Photo courtesy of The Playlist

Netflix has a new romance film that already reached the Top 10 since its release on June 29, 2022. Purple Hearts tells the story of singer-songwriter Cassie Salazar, portrayed by Sofia Carson, and marine Luke Morrow, played by Nicholas Galitzine. It focuses on the development of these two characters who are forced to marry each other to sustain their financial needs.

Sofia Carson is the leading actress in Purple Hearts. She is an American singer and actress. She first appeared as a guest star on Austin and Ally but is mostly known for her role as Evie in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Descendants.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 05: Sofia Carson attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The lead actor is Nicholas Galitzine, an English actor known for his roles in High Strung (2016), Handsome Devil (2016), and Cinderella (2021).

Photo courtesy of Just Jared

Purple Hearts takes place in a modern setting that depicts a story of typical romance tropes: fake marriage and enemies to lovers. However, the narrative overlooked certain issues and some of its audience is not pleased.

[SPOILER ALERT]
If you have yet to see the film, read the next sections with caution!

Purple Hearts Review: A controversial romantic story

Several users on Twitter are calling out the film for its implications on racism, misogyny, and military propaganda. The film made problematic takes against Arabs and framed the military as heroic figures: “it’s just American Military propaganda, it’s not even subtle, they even cheer about “killing and hunting Arabs”

Some also expressed their disappointment for those who enjoyed the film without considering the narrative’s undertones: “the purple hearts hype is a prime example of how most people consume media without using any critical thinking”

Based on the novel written by Tess Wakefield, Purple Hearts revolves around Cassie and Luke agreeing on a shotgun wedding due to financial issues. Cassie has Type 1 diabetes with health insurance that does not cover the medicine she needs. Luke owes his drug dealer $15,000.

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

The two characters conspired to a fake marriage a day before Luke’s deployment to Iraq. So they can obtain the health insurance and financial benefits the military offered for married soldiers.

  • Purple Hearts could have been one of those romantic films that everyone likes, seeing that it has an intriguing take on the tropes. Cassie is a liberal and feminist that antagonizes the US government, especially the military. While conservative and patriotic Luke is constantly offended by Cassie’s takes against them.
  • Two people who seemingly hate each other end up getting married. The attention is caught, but the grip gradually loosens as the narrative drags into becoming a disappointment.

‘Red flags’ beyond the romance tropes

Photo courtesy of The Teal Mango
  • As previously mentioned, the romance film overlooked issues that should have been taken seriously. On one hand, it was already able to explore the nuances of Cassie’s character. She tries to make ends meet by taking several jobs at a time. While also pursuing her passion for music.
Photo courtesy of Netflix Life
  • She is progressive and socially aware. She knows the deep-rooted systemic oppression people face based on their gender, race, and social class. Her incapability to fund her medicine also shows the issues surrounding the country’s healthcare system.
Photo courtesy of Wherever I Look
  • On the other hand, Luke tries to earn his father’s favor, who used to be a Military Police, by enlisting in the Marines. Luke grew up in a patriarchal household that ridiculed him and every decision he made such as his previous drug addiction.
  • The couple being total polar opposites were drawn together due to one similarity–money. And their eccentric relationship only progresses as they exchange emails and video calls while Luke is in Iraq and Cassie pursues her passion.
  • The film has the potential to explore a narrative most people in this generation would be keen to witness. But instead, it became underwhelming to watch and the audience was divided between those who found it good and those who found it problematic.

Here are the red flags you shouldn’t miss from Purple Hearts

The not-so-subtle sexual harassment

  • A few minutes after the start of the film already made the audience uncomfortable. This is because of the scene where Cassie was catcalled by the Marines that arrived at the bar. One of Luke’s military buddies says to Cassie. He says, “So we’re good enough to fight for your ass, but not good enough to touch it?” Luke dismisses this comment and says they are just “blowing off steam”.

    Photo courtesy of Netflix
  • His friend’s comment is already problematic as it is. But Luke undermining an intention to sexually harass Cassie only enables the behavior instead of making him accountable.

Unconcealed racism

  • A scene showed where Luke, his friends, and Cassie are having a celebration. It was after the couple’s shotgun wedding and a day before their deployment. During the toast, one of Luke’s friends shouted “hunting down some goddamn Arabs, baby!” which is a blatant racist take.

    Photo courtesy of Netflix
  • It is also important to note that the seemingly problematic character is played by a Black actor.

Cassie’s character regression

  • From the beginning of the film, Cassie was firm in her stand against the US government. However, that stand gradually blurred after Luke was deployed.

    Photo courtesy of Netflix
  • Not only did she write a song in honor of the US military soldiers, but she also stood in solidarity with them by raising a flag beside a BLM and pride flag.

Military propaganda

  • Throughout the film, the military was framed to be good and noble soldiers. They have genuine intentions to serve the country. But it failed to show the fact that they were also forced to flee their country and kill possibly innocent citizens in Iraq.

    Photo courtesy of Netflix
  • It is also questionable to be running away from a former drug dealer. The narrative basically frames the drug dealer as the main antagonist of the story. Disregarding the deeper and more complex reasons that caused this violence.
  • Though there is no intention to undermine the efforts of brave soldiers, it would have been preferable to see a wider perspective. Where everyone, the drug dealer included, is a victim.

Purple Hearts for the attempt

A Purple Heart, in the US, is a military decoration for soldiers who were wounded or killed in action. It is a sign of recognition of their efforts. Though the compelling premise of the story itself has the potential, the film itself is still quite far from having notable recognition.

The discourses that kickstarted from the film show that the audience is now more critical of the media they consume. They express sensitivity to problematic takes and call them out immediately. It raises the bar for creators to do better.

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