I haven't watched much television or seen many movies in the past few months - time is too precious or I'm just too tired in the evenings. So this last week when I found the time to watch a couple of romantic comedies, I thought I would find them mildly amusing, a pleasant way to relax. Instead, I find myself wanting to rant and rave.
Maybe it's because I'm a mother now. Maybe it's that I that I'm less inured to Hollywood drivel having separated myself for awhile. Maybe I just think too much. But seriously, the way women are portrayed in these movies drives me mad!
The first I watched was an oldie (1998) - I'd seen it before and remembered being mildly offended by the ending. You've Got Mail is in many ways your run-of-the-mill rom com: couple meets but has apparently insurmountable barriers and spend much of the movie hating each other, only to realize at the end that they really love each other after all. In this case the barrier is that the guy (Tom Hanks) is putting the girl (Meg Ryan) out of business. What's so infuriating in this case is that in the end, when she decides she really loves him after all, no mention is made of the fact that he ruined her professional life. Ok, there is a suggestion that since losing her business (a children's book shop) she has taken up writing and is about to be published. But this is such a passing comment (reach for the popcorn and you might miss it) so as to be apparently insignificant. Lesson here, my professional life may be ruined but, the guy who seemed like a jerk really loves me so that is all I need.
At least You've Got Mail had some redeeming qualities - I'm a sucker for the ever-adorable Meg Ryan and there was a cute hidden-identity theme. But the second movie I watched - The Ugly Truth - had no such redeeming qualities. In this movie the woman (Katherine Heigle) starts off strong. We see her as a tv producer who runs the show, smooths egos, calms worries and stares chaos in the face. Intro the guy - super alpha-male misogynist (Gerard Butler) and presto, she turns into a brainless, desperate child who lets him reconstruct her image (telling her to perk up her boobs, put extensions in her hair so a guy "has something to grab" etc). Completely offensive. I won't even bother to explain the rest. Obviously, being a predictable rom com the oddly-matched couple get together at the end. And the lesson in this one is that successful women are really in need of a domineering man to turn them stupid and slutty - and only then will they be fulfilled and truly happy. Absolutely appalling.
What makes these movies all the more frustrating and perplexing to me is that they are written by women. And it's not just these two, thinking about mainstream movies, (not some indie movies which are almost always refreshing exceptions) women are immature characters who are just waiting for a man to come and direct them, teach them, control them (i.e. The Proposal). Or they may be the quirky ingenue who role is simply to heal, redeem, comfort or cheer the guy (i.e. Garden State, Elisabethtown). Often she sacrifices herself for the guy (i.e. Autumn in New York, A Walk to Remember), saving him through her death. Again, appalling.
I'd like to think I'm going to raise my daughter in a world where women and men are equal, but if listening to the news (i.e. threatened stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani) isn't enough to show me how far we have yet to go, 'relaxing' with a movie is certainly not going to ease my concerns.