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Valentine's Day Hangover: The 'Romantic' Stories, Tropes And Movies We'd Most Like To Retire

By Emily Chambers | Seriously Random Lists | February 22, 2017 |


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Love, in general, isn’t for everyone. Valentine’s Day, in particular, is for even fewer. But as the fog of last week’s lovefest wears off, we’re becoming more aware that some “love” stories are for absolutely no one, and should be put down behind the shed immediately. These are those stories.

Obsession Masquerading As Love aka The Count Carl von Cosel Story
A small part of me wanted to do a Story Tellers post about Count Carl von Cosel, and you’ve got This American Life to thank for that. But somehow this story felt too disturbing to present on its own. It needed some-other-run-of-the-mill crazy to even it out. So here’s that age old story: boy meets girl, boy grave robs girl’s decomposing body for sex purposes, Southern Florida town loses its goddamn mind.

von Cosel met Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos when he was working as an x-ray technician in a hospital, and she was slowly dying of tuberculosis. He fell madly in love morbid obsession with her, and was undeterred by her instance that he was too old, that she was married to someone else, that she didn’t love him, and that “Jesus Christ, I’m dying of tuberculosis over here. Could you just leave me the fuck alone to die in peace with my family?” But, no. No he couldn’t. In an attempt to win over his stubborn love, he showered her with gifts, including the most modern forms of quackery he promised would cure her. Because what better way to form a connection than by holding out false hope that a twenty-two-year-old woman might still be saved from a horrific disease. It didn’t work.

Hoyos’ death didn’t stop von Cosel from inserting himself into her “life”, for lack of a better term. He insisted he pay for the funeral, including the headstone, which somehow left off her married name. He visited her grave everyday to bring her flowers, and finally decided she wasn’t dead enough to be buried. She was only waiting for him to rescue her. And totally stick his dick into her, after he rebuilt her severally decomposing body with paint and gauze.

So listen, von Cosel is a crazy person. I’m not detailing the horrific aspects of his crimes to shame him. It’s to shame the people, both at the time and today, who frame any part of this as a love story. It’s super not. For starters, Hoyos didn’t love him. This is a guy who had a criminally intense obsession, and showed literally no concern for the consent of “his love.” But we still have people insisting von Cosel only behaved the way he did because he was so in love with Hoyos. Like this little old lady interviewed on This American Life

Ida Roberts: Because he was in love with her. I mean, he was eccentric of course, you know crazy thoughts he had, but I mean, he wasn’t there to abuse her or anything. You know, I mean—

Miki Meek: According the record, he was.

Ida Roberts: Wait, but he didn’t chop her up and throw her in the ocean or anything, like a lot of people have done, you know? A lot of spouses. But he took good care of her. And he wanted— he just didn’t want to let go.

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That’s right, Troy. What. The. Shit.

Pretending To Be Someone Else in Order To Test Your Love aka The Princess Bride
Don’t give me that face. I love The Princess Bride. But there are a couple of things that are questionable at best. For starters, Wesley continues to play the Dread Pirate Roberts long after Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini are out of the picture. As soon as Vizzini’s Sicilian ass was taken out by the iocane powder, Wesley should have been all, “Shit, Butter, I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you who I was. It’s me, not dead. I had to throw them off my trail. Let’s go hide out someplace now that everyone thinks the Dread Pirate Roberts kidnapped you.” Instead, he continues her kidnapping and terror, mocks her pain, and straight up slaps her. (Yeah, people forget about the slapping part. But definitely he hits her.)

EDIT: Actually, as rightly pointed out by commenter Shannon Hunter, Buttercup hits Wesley. Then he threatens to hit her, then she pushes him down a hill. Meaning I was completely wrong in the hitting detail, but probably all the more right about the overall importance of not pretended to be someone you’re not to a loved one. Thanks, Shannon!

And before you say anything about how Wesley needed to interrogate Buttercup about her engagement to Humperdinck to get some honest answers, 1) no, he fucking didn’t, and 2) see number one again. She didn’t have an option about marrying Humperdinck. So asking her if she loves him wouldn’t actually matter. And also, Wesley was fucking dead. Only a crazy person would actively want their loved one to continue mourning their deaths forever. And don’t try to argue that this is a just a movie so it doesn’t matter. Not unless you’re also going to explain that all of the various Princess Bride themed weddings aren’t real either.

Average Dude (Adam Sandler) Bangs Hot Chicks aka Big Daddy
You know this trope already, so clearly I’m not the one who came up with it. And other websites have spilled buckets of digital ink contemplating the effects of this phenomenon: Women are valued only for their looks, men are valued for more intrinsic values like humor and intelligence, women who want equally attractive partners are shallow while men who “settle” for less attractive partners are somehow getting cheated out of their rightful hot girlfriend. It’s a lot of bullshit.

But I would like to focus on one shitty Adam Sandler movie: Big Daddy. See, I actually kind of loved Big Daddy when it first came out, because I was stupid. But after years of watching Sandler bone down on Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, and Salma Hayek, it occurred to me that Sandler was always getting amazing women while offering them nothing. It’s not just that Sonny Koufax is unconventionally attractive when he lands Joey Lauren Adam’s Layla. It’s that he’s also an unmotivated boor who ruined her sister’s marriage proposal, frequently slut shames said sister for having once worked at Hooters, and is wandering aimlessly while living off of a lawsuit settlement from years earlier. And none of those things are fixed before Layla decides she’s in love with him. He stomps his ass into her already full life to demand that she help him keep a child he was illegally raising, and gives her a guilt trip when she, rightly, says she doesn’t want to be involved. For fuck sake, during the trial Sonny says Layla is going to be his sugar momma. He doesn’t even pretend that he wants to improve himself.

But as bad as the idea is that women should love whatever incompetent tool happens to be around, the next one might actually be worse.

A Woman Should Love Whoever Will Take Care Of Her Best aka ‘Treat You Better’
I feel a little silly picking on a shitty pop song that came out a year ago, but there is a child in my life who insists on listening to Shawn Mendes’ ‘Treat You Better’ repeatedly and it’s slowly killing me. Because presenting yourself as a romantic suitor by proclaiming “I won’t mistreat you” is a super shitty way of winning a woman over. Among the claims Mendes makes to capture his love’s heart is that he won’t lie to her, and that he won’t let her down. So congrats on not being a totally worthless human being, I guess?

So that’s not good enough, but neither is the implication that what a woman is most interested in is having someone treat her a specific way. The means 1) we don’t think men should, at the bare minimum, refrain from mistreating women, and 2) that women are not interested in someone smart, funny, kind, or entertaining, but rather just a “nice” guy. Both ideas are total bullshit. You could be a boring, loutish, unfunny, dumb son of a bitch, but you won’t be mean to me? That’s your pitch? Are you large also?

Which isn’t to say that people shouldn’t value kindness, generosity, and gentleness in their partner. But those things are active characteristics, and not a passive lack of mean traits. Settling for “nice” is the equivalent of “well this place doesn’t currently have a pest infestation.” That might be fine, but it’s not a selling point.


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