I don’t ordinarily read Time Magazine, since I decided years ago, even before my political transformation, that it held little interest for me. (Although I distinctly remember, in 1982, a “hip” young man I worked with castigating it as a conservative mag fit only for parents.) The only reason I even read it now was because, while I was biding time in the orthodontist’s office, it was the only alternative to a car magazine. As is my practice with all magazines, I started at the back, with the light stuff. And that’s how I got to read Belinda Luscombe’s delightful op-ed about the men populating Hollywood’s recent batch of “romantic” “comedies” (both of those words deserve sarcastic italics, since the movies tend to be neither romantic nor funny). Here’s how Luscombe describes some of Hollywood’s latest offerings (all of which, I believe, have fared badly at the boxoffice):
Pity poor Uma Thurman. In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, her new movie, she plays a superhero who falls for Luke Wilson, a not very successful architect. He does not reciprocate, a less than shrewd response to a woman who, with one glance, can set you alight–and I don’t mean with desire. In her last romantic comedy, Prime, she played a high-powered fashion consultant who’s dating a man who worked as a kitchen hand and moved into her apartment and played a lot of video games. Those are the men Uma Thurman gets. Or doesn’t.
But she’s not alone. In this summer’s The Break-Up, Jennifer Aniston lives with an overweight and slobby tour guide, while in Failure to Launch, Sarah Jessica Parker woos a man who dwells with his parents. Those guys would have bonded well with the lads from last year’s Wedding Crashers, who sneak into other people’s nuptials because they have no life, or with that 40 Year-Old Virgin fella. Or, for that matter, the gentlemen from Hitch or Fever Pitch or Along Came Polly or almost any other recent movie in the opening scenes of which boy and girl meet cute. They are, all of them, spectacular weenies.
She’s so right. These guys aren’t even New Age sensitive guys. They’re old-fashioned losers.
Interestingly enough, these Hollywood movies are the mirror image of the British chick-lit books I’ve been complaining about. In the latter, the women are boozy, pathetic losers who somehow manage to land the best guy in room. Although depressing, these stories are at least probable, since historically men have tended to marry down, and women up. The Hollywood movies, though, with their wildly successful women and flakey men are, well, weird. And just as I wondered why the British would go for stories demeaning to women, I have to wonder, even more strongly, why Hollywood would go for stories demeaning to men. Here’s Luscombe take:
Most of the men in these movies are under 40. Could it be that a generation raised by women who worked at paying jobs before pulling a second shift as homemakers simply find any situation in which women are not heroically gifted and energetic to be too much of a suspension of disbelief?
We know what the schlub love interests are not. They are not a female fantasy. Given Uma-like superpowers or even Condi-like earthly powers, women would not, surely, choose to waste them on bringing numskulls who look like Ben Stiller up to I’m-prepared-to-be-seen-out-with-you standard. Women need their superpowers for more important stuff like fighting illiteracy and deflecting people’s attention away from the fact they’ve gone maybe one day too long without shaving their legs. [Emphasis mine.]
Is this what Slackers, Gen X, Gen Y and the loonier side of Feminism have brought us to? A bizarre Lake Woebegone, where the women are strong, the children are above average, and the men are pathetic failures?
I’m already beyond the stage where I’m affected by these young men (I’m not dating anymore), but I find it depressing that both my son and daughter will be raised in a world where men are demeaned and women are (probably) depressed. Luscombe notes that we’ll never have the society or the wit to take us back to the wonderful snappy romances of the 1940s, or even the Cinderella tales of the 50s and 60s, but she raises a cry for some return to a time when men were men and women were beautiful:
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It’s clear we can’t return to the days of Gigi and Daddy Long Legs and Funny Girl, when gawky young women were transformed into Givenchy-wearing lovelies by suave, much older men who danced well. Steve Martin tried that last year with shopgirl. In the scene where he puts his hand on Claire Danes’ naked back, audience members around me practically reached for their cell phones to dial child services. Meanwhile, the vicissitudes of show biz have done in the witty Spencer Tracy–Katharine Hepburn bickerfests, because they require people to actually pay attention. And let’s face it, we have all drunk at the Tom Hanks–Meg Ryan soda-pop stand once too often. So, yes, our romantic-comedy appetites are limited.
But would it be too much to ask to have women occasionally be the losers? Why is it that when stranded men are rescued by women it’s comedy but when women are rescued by men it’s an action film? Females have exactly the same rights to louse up and slack off and be really immature and dysfunctional as men do. If you put a banana peel in front of us, do we not slip? Enough is enough. The time has come to rise up, my sisters! Let’s fight for our right to be in the wrong.
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