The numbers don’t lie. Currently in its second week, Netflix’s “Purple Hearts” has been watched for more than 100 million hours. The drama, starring Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine, follows a liberal musician who agrees to marry a Marine in order to get health insurance.
While the movie has become a huge hit on the streaming giant, it has also faced criticism about misogynistic and racist themes; during one scene, a Marine makes a toast and says, “This one is to life, love and hunting down some goddamn Arabs, baby!” While Carson’s Cassie calls him out before storming off, Galitzine’s Luke brushes it off and it’s soon forgotten, as are his more conservative views she was once unhappy about.
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Although director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum has focused on the positive reactions to the film, she has seen the criticism.
“I hope that people understand that in order for characters to grow, they need to be flawed in the beginning. So we very much intentionally created two characters that had been bred to hate each other,” she tells Variety. “They are flawed at the beginning and that was intentional. 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," she continued. "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.”
She adds that the country is “very flawed” at the moment, which they wanted to present in the film.
“That was the biggest, most important part of the theme,” says Rosenbaum. “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.”
“Why I fell in love with the movie is that it’s a love story but it’s so much more than that,” Carson, who is an executive producer on the movie, adds. “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. What I think I’ve learned to do as an artist is separate myself from all of that and just listen to what the world is feeling and reacting to with the film. That has been so beautifully overwhelming and so many people have felt seen or are comforted by this movie. That’s all we could want filmmakers and as artists.”
On the other hand, the film has been praised for positively portraying what it’s like to live with Type 1 Diabetes, something Rosenbaum and Carson worked on with Laura Pavlakovich, the founder of the nonprofit You’re Just My Type, and Dr. Michael Metzger, who was a medical consultant on set.
Additionally, with such a small budget, they couldn’t afford the insulin pump so they brought in a Medtronic consultant, who ended up being the one in the scene administering the pump for the first time.
“We all felt so emotional when she finally got the pump because it makes it makes your life different,” Rosenbaum says. “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. 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. If you look at ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and those are beautiful stories too, but it was great to have to watch someone strong and try to overcome that.”
Carson noted that Rosenbaum “set the tone” on the movie to make sure it was led with honesty. “The more that we learned about diabetes, the more that we wanted to really represent what it means to be a Type 1 Diabetic in 2022 in the United States, as accurately and as vulnerably as possible,” she says. “Working with Laura, meeting with doctors and doing my research about what they face every single day to literally survive — to sacrifice everything they have to get the insulin they need to wake up the next day — is devastatingly unfair.”