Nicholas Galitzine as Luke (left) and Sofia Carson as Cassie (right) in purple hearts

Mark Fellman/Netflix

Netflix’s pro-military romance ‘Purple Hearts’ is a major hit thanks to TikTok

It’s well on its way to becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched English-language movies ever.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Netflix’s weekly Top 10 feature is often a hodgepodge of bland Netflix originals and slightly older movies that’d fit right at home on basic cable, but Purple Hearts, the most popular movie on Netflix right now, is something of an outlier.

Purple Hearts, a Netflix original film released on July 29, is a pro-military romance centered around a marriage of convenience that becomes all-too-real. The film tries to juggle too many subplots and leans on tired clichés about liberals and the American military mixed in with propaganda and surface-level commentary about the abysmal state of the American healthcare system. Yet, over the past couple of weeks, the film has become a bonafide TikTok hit thanks to earnest posts celebrating the romance between its leads.

On Tuesday, Netflix reported that subscribers watched Purple Hearts for 102.59 million hours; in comparison, the number 2 film of the week, The Gray Man, was watched for 38.9 million hours. And while the ratings—or Netflix’s version of them—for many of its originals tend to drop in subsequent weeks, Purple Hearts’ audience more than doubled after its first week on Netflix (48.23 million hours watched). According to What’s On Netflix, the film has been watched 150.82 million hours to date and has the potential to become one of Netflix’s top 10 most-viewed English language films of all time. 

But the bigger success story for Purple Hearts—and likely one source of its burgeoning growth—is on TikTok, where videos using the #PurpleHearts hashtag have been viewed more than 1.3 billion times to date. (#CorazonesMalheridos, the film’s Spanish title which translates to “Wounded Hearts”, has garnered an additional 218.8 million views). “Come Back Home,” a song that Carson’s character writes and performs and helps to inspire the Marine characters, features in several of the videos.

@jrdgold #fyp #jrdgold #purplehearts #sofiacarson #nicholasgalitzine #corazonesmalheridos #purpleheartsnetflix #carsoutside #netflix ♬ sonido original – Brutal
@k.h.i.m_ Replying to @bernaclarito here’s for part 2 #purpleheart #purplehearts #cassie #luke #movie #drama ♬ Ikaw  Lang (AD BEAT version) – AD BEAT
@_secondself #purplehearts ♬ Can’t Help Falling in Love – Haley Reinhart

​And while some of the videos are highlighting some of the more problematic aspects of the film—and there are many of those aspects that play out throughout the film’s 2-hour runtime—many more are unironically gushing Cassie (Sofia Carson) and Luke (Nicholas Galitzine), the unlikely couple at the center of Purple Hearts. They ship the characters together, highlight particular moments they find romantic, and are even calling for a sequel.

A couple of the film’s stars are even getting in on the TikTok action by dueting with fan videos offering insight into their performance or relating to certain scenes.

@nicholasgalitzine #duet with @CHLMTSWIFE #purplehearts ♬ original sound – CHLMTSWIFE
@breanaraquel #duet with @Josie #purplehearts #greenscreen why is this edit so good? Making me cry too:(( thank you for all the love on Purple Hearts!! So thankful for all of you💜 #purplehearts #purpleheartsnetflix @chosenjacobs ♬ original sound – Josie

Purple Hearts, which is based on the 2017 novel by Tess Wakefield, takes several romance touchstones: A fake relationship, a marriage of convenience, pretend feelings that become real, and even a race against the clock for a love confession. We’re introduced to Cassie, an aspiring songwriter and musician working several jobs to make ends meet and drowning in medical debt because her insurance won’t cover the insulin she needs for a recent Type I diabetes diagnosis, and Luke, a recovering addict and a third-generation Marine about to ship off to Iraq. They initially clash in their first meeting at a bar, both running under assumptions about the other in snippy dialogue that feels like it already has the eventual GIF or meme from the brand account in mind. But with Cassie desperate for the health benefits that being a military spouse offers and Luke desperate for the extra stipend married soldiers receive to pay off his former drug dealer, they agree to get married.

They’re committing fraud, something Luke informs her when she initially asks a friend to marry her for the health benefits, and the Marines discovering this fact could lead to court martialing and jail time. So, after they say “I do,” Cassie and Luke have to pretend they’re madly in love to convince everyone their marriage is real.

If you’re a fan of romances, you can more or less guess where this story goes, and Purple Hearts dutifully plays out many of the hits. But it’s also a tired depiction of talking points that op-ed writers think liberals and conservatives have about everything from immigration (due to Cassie’s mom’s old status as an undocumented immigrant) and guns to war and the role that the military serves in the U.S., much of which is handled with the bluntness of an ax. (In an early scene, after Cassie objects to one of Luke’s fellow soldiers toasting to “hunting down some goddamn Arabs” and explains that Arab is an ethnicity, he sarcastically thanks her for her “sensitivity training” and then asks if the Marines are going to Iraq to teach Iraqis pronouns. Cassie is seen as the one at fault for bringing down the mood right before they ship off.) But Cassie’s stances are the ones that are often softened while Luke unironically uses the phrases “snowflake” and “liberal nut” to describe Cassie, even as their bond grows.

Netflix is already home to wildly successful romances including Virgin River, Bridgerton, and even the grossly sexist 365 Days, so while Purple Hearts might not have instantly rang out as one of Netflix’s biggest hits, it’s something of a no-brainer in hindsight.

On TikTok, it’s easy to cut around some of the sexist, racist, and pro-military dialogue in Purple Hearts and the drug dealer subplot that Luke is entangled in that bogs down parts of the film. In smaller soundbites and fan edits—which have long been a component of shipping—you can sell Cassie and Luke’s love story as an epic full of gestures big and small and the eventual realization that two people who don’t make sense on paper are actually perfect for each other. And while those moments do happen in Purple Hearts, they come amid other elements that put a damper on the romance and plenty of propaganda to swallow down. In smaller doses and with little context, you can just edit it out.

The Daily Dot