Why Netflix’s Purple Hearts Is a Controversial Romance Movie

One of the most recent Netflix romance films is taking social media by storm, but not necessarily for the reasons people think. Purple Hearts debuted on the streaming service in July and has consistently been in the top ten movies on the platform. The film follows Cassie (Sofia Carson), a young musician, and Luke (Nicholas Galitzine), a former addict and marine, as they marry for military benefits. Cassie is a recently diagnosed diabetic and has trouble affording her medication, and Luke needs the extra living stipend to pay back his dealer.

While many Netflix romance films receive the same type of hype across social media, this one is receiving publicity because of some unsavory content within it. There are two firm camps on the movie: that it is a cute romance film with tropes like enemies to lovers, one-bed, and fake marriage, or that it is a film that perpetuates harmful rhetoric and tropes like a young woman giving up her morals for a man.


The latter has some strong points about the film. This isn’t a fluffy romance film of two people from different worlds falling in love. It is a film that results in the give and take of both individuals and their morals, in a romance that doesn’t really make sense because of those morals. Let’s break it down.

Giving up Morals for a Man Isn’t Cute

It is clear from the film’s start that Cassie and Luke are two very different people. The musician is more left-leaning, displaying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on her apartment balcony. She also isn’t concerned about defrauding the American government when she initially suggests the fake marriage to her childhood friend Frankie (Chosen Jacobs). She notes that they are a part of the problem with the affordability of her insulin and that her mother spent years paying them taxes to them before she was granted any type of legal documentation. Overall, her comments on military men, based on her mother’s interactions with them, make it clear she is not a huge supporter of the armed services.

Luke is the polar opposite. He grew up in a family of right-leaning Marines, expects that his wife will listen to his every word, and has strong views on the United States’ southern border and immigrants. He is initially very put off by Cassie’s suggestion, commenting that his father used to be military police and had to report these types of incidents, showing he is very much against her idea until he realizes how it would be useful to him.

Related: Ethics in Movies That Make You Question Your Own Morality

Throughout the movie, the two are at odds. From calling Cassie a “lib nut” to making derogatory and overtly racist comments about her mother, who started her life in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, Luke seems to oppose Cassie’s morals and that she is even an American citizen.

While it could be argued the journey the two have been on has caused Cassie to have a more nuanced understanding of the military, since she’s being exposed to a new view, there is no evidence that Luke has changed his opinions. Even when he chooses to go to military jail and take the fall for their fake relationship, it’s Cassie that makes the speech showing her changes, not him. It gives the message that she had to be the only one to change so their relationship could transition from fake to real, which isn’t a great message to send.

Military Propaganda and Harmful Rhetoric

In addition to the unchanging values ​​of Luke, the film contains racist and ableist language that causes some pretty uncomfortable moments. In particular, there is a scene after the two are married, when they are having dinner with the other members of his platoon, that is difficult to watch. An African American man is giving a toast as they are about to ship off on their tour and makes a crude, xenophobic remark about Arabs. It’s uncomfortable to listen to, and even the other men at the table don’t have a positive reaction to it.

Related: Best Romance Movies of the 2000s, Ranked

The scene only gets worse when Cassie tries to correct the individual, standing up to meet his stance, as he continues to make comments about how all she wants the military to do is “teach them pronouns.” Luke demands she sit back down. The rest of the men agree, telling her to listen to him, and Luke doesn’t let up. To his credit, he also demands his friend sit back down too, and later tells Cassie that his friend was just full of “b*llsh*t bravado.”

While the scene and film are clearly trying to have more of a pro-military edge, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if done correctly, like in Top Gun: Maverickthis scene just reinforces that there is a certain kind of person that joins the military, which is harmful both to how people view the military and service members that don’t identify like this.

Later in the film, after Luke’s tragic accident, he calls himself a “cripple.” The term has a negative connotation for individuals with disabilities, specifically because when it is used, it’s to be derogatory, just like how Luke is using it to describe himself in the film. Cassie mentions that “people don’t really say” that word anymore, but it is passed over and just shows how little Luke’s views on the world have changed since starting a relationship with Cassie.

Ultimately, those on social media criticszing the film are right. Unlike other recently released Netflix romance films, the love story in Purple Hearts hinges on all the wrong things and leans into its xenophobic and racist tones.

Leave a Comment