Friday, June 20, 2014

Chick Flick Deconstruction: How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (Day Five)

After all we've been forced to endure, I think it's about time we start wrapping this sucker up so I can get back to talking about chick flicks I actually like. I think I've made my thoughts on most of what follows abundantly clear in previous parts, so it's time for the lightning round!

Take it away Andie!

(Content note: animal abuse, heavy gender-essentialism, tears as emotional manipulation, comic book violence and a personal note on being traditionally "feminine.")

Animal Abuse!

Andie gives a living, feeling, sentient creatures as a surprise gift, because there is no way this movie can adequately hate on women without making fun of purse dogs. I resent this movie for many reasons, but never more so than for forcing me to take its side. The fact that some people are oblivious enough to buy a dog as an accessory makes my blood boil. The fact that Andie thinks it's totally okay to possibly doom a dog to life and eventually death in a shelter (Ben does not seem the caring type to me, or to her) makes me want to play some Sarah McLachlan at her abusive ass.

This, to the best of my knowledge, is a Chinese Crested, a very energetic toy breed that needs a lot of attention and care, which I'm pretty sure Ben will not provide.

Oh, and she puts the little doggie on the pool table. Does the little doggie pee on the pool table? The little doggie pees on the pool table. Gynecological exams have more surprising twists and funnier punchlines than the jokes in this movie.

I think this is just about the last we see of little doggie, by the way. No idea where it ended up, but I wouldn't be surprised if the answer was "by the side of the road, tied to a tree."

Fake Crying!

Always a winner with me.

Celine Dion!

Tell you the truth, I will never understand people who insist their partner does everything with them whether they enjoy that activity or not.

See, this is why this movie is so frustrating. This would be a perfect place to discuss things like co-dependency, insecurity and various other real problems that affect people of all genders in romantic relationships, but I can't. Because this isn't how it's framed. In this twisted universe it's not people who do this, it's women. In this universe, men and women cannot share hobbies. The movie paints the world as being so gender-essentialist that every possible activity you can do as a couple is either "for men" or "for women." I wonder how any relationship survives in this world, where every single thing you do as a couple requires a huge and painful compromise on your partner's behalf. Wouldn't that get tiring after a while?

Make Him Miss the Sports Thing

Not only does Andie trick Ben into going to a concert he has absolutely no interest in seeing, she does it by implying that the tickets she has are for that night's game.

In case you hadn't caught on, this is the movie's idea of a running joke. Diarrhea runs more pleasantly than this and comes from a much less shitty place.

Clingy! Needy! Whiny!

Andie calls Ben 17 times a day, stays in contact with his mother (who is oddly okay with stalkery strangers calling her to inform her that they're dating her son), makes scrapbooks with photoshopped pictures of what their kids might look like...

I think I may need help. Post your best and most sarcastic and creative ways of saying "this is not what all women do" in the comments.

I do need to ask though, why does Michelle enable this bullshit? I know she'll do worse later on, but I have to ask, what is her motivation for playing along with this? Did she just forget how hurt and insulted she was at the implication that she did dating wrong and her "friend" was going to write a column about how wrong and awful she is? I feel bad for her. She really seems like she has internalized every nasty thing Andie has ever said about her. Andie is to Michelle's spirit what Bane is to Batman's spine.

Krakt indeed.

But you know who I feel really sorry for? The non-fictional women in the audience who recognize themselves in some of these things. Because as venomous and dismissive as I get about the various stereotypes and nasty caricatures on display here, at the end of the day relationships aren't an exact science and most of us will recognize a thing or two of ourselves here, and that's a very bad thing. Because if you do, nobody in this movie is rooting for you. Andie and her soulless posse gather over margaritas to make snide comments about how to be as awful as possible by doing that thing you did. Ben and his man-apes do much the same.

It goes back to my question about who this movie is for. If you don't recognize yourself in any of these overblown stereotypes, you're just going to be offended. If you do, the movie goes out of its way to call you every nasty thing under the sun for the entirety of its running time.

It's not Andie who's clingy, needy, whiny. It's you. You unfeminine, obnoxious, inhuman waste of a perfectly good egg cell. Shame on you.

Actually, let's take a break from day-by-day deconstruction and go into that for a bit.

Real!Andie vs. Fake!Andie

This is going to sound weird after all the frustration and sarcasm I've been displaying with regard to her behavior, but the truth is, I don't personally mind the persona that Andie creates. Yes, it's a gross and insulting caricature of a "woman" on the part of the writers. In-universe, it's sick that Andie thinks this is what women are like. But the persona she creates and shows to Ben is actually kind of sweet and endearing for most of the movie.

I think it's worth looking at real Andie and the Andie she creates to annoy Ben as separate people for a moment.

It might be Hudson's performance, it might be the script, but it's worth pointing out that as occasionally annoying as Andie's behavior has been up until now, as far as Ben knows, it's all been 100% genuine. What he sees, what Andie pretends to feel and experience, is genuine childlike delight at hearing her favorite song and singing along with it, exuberant joy at a Celine Dion concert, real distress at the thought of a lamb being slaughtered and cooked, and genuine love for him. Not once do we see him say, "yes, she's annoying sometimes and does weird things, but that's just how she is, she just seems like a person who feels very deeply and honestly." Because that's how Kate Hudson plays "fake" Andie; as an honest and very feeling person.

Look at this horrible shrew, smiling and singing and dancing to her favorite song. What a fucking disgrace.

In fact, isn't that the "mistake" Michelle makes that triggers this whole mess? Being very open with her emotions, wearing her heart on her sleeve, being genuine and enthusiastic? If you'll remember, Michelle's huge crime was crying after sex and saying "I love you." No further context was provided, so I'm not going to write an essay about it, but it kind of makes me sad that we live in a world where genuine and deep emotion like that is perceived to be automatically awful and worthy of mockery and suspicion. Men get to set their own comfort levels just like women do, and if that sort of open emotion feels threatening to them they have every right to pull out any way they see fit. But this is not how the movie plays it. In the movie, it is the responsibility of the woman in the relationship to alter her behavior in ways that whichever man she meets will find acceptable, instead of finding a man who appreciates that openness and deep emotion for what it is. It reminds me a lot of The Rules, and that's not a joke. This movie could be sold in a bundle with those awful books.

Because, and this is important, not only does this movie present all of this as things that all women do, it also presents it as things all women do wrong. And that's a whole separate layer of unfortunate awfulness right there.

The irony is that in any other type of romantic movie, Fake!Andie (or Michelle) would be the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who breezes through Ben's stuffy life and kicks up the dust with her free-spirited loveliness and childlike emotion. In this comedy about how men are different from women, she's the villain.

The point of all this being that I think I'd much rather be friends with Michelle and Fake!Andie than with real Andie and the bitchy gaggle of deeply mean and abusive creeps this movie thinks modern, feminist women are. Michelle and Fake!Andie have their problems, but at least they're sweet and open and caring and enthusiastic underneath all of it. I don't think they're clingy needy whiny. I think they're sweet and enthusiastic and happy. (Remember, for example, that it's not Fake!Andie who uses tears as emotional manipulation. It's real Andie who does that. Fake!Andie just gets very upset at the thought of eating meat. Whether you want to deal with that or not is up to you if you're in a relationship with her, but the point is that there is no deception, malice or manipulation in her actions. Not as far as Ben knows. Likewise, all of the more questionable actions are undertaken by Andie, not the persona she's created.)

Not to say that it's okay to claim people's personal space with your stuff or drag them to places they have no interest in going under false pretenses. But that seems like something that can very likely be fixed with "honey, you're great, I love being with you, but we need to have a talk about boundaries." Michelle and Fake!Andie would do that, I think, they would have that talk and respond to it, because they seem nice and loving enough, just a little clueless. Real Andie and her posse are not nice. They are venomous, self-absorbed and hateful. And if you watch this movie in that context like I did, it becomes infinitely more sad, hurtful and demeaning.

So I guess what I'm saying is, girls, women, female-identifying people and everyone else, if you are like Fake!Andie, if you recognize yourself in these things, understand that I'm ranting and raging at the writers and producers of this movie, not at you. By all means keep growing, maybe go read some Captain Awkward to get a firm grasp on things like emotional boundaries and healthy assertiveness, but never stop being sweet, never stop loving, and never stop singing along to your favorite songs when the mood strikes you. Be femmy, cry at Sleepless In Seattle, go shoe shopping and cuddle your tiny dog, sleep with guys you like and say I Love You all you want. There is not a damn thing wrong with that. If that's what you love, if that's what makes you genuinely happy, if that's what's in your heart, you don't need anyone's permission or approval, least of all mine, or god forbid, some icky movie's. Again, none of my venom and sarcasm is aimed at you. It's aimed at those people who have taken those lovely traits you have and made them into a hateful farce.

I really can't stress that enough. In fact that's the entire point of this thing.

To Be Continued In Part Six

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