Exploring yet more ridiculous relationship propaganda in the media…
I admit that, from time to time, I have watched a chick flick and enjoyed it, would you believe! There aren’t many chick flicks that I can sit through without developing the urge to track down whichever Hollywood star is involved and bray them with a heavy implement, but they are generally easy watching and leave a v.temporary warm fuzzy feeling inside… right before you sink into a pit of self loathing, because the gorgeous, ridiculously skinny creature playing the lead is supposed to be the epitome of the ineligible woman and when you try your v.v.hardest with the clothes and the shoes and the makeup, you still don’t look anywhere near as good as she does when she’s barefaced, hungover, binge eating and suffering from thrush. You don’t even look as good as her thrush. But then, some may say that the media likes to keep us feeling so insecure that we constantly have the urge to check on which celebrity is wearing what, using which cream and smelling like which particular flower in a bid to keep up with the latest trends and fashions, all of which are advertised on the following page of that gossip glossy, or that website, or at the beginning of that film… because we’re worth it.
The film Bridesmaids, for example, was the biggest betrayal thus far. It promised to be something different: it was The Hangover but with girls; to me that meant women enjoying themselves on a hen do, just like men do on a stag do; just like the men from The Hangover. And it started so well – there’s a v.promising conversation in a cafe right at the beginning, and I thought: “This is bloody brilliant! Just what we need, this.” And then it petered out into the usual tripe churned out by pink Hollywood, except that there was more poo. Don’t get me wrong, I sat through it, and have watched it since, in a warm, fuzzy, self-loathing way. But it is basically the same old relationship propaganda that is churned out to women on a regular basis. Think about it: a v.attractive, once successful woman finds herself out of work after the breakdown of her relationship, because she couldn’t possibly carry on being a successful business woman by herself even if she was the baker in a bakery – after all banks don’t give out loans and nobody in New York likes cake, do they? Said character ends up debasing herself with casual sex and foul language* having gone off the rails without someone to keep her on the straight and narrow. She proceeds to make a tit out of herself (and, I won’t lie to you – everyone I know who’s watched the film has then pointed at me and gone: “She’s you**!”) until a man comes along and “saves” her; suddenly she finds herself baking cakes again and you just know that that business is going to boom once more. All because of a man. Phew. Where would we be without a knight in shining armour?
What Women Want
Possibly the most patronising title to a film ever. What women Want. Really? Do we? It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I guess “What Some Straight, White, Middle Class, Needy Women Want Sometimes” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? I think the film’s saving grace is the fact that two rival employees of an ad agency go up against each other and the woman is better at the job than the man. She’s failing to win pitches, though, because the man has suddenly developed the ability to read women’s minds. This helps him to exploit the leading lady’s ideas and pretend that they’re his own. However, after spending so much time listening to the female psyche, which is generally neurotic, clingy, whiny and much based around men in this film, he develops a keen sense of sympathy for women as the weaker sex, and decides that he will use his powers for good instead of ill. In this way, he saves the virginity of his teenage daughter and wins the love of the rival colleague. Phew. So glad a man stepped in – those pesky women were in danger of becoming a slut and a successful divorcee respectively, and nobody would want that, would they?
A flourishing female member of the FBI is enjoying her career and her single life. She doesn’t feel the need to preen herself (some women don’t, you know, and there’s now’t wrong with that), she wears sensible shoes for a hard-hitting job and she eats what she wants. Unfortunately, this film is flawed from the off because the lead character is played Sandra Bullock who would look stunning if she was dressed in a rubble sack, dipped in cowshit and then strategically shaved. Of course, the lead had to be played by somebody unachievably beautiful, because the character v.realistically has to infiltrate a beauty pageant. I hate to add any spoilers, but our Sandra becomes so good at looking like a beauty queen, that she gets into the final round, saves the day and wins the boy. The moral of this story being: “Just because you’re a woman with a career doesn’t mean that you’re wholly successful just yet – if you don’t wear makeup, no man will want to marry you. You can be girly and have a job, little lady.”
Sweet Home Alabama
Sweet Jesus, this is a bad film! A woman who is no longer in love with her husband escapes her hometown of Alabama and finds success in the big city. When her boyfriend proposes, she realises that she is, technically, still married and so returns to Alabama to finish off her divorce, which she finds difficult because her husband is being a wanker about it. Eventually, the leading lady realises that she’s still in love with her husband, despite wankery, and brushes off everything she’s achieved since leaving Alabama to stay with him and work her life around his business.
13 Going on 30
The film that’s really sparked this rant, and it’s a v.enjoyable film, all things considered, is 13 Going on 30. I have seen this several times and think that Jennifer Garner’s performance is spot on – I mean, if I found myself suddenly pushing 30 having only just been 13… hang on a moment. Isn’t that just life? The film was on telly the other day***, so I stuck it on as background noise while I was working^. But something niggled me about it: a 30 year old woman is the editor of one of the most successful magazines in New York; she is unmarried, promiscuous, rich, intelligent, successful and v.hard hitting. For being such a tough bitch, she is also hated by everyone and, most of all, the geeky friend she spurned years ago because he was holding her back. How v.dare she? As it happens, this 30 year old woman was 13 about ten minutes ago, so she has the opportunity to go back in time, force herself to fall in love with the geeky friend, instead of ejecting him from her life, and completely obliterate her ambition. It’s the worst case of shrew taming I’ve ever come across.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say that it’s all bad: there’s also the message that, even when successful, one shouldn’t forget the lifelong friends and family that helped you to get where you are. Fine. I get that. But I get the distinct impression that the film wouldn’t have made the cut if the Jennifer Garner had returned to being 13 and just decided to be friendly to the geek instead, or if she’d at least agreed to not bully him as much. It had to be true love, didn’t it? That’s how films are supposed to end. That’s what we’re all supposed to be looking for, isn’t it? What do you mean, ‘you’re not’? What’s wrong with you?
I stopped choosing to watch chick flicks about ten years ago, and now only watch them once in a blue moon, which is plenty enough for me. And I fell in love with art house/low budget/world/indie cinema about five years ago and moved away from Hollywood altogether. It’s so freeing to be away from all that one-dimensional cant. I’m not saying that I will never again watch a chick flick. One of my best friends (herself a successful, beautiful, single woman) loves them and there’s no way she’d let me get away with never seeing another as long as I live – I’m not sure I’d want that anyway. But, as far as teaching our young women the virtues of life go, chick flicks are rather thin on the moral ground. Should I ever forget to take my pill and end up besprogged, I’d like to think that, male or female, that child would have some other view of the world than one in which romantic love is everything. Because, I’m sorry to break this to you, but it’s not everything. Not by a long shot. Many a happy couple has split because of not having enough money to survive, for example.
Well rounded happiness is not based on one aspect of a person’s life. Perhaps if love were exactly as it is portrayed it in the movies, it would be enough. But, and I hate to yet again burst a bubble, love is not like that. Not by a long shot. Oh, the beginning feels that way, granted: that temporary insanity, where you live on adrenaline and sex for a couple of blissful months; it feels like the poems, like the films, like the songs – you truly believe that you’ve found your “one true love” in those days. But eventually, as with all euphoric experiences, you bump back down to earth and get back to plucking and shaving and worrying about money and poking the wobbly bits of your belly and wishing that the endless monotony of the nine-to-five job that you hate would just let up. Love, dear people, is the thing that’s left when the love-insanity has gone, and you prove your lasting love in the sheer effort of staying with someone despite the daily grind and the urge to shove a pillow down their gullet simply for breathing. Of course, love is not everlasting either. It grows and changes and morphs into something different, often dissipating altogether when it’s taken too much of a battering to ever resemble romantic love again. But we can’t fit all that into an hour and a half of relationship propaganda, so we just end it at the love-insanity part and pretend that it’s happily ever after.
The modern day chick flick appears to be about having it all. But having it all in these proportions: yes, have a career, but don’t forget that it’s not as important as finding a husband and settling down. I mean, what century is this for fuck’s sake?!
* I do like a good bit of cunt in a film, these days.
** The same thing happened with Bridget Jones. I may be a total tit and a bit squashy around the edges, but I am not desperate, needy, dependent or shallow, thank you v.much.
*** I have a television now! And other rooms. Actual other rooms!
^ Proper work, not office work, I hasten to add. The kind with a paintbrush and canvas and the true fear of not knowing if every painting you’ve done up to that point has been sheer luck and that you actually don’t have an artistic bone in your body.