Why Kate and Leopold is slightly terrifying

For whatever goddamn reason, I watched the romantic comedy Kate & Leopold around 10 or 15 times when I was a kid.

We had the VHS tape of the film that stars Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, and it was just a mindless film to put on in the background.

As a kid, what I didn’t realize  is that the movie is slightly terrifying in its implications because Meg Ryan’s character basically gives up her entire life to go back in time and has been in an incestual relationship for the past several years.


Kate McKay is an ambitious career woman working with a market research company. She’s on her way to being promoted, but she doesn’t exactly like her job.

One day, as she rustles through her ex-boyfriend’s apartment looking for the stylus of her Palm Pilot (could you be any more early 2000s?), she meets a strange man wearing strange clothing.

He identifies himself proudly as Prince Leopold Mountbatten and alludes to being from the past. Thinking he’s just a bad actor, McKay dismisses him thinking he’s just one of her ex’s weird actor friends, but like any bad rom com they slowly fall in love.

What she doesn’t know is that he really is from the past and has followed Stuart Besser, her ex-boyfriend, from 1876 to the present day.

He probably has syphilis being from 1876.

He probably has syphilis being from 1876.

Besser is a descendent of Mountbatten’s and having discovered a number of portals in time around New York wanted to explore the past.

Near to the end of the film Kate is able to confirm that Leopold’s actually from the past by looking at a photograph that’s she in and chases after him as he leaves. She’s transported to the past and completes a 4D web of shenanigans.

If she hadn’t gone into the past to marry Leopold he would never have had the right kids who would eventually give birth to Stuart who would then go into the past, have a laugh about erections, bring Leopold to the present, and send Kate to the past to begin the whole loop again.

So there are some horrifying implications about this, other than the ramifications of what would happen should the loop not have been completed, but there are also some more practical issues.

For “Love”, Kate McKay throws away her career and plunges into a past. Yes, there were some cool things going on at the time, but she’s also going to live through one of the most horrifying times in modern history.


Kate’s career is important to her

A career woman and a bumbling, well-spoken idiot following her around.

A career woman and a bumbling, well-spoken idiot following her around.

Kate doesn’t exactly flourish at her job, but her title is something that she has nonetheless worked hard to earn. Her job involves marketing, mostly, bad products to the general public.

It’s your typical marketing gig and she was actually about to be made a partner in her firm.

After using Leopold in one of their commercials he tells her, in response to hearing her doubts about the products, that “when one finds oneself participating in an endeavour entirely without merit, one withdraws” to which she responds, “I don’t have time for pious speeches from two hundred year old men who have not worked a day in their life.”

Ok, so sometimes people hate their jobs and she has a pretty slimy boss, but she fought for her career and earned herself a comfortable lifestyle. She has her own apartment in New York and lives a good life, but she throws it all away to live in a past where women barely had any rights.

The worst part of this is that she ultimately has no choice in the matter. Since this is a causality loop, she needs to go back in time in order to meet the Duke, have kids, and eventually be the ancestor of Stuart Besser.

This means that everything she has done and everything she has fought for in her life is pointless because she has to fall in love with Leopold and go to the past, which brings us too…

Stuart and Kate = wincest

Stuart, seen here, is actually related to Kate, so yeah.

Stuart, seen here, is actually related to Kate, so yeah.

There could be many branching marital trees between the 1870s to the early 2000s, but Stuart has most likely been having sex with his great, great, great grandmother.

What’s strange is that even when the realization hits the group, no one decides to tell Kate because that part of the movie is trapped within a deleted scene.

It must have been a bit of a rough realization for everyone involved, but Kate’s never really told about the relationship. She leaps into the past not knowing that in some way Stuart is actually her descendent.

You wonder how Kate would have reacted if she had been told and whether she would have been so eager to take part in this strange causality loop that she’s trapped within.

Also if Stuart and her did perhaps have kids if their relationship had gone well there’s a big chance they’d likely have some genetic disorders like the ones Leopold has…

The Duke is dead

Seen here a man most likely with horribly crippling Haemophilia.

Seen here a man most likely with horribly crippling Haemophilia.

There are a tonne of staggering problems with Kate leaving the modern world for the uncertain past.

One of those problems is actually Prince Leopold the Duke of Albany’s health.

If based on the real guy, he only has about 8 years to live. The actual duke he takes after died in 1884 due to complications of haemophilia.

Haemophilia was a common genetic disorder in many royal families and existed in part due to inbreeding. It affects the body’s ability to create blood clots when cut leading to severe bleeding with even the smallest injury.

Open wounds in a time before antibiotics means that dying from infections is pretty likely, so after a few years of living with the duke he would likely die.

So what happens to Kate? Maybe without the duke around, she’d be thrown out onto the streets to live out the rest of her life homeless. The alternative is that she continued to live, but there’s no real record of a Kate McKay in history.


So Kate McKay is now in the past living with the Duke. She’s a Duchess and lives a pretty comfortable life even without the modern conveniences that she’s grown accustomed to.

If she survives the next 50 years, she’ll witness some amazing historic moments, but also live through the Great Depression, the First World War, and several other horrible things.

The fact that there is no record of Kate McKay in the past suggest she didn’t exactly achieve much in the past. You’d think that someone with her knowledge of the future would be able to at least use that to her advantage, but it seems like she faded into obscurity.

In her quest to find true love, she ends up a time traveller never to return to the people like her brother who really cares for her. She also gives up a promising career for a man likely to die in the coming years.

Kate & Leopold is a lot scarier than I remember…

5 thoughts on “Why Kate and Leopold is slightly terrifying

  1. I’m shocked, but I don’t think I’ll really understand how deep Kate and Leopold goes until I watch the Director’s Cut on the DVD.

  2. It’s completely terrifying especially the part where she leaves her life to go the past where she will likely not survive long because she’s not accustomed to living in that time period. But I choose to just ignore all that mostly for Hugh’s character which is so ridiculous that it’s hard to not get swept up in it. I think most women realize this movie is pretty out there but in my opinion it’s the epitome of chick flick in the best way possible. Still can’t eat butter without thinking of the butter commercial and cracking up.

  3. I never bought Leopold’s attraction to Kate McKay because she danced like a herd of cattle, and she lit up the screen simply by leaving it. Besides, would you give up a Sr. Vice President position, most likely well paid and more exciting, than going to 1876? I know I wouldn’t.

  4. I just like watching it for the Kangal/Anatolian dogs used in the movie. (Note there are two different dogs I can pick) I’ve had 3 of this uncommon breed : )

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