Sofia Carson and 'Purple Hearts' Director Defend Movie from Backlash: Character's Flaws Were 'Intentional'
Mark Fellman/Netflix Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine
Sofia Carson is defending her latest film, Purple Hearts.
Following an impressive Netflix premiere, where it's been watched for more than 100 million hours to date, according to Variety, the film's star and co-producer, Carson, 29, is addressing some online backlash against the romance.
Purple Hearts tells the story of Cassie (Carson), a liberal aspiring musician, and Luke (Nicholas Galitzine), a Marine with more conservative views, who enter a "marriage of convenience" — with unexpected results.
At the start of the film Cassie and Luke are portrayed as polar opposites especially when it comes to their political views. At first, these differences upset Cassie and cause tension between the initially "fake" couple though their feelings soon change.
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At one point in the film Luke and Cassie attend a going-away dinner for Luke and his team as they gear up to go overseas. One of the Marines proposes a toast and says, "This one is to life, love and hunting down some goddamn Arabs, baby!"
Cassie is visibly angered by this moment and calls out her new-husband's friend before storming off after Luke insists she backs down.
The backlash appeared online with one viewer taking to Twitter to say that "the issue is he never changes only she does and the movie is painting racism as a simple flaw and sum to overcome. and its not like he changes. he stays the same."
Another user added to the conversation online by writing in part, "the way purple hearts isn't even sublte [sic] but blatantly anti arab anti hispanic racist misogynistic AND pro military propaganda..."
Hopper Stone/Netflix Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine
"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," Purple Hearts director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum told Variety in response to some of the online criticism. "They are flawed at the beginning and that was intentional."
Rosenbaum then said that beyond the title's more obvious reference to the military accolade, it also represents the two characters' hearts coming together.
"In order for the red heart and the blue heart to kind of turn purple, you have to have them be kind of extreme," she said. "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."
Carson, who also served as a songwriter on the film, echoed the sentiment saying that part of why she "fell in love" with the film was because it was "so much more" than a love story.
"It's two hearts, one red, one blue, two worlds apart, who are really raised to hate each other," Carson said. "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."
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Rosenbaum told Variety that it was important they represented the current "very flawed" state of the country in their film.
"That was the biggest, most important part of the theme," she said. "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."
Carson said their intention was 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," Carson said. "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."
Hopper Stone/Netflix Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine in Purple Hearts
Carson previously told PEOPLE that the role of Cassie was her "greatest challenge as an actor" and opened up about all of the work she put into preparing for the role.
The Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists actress said she did "a lot of research into every aspect that could have shaped and formed the woman that she was when we met her."
"Everything from the immigrant experience coming into this country, being an immigrant in San Diego, in Southern California, type 1 diabetes, military, the military culture, her worldview, her political views, her stance on marriage," she continued.
Carson said she even began keeping a journal from Cassie's point of view that included created memories of a story her mother told her about crossing the border, growing up with an abusive father and the first time she heard a song.
"Every memory I could think of," Carson said.
Cassie's "passion for justice" is something Carson said she learned in her own life from her mother — and is what connected her so closely to the character.
"My mom is the most extraordinary heart I've ever known," Carson says. "She raised her daughters, not only to believe that as women anything was possible, but that the greatest and most important thing that we could do with our lives and our voices was to give."
Purple Hearts is now streaming on Netflix.