Woke to Love, Actually

2016 was a terrible year, but it sparked the gender-flipping trend that is breathing new life into otherwise unappealing films (sorry, original Ghostbusters fans). While people of colour (PoC) are still woefully underrepresented, film makers are realising that people other than white dudes will pay to see movies.

The humble rom-com is yet to get a 2016-woke reboot, but honestly, it is begging for it. Rom-coms are meant to feel good, but they are overwhelmingly misogynistic, which takes all the fun out of it. I can’t think of a rom-com that doesn’t revolve around a woman whose problems are solved by a man who is rude, arrogant or gross. Even ‘feminist’ rom-coms with brash, rude women end up with women being validated and improved by the presence of a man. Women are rarely allowed to be complete characters who are complemented by a partner, instead they are just completed.

Love Actually is one of those films that was okay to love, actually, in 2005, but has not aged well. Watching it again with feminist eyes is a painful experience. It’s overwhelmingly creepy, a series of middle-aged men sexually harassing their improbably young, thirsty employees. A woman gets fired for being the object of a crush, and she’s still happy when they end up together. The only storyline that still holds up is the John/Judy body-double arc. It’s obvious to me that Love Actually needs a 2016 revamp. Below are the key storylines and casting choices to bring our problematic fave into a newer, better era.

Harry, Karen and Mia – Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Dev Patel

Emma Thompson plays a turtle-neck-wearing manager, who makes inappropriate remarks about her employees’ sex lives. Colin Firth is her husband, whose heart is quietly shattered when Thompson is seduced by Dev Patel. Dev Patel wears pants that would make Bowie blush. Firth will probably cry to the original version of ‘Hallelujah’, while his wife has her first orgasm in 30 years.

David and Natalie – Sue Perkins and Jenna-Louise Coleman

Perkins plays the newly-elected British PM. She’s awkward and adorable, and has hair to rival 90s Hugh Grant. She falls for a woman (Coleman) whose job includes, but is not limited to, bringing her biscuits. When the steely-eyed American president (Robin Wright) puts the moves on Coleman, Perkins realises she has to confess her feelings. At no point is Coleman ‘redistributed’ without her knowledge or consent, but she does end up working for Kate Middleton, so she can date the PM. Perkins and Coleman still snog at a school play, and the audience remains delighted.

Billy Mack and Joe – Tilda Swinton and Jennifer Saunders

Swinton plays Billie, an aging rocker, trying to hold onto fame by releasing a dreadful Christmas carol. Her film clip is full of scantily-clad male models, who mime playing instruments. Billie has a long-suffering manager, Jo (Saunders), who has kept her alive for the last 20 years. Their arch is pretty much the same as in the original, except canonically queer platonic life partners at the end.

Jamie and Aurelia – Freema Agyeman and Alfred Enoch

Freema Agyeman is a very posh writer with a penchant for chunky-knit sweaters. Heartbroken after she catches her sister and boyfriend bonking, she rents a chateau in the French country-side to write her next romance novel. Her housekeeper hires a beautiful young Portuguese man to help around the chateau. Fun fact, Alfred Enoch is fluent in Portuguese! Despite the language barrier, the writer and the beautiful house-boy fall in love. The scene in the pond is twice as long, lingering on Enoch’s abs, and a tattoo that peeks out of his briefs, just inside his hip bone. Agyeman learns Portuguese and tracks Enoch down to confess her love. This version does not have a weird fat-shaming scene, because it’s 2016. They also don’t get married right away, because they have never had a real conversation.

Juliet, Peter and Mark – Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra and Jonathan Rhys Meyers

This storyline will also bring resolution to Bend It Like Beckham fans, as Knightley and Nagra play a happily-married couple pestered by their ‘nice guy’ friend Mark (Meyers). There’s no denying that Knightley was perfect the first time around in this film – that shot as she comes into focus in the church? Angelic. She was basically 12 the first time around, so can easily reprise her original role. Instead of kissing Mark at the end, she blocks him on Instagram.

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Amy Nicholls-Diver is a writer and editor based in Melbourne. She enjoys queer stories, feminism and cat videos. You can find her on Twitter @diver_amy

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