A new rom-com on Netflix is facing backlash due to its themes and content, while still being one of the most popular selections on the streaming platform right now. The movie, Purple Hearts, is about a woman who marries a Marine in order to get health insurance, and various aspects of the film have upset viewers, leading many to claim that it’s racist, misogynist, and even military propaganda. In response to the outrage, the director of Purple Hearts, Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum, and one of its stars, Sofia Carson, have spoken out in defense of the romance.
Read on to see what specific parts of the movie have subscribers upset and for Rosenbaum and Carson’s responses to their complaints.
Purple Hearts—which was released July 29—is about a liberal musician, Cassie (Carson), who agrees to marry a conservative Marine named Luke (Nicholas Galitzine), for one year. She has Type 1 diabetes and desperately needs health insurance to pay for her treatment. Meanwhile, Luke joined the military in order to pay back a debt after suffering from addiction. As time goes on and Cassie and Luke face more hardships and time apart, they end up actually falling for one another for real.
The backlash to the movie includes claims that it is military propaganda and that it includes unchecked instances of racism and misogyny. For example, at one point, another Marine giving a toast says, “This one is to life, love and hunting down some [expletive] Arabs, baby!” Cassie is upset by the comment, while Luke is not.
“I don’t get all the fuss about the movie « Purple Hearts » I mean it’s just a regular boring movie with a lot of racism and misogyny that’s romanticizing the military !!!!” wrote one Twitter user.
Another said, “Purple hearts is us military propaganda that uses the invasion & deaths of 1.2 million iraqis as a romcom Not to mention him defending his racist friend & telling her to sit down & stop it when she called him out after he was cheering with ‘hunting down some [expletive] Arabs.'”
Someone else wrote, “the way purple hearts isn’t even sublte [sic] but blatantly anti arab anti hispanic racist misogynistic AND pro military propaganda but ppl are frothing at the mouth bc enemies to lovers YEAH THEY’RE ENEMIES BCS HE’S A PRO GUN CONSERVATIVE SOLDIER AND SHE’S A LATINA LIBERAL.”
Rosenbaum spoke up for Purple Hearts in an interview with Variety, saying that the movie is meant to show how two very different people can come together despite their differences.
“I hope that people understand that in order for characters to grow, they need to be flawed in the beginning,” she said. “So we very much intentionally created two characters that had been bred to hate each other … In order for the red heart and the blue heart to kind of turn purple, you have to have them be kind of extreme. Some of the people that they’re surrounded with are even more flawed than they are. They both have been neglected by the system; he’s hurt in a war that doesn’t seem to be ending and she’s slipping through the cracks of the healthcare system. So they’re both neglected by the system, and then they live under one roof, and in these extreme circumstances, they learn to become more moderate and to listen to each other and to love.”
Rosenbaum added, “I do hope that anyone who’s in any way insulted by it understands that our intentions are very pure, and it’s because we feel like people need to grow and need to start to become more moderate.”
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Carson, who in addition to playing Cassie is an executive producer of Purple Hearts, also shared her view on the movie.
“Why I fell in love with the movie is that it’s a love story but it’s so much more than that,” she told Variety. “It’s two hearts, one red, one blue, two worlds apart, who are really raised to hate each other. Through the power of love, they learn to lead with empathy and compassion and love each other and turn into this beautiful shade of purple. We wanted to represent both sides as accurately as possible.”
Similarly, Carson told The Hollywood Reporter, “We definitely wanted to showcase the dichotomy between these two characters and their incredibly differing political views without taking any sides. And also showing that, especially Cassie’s character, she doesn’t ever abandon who she is or what she believes in. What happens with these two people is that, rather than approaching each other with hatred and with seeing their divisions, they start to see each other as human beings, not just political views. They see each other with compassion and empathy. Call it optimistic, but that’s the story that we wanted to tell, is that if you lead with love, love can heal in ways that can be quite powerful.”
Despite the backlash, many people have streamed Purple Hearts on Netflix. The movie has been viewed for over 100 million hours and took over the No. 1 spot from the Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans action movie The Gray Man.
Carson and Rosenbaum also feel that the movie has been successful thanks to the positive reaction it has received for representing people with Type 1 diabetes—amid the backlash. “We both felt like it was a massive part of the story and and a cool responsibility to be able to shed some light on it,” Rosenbaum told Variety. “But every time we talk ahead of time to anyone who has Type 1 Diabetes, they were just so grateful because usually it’s like, been a weakness for a character in movies, and oftentimes, they’ll die from it.”
Carson added that the response she’s experienced “has been so beautifully overwhelming” and that “so many people have felt seen or are comforted by this movie.” The actor continued, “That’s all we could want filmmakers and as artists.”