Saturday, February 9, 2013
Neutering the Male Character and the Problem with Too Many Romantic Movies Today
I think most of that is due to the fact that as I've gotten older (and, for the most part, wiser), I don't easily fall head over heels for the storyline that paints the guy as a hyperbolic Prince Charming whose only goal in life is to sweep his lover off her feet. We never get to know much about him, except that he is the object of her affection. This leads to a terribly unilateral premise. Meanwhile, we get all the info on her--her desires, pet peeves, hopes and dreams. The guy is ultimately a piece in her story, which typically involves her fiercely successful professional life overpowering her crippling and near pathetic personal life. (Or the somewhat mess of a woman who can't seem to get anything right until this guy enters her life and saves it, which seems to be what Safe Haven is all about). After several of those in a row, that tale just becomes stale.
While the male character simply becoming an accessory in mainstream romantic comedies is a refreshing change from the day when it was very much the opposite, to write him in a way in which he essentially becomes neutered, flawless and fairy tale-like, willingly catering to the exact arrangement of the female desire is equally as unattractive to me. That said, the male character has no give, no allowance to be human and make a mistake or not be the man she wanted him to be. Must he always elaborately show his love by orchestrating a flash mob in the middle of Grand Central Station to the tune of their favorite song? (Yes, Friends with Benefits still annoys me to this day). Can't he sometimes take her to a run down space hotel for a little "us" time like Ryan Gosling did for Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine? That was....romantic, kinda. And their relationship was not all roses. Sorta made you feel better about your relationship, right?
I believe this is where the idea of chick flicks came from (which, admittedly, has spiraled off into other misogynistic degrees). It's the notion that these films cater to the woman's ideals in a relationship, whereas forgoing those of the male character. These films are essentially about and for these women and real women like them, and not for anyone else, especially men (even though there is a man floating around in this faux relationship as well). It makes me want to shout, For crying out loud, let the man be a man in these movies! Let him have a voice!
It's understandable and even tempting to create a big screen fable where the man generically pops right out of a Ken and Barbie gumball machine. But 1) it creates an unnecessary ideal for women and girls who don't know any better but to expect this man in real life, and 2) it's just dull. And must the movie always have a happy ending?! Get some conflict in your movie, some real romantic challenges and then come talk to me. Take a cue from iconic movies like Mahogany, which features both the man and the woman deeply in love with each other who both have gigantic other aspects of their lives to foster and navigate. Give the audience something to cling to, and stop underestimating what we can and cannot handle. After all, we're human too. We'll understand.