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The movie “Groundhog Day” promotes harassment, continues discussion on how movies influence behavior


While the month of February is particularly famous for Valentines Day, Groundhog Day is another holiday people celebrate. Groundhog Day has garnered its own popularity and has even inspired a movie. But while the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray earned a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score, the movie is deeply problematic and romanticizes harassment. 

You wouldn’t expect a movie titled “Groundhog Day” to be a romantic comedy, but it is; except the movie is not funny and the “romance” is actually workplace harassment. 

The basic plot of the movie is that a weatherman (Phil), along with his producer (Rita) and cameramen (Larry) travel to Punxsutawney, Penn. to cover the holiday. Phil does not appreciate this assignment; and to make matters worse, he can’t leave the town after his report because of a winter blizzard. Phil then finds himself trapped in a time loop causing him to relive the same dayGroundhog Dayover and over again. Once Phil realizes his actions don’t have consequences,  he spends his time committing felonies and manipulating women into sleeping with him. No one else except Phil remembers the events of the previous day when the time loop resets, and he uses this to his advantage. 

Phil then realizes that Rita is the only woman who continues to reject him and he makes it his mission to change that. He even tells her that he loves her to coax her into sleeping with him one night when she shows a little interest. 

“You love me? You don’t even know me,” Rita says. “I can’t believe I fell for this. This whole day has just been one long setup.”

That statement is more accurate than Rita is aware of as Phil has tried to manipulate her so he can get what he wants. Eventually, Phil shifts his focus to helping the community of Punxsutawney and Rita and him become a couple. However, the positive ending of the movie does little to make up for the horrendous jokes and overall storyline. 

Rita experienced drastic levels of workplace harassment from Phil. For example,  just seven minutes into the movie, Rita professionally asks if Phil needs anything and he replies by asking her to “help him with his pelvic tilt.” The next morning, which was only five minutes later in the movie, he asks her if she slept okay without him. 

The movie’s plot draws a comparison to “A Christmas Carol” and Scrooge’s transformation; however, “A Christmas Carol” was able to tell a very similar story without turning harassment into a punchline. 

What’s more unsettling is that “Groundhog Day” is rated PG, which means it’s generally viewed as appropriate for any child and shouldn’t disturb a child over 8 years old. Film is one way that people of all ages, but especially children, learn behaviors; so while it’s okay to watch movies that, to put it nicely, haven’t aged well; it’s important to remember that they can normalize and even promote terrible behaviors.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Nora Mariano at [email protected]

To see more of Nora’s work, click here.

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