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Is love all you need? University researcher studies link between Hollywood bad boys and bad relationships

From Channing Tatum to Shane West, bad boys of the big screen often have complicated relationships – but could they also be impacting on our own?

University of Southern Queensland Criminology Lecturer Dr Lauren Humby has investigated the link between movie narratives and real-life expectations of love for a chapter in the new book, Theories of Crime Through Popular Culture.

Dr Humby centred her research on Step Up and A Walk To Remember, two romance films that frame women as the saviour figure using a reverse Cinderella narrative.

“In the two films I studied, the male characters were both living a deviant lifestyle until they met a woman and transformed into law-abiding citizens,” Dr Humby said.

“Movies are often used by people as a framework for real-life situations. 

“While movies are entertainment and we watch them to relax, they can also serve as infotainment.”

Previous research suggests that reverse Cinderella narratives can result in unrealistic expectations of love and romance. 

“Instead of seeing someone living a deviant lifestyle and thinking they need to work on themselves before entering a relationship, people instead think, “I’ve seen this work in the movies, I’ll change him”,” Dr Humby said.

However, in the realms of criminology, romantic relationships have been known to indirectly trigger the desistance process, a series of changes that lead a person away from a life of crime or bad behaviour. 

“We know from research that love and good relationships do impact on an individual’s ability to desist from crime,” she said.

“Relationships can disrupt routine activities, deviant peer associations and foster new prosocial relationships.

“So while these movies may cultivate and reinforce toxic ideas about love and relationships, this may not be due to misrepresentation in the film, but rather a lack of consideration regarding life-course criminology and desistance.”

The University of Southern Queensland’s Crime and Criminology courses aim to provide education on the criminal justice system and crimes committed in our society. 

Find out more about studying criminology.  

lady standing with book
University of Southern Queensland Criminology Lecturer Dr Lauren Humby has had her work on life course and desistance published in the new book Theories of Crime Through Popular Culture. (USQ Photography)