by Darcy A.
The other night I stumbled upon the movie He’s Just Not That Into You. I’m no fan of romantic comedies, but I have a friend who read the book, plus I was lacking the initiative to find something better to do, so I watched it. Then I remembered why I wasn’t a fan of romantic comedies. While many of them present themselves as empowering, there’s still the tendency to portray women as boy-crazy and marriage-obsessed and men as totally averse to commitment (that is until he is completely transformed by Miss Right). For women, finding a man is the ultimate goal in life; it’s the topic of all conversations (Bechdel Test, anyone? See the movie clip below) and the motivation behind all choices. For men, marriage is a life-changing surrender of freedom.
Take exhibit A: He’s Just Not That Into You. Sure, there’s an empowerment theme in the sense that women are supposed to dump dirtbags, stop waiting by the phone and handle rejection better. Fine. All of those things are fine. But then there’s everything else.
There’s the obnoxiously oblivious and keen young woman who throws herself at every guy she makes eye contact with—and then she ends up with the newly self-actualized player who completely changed his ways because he loves her soooo much. Am I the only one who is tired of seeing women portrayed as painfully hapless yet ultimately irresistible? Because it sounds like the message here is “Don’t worry about living life for yourself (or developing a well-rounded character), girl, because eventually Mr. Right will find you and fulfil you.” GAG. Oh, and no rom-com is complete without the stereotypical lying, cheating scumbag who reinforces the notion that by nature men are not meant for monogamy and it’s only a matter of time before nature wins.
While there was (a bit) more to the film than this brief description, here’s the big reason these portrayals of men and women bother me so much. It’s because of something called the marriage gap. Basically, the smartest thing a man can do is to get married. Yup. Married men fare better than their single counterparts in just about every measurement we have: they’re happier, enjoy better health and earn more than their single counterparts. It’s almost the opposite for women. So why do we as a culture accept the premise that women are simply waiting around to get married, while it’s a life sentence of monotony for men?
Ladies, stuff like this puts us right back in the ’50s, when a woman was expected to take good care of her man (which she’s lucky to have) or, heaven forbid, he’ll leave her.
Now I’m not anti-relationship and I’m certainly not anti-marriage. I just wish the “chick flick” genre would be a little less fantasy and give women a little more substance (and credit). I mean, gender dynamics are in transition, right?! Times are changing, right?! More women are going to university, earning better wages, and waiting
longer to get married and have children. Let’s see some of that stuff on screen. Please.