’t be more made for me. I fit snugly into its target demographic: Every actor in the film has given one of my favorite performances elsewhere, and I consume an inordinate amount of English culture for somebody who doesn’t live there. It’s not just Killing Eve or Bodyguard or whatever the latest BBC export is. I watch University Challenge and Would I Lie to You? and QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats. I read Jonathan Coe novels. I have watched every episode of Rosemary and Thyme, a gardening-themed murder mystery show where the solution always comes down to some fantastical bit of horticultural knowledge. It doesn’t get any more English than that.
Love Actually takes two of the most beautiful phenomena on Earth — love and Christmas — and replaces them with Englishness.