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Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers for “Purple Hearts”

In her film “Purple Hearts,” Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum attempts to bring the fake-dating trope to life with high stakes. This story features two strangers, Cassie and Luke, who get married to receive military benefits. As all Hollywood stories go, they eventually realize they have feelings for one another. 

The hype around this film and its sudden rise on every social media platform makes sense since viewers love spicy tropes and attractive actors. In this case, however, the concept might be more attractive than the execution. Since its release, audiences have brought up valid debates around controversies associated with the film, the most notable being racism and military propaganda. 

Racism is recurring and easy to spot throughout the film. Cassie and Luke have opposite political views, which is common and perfectly okay. However, Rosenbaum takes an unnecessary step to communicate this by giving characters extremely racist lines. While racism does occur in the modern world, there are some lines targeting certain groups that create an uncomfortable atmosphere, such as one character toasting “to life, love and hunting down some goddamn Arabs, baby!” Following the toast, Luke tells Cassie to sit down, defending his racist friend. 

This scene is included to show that Cassie doesn’t agree with Luke’s views. However, these kinds of anti-Arab lines are not an ideal way to portray the couple’s differences. The line is blatantly racist and completely unnecessary. There are many subtle ways the love interests’ differing political views could have been demonstrated. This line, however, goes too far and is unsettling to audiences. 

If racism is not enough, there is also military propaganda to add to the list. Rosenbaum intended to create a rom-com that was not like the others but miserably failed by romanticizing the wrong ideals. A rom-com centered around invading Iraq and deaths of Iraqi citizens is disrespectful and odd. There are many military romance films and books that portray events occurring in a respectful way. “Purple Hearts” is clearly not one of those, overlooking the pain and weight of war. 

The one part of this film that is well done is Cassie and Luke’s military contract marriage. Both characters are desperate for money and have to turn to marriage as their last resort. Their financial challenges are authentic and clear from the beginning of the film. The consequences of this fake marriage are also portrayed well without sugarcoating the fraudulent activity. Rosenbaum avoids giving the viewer wrong ideas by making it clear that the consequences of this marriage are severe. 

Overall, the love story and several moments of this movie were well done. However, when it comes down to it, “Purple Hearts” is more problematic than it is powerful. The racist comments and military propaganda should not be overlooked. Hopefully this movie serves as a lesson: military rom-coms may not be the brightest idea. If you’re looking for a film that portrays the military well, this isn’t it, but it is a good watch to see how the fake-dating trope is established.

Staff Writer

I am a second year student studying accounting with a minor in journalism. I joined Technician as a correspondent in Fall 2021 and I am currently a staff writer for the Culture section.