Sunday, June 8, 2014

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

Ben masticates like a cow on meth.

It's got nothing to do with deconstructing this movie. I just noticed is all. If I were the producer of this movie I'd keep him away from food, because if his lower jaw were moving around any more independently it would get its own SAG card.

Onward and downward. Day four is upon us, Andie and Ben have another date scheduled, because this movie is nothing if not depressingly repetitive, let's get on with it, I barely care anymore. What the hell else am I doing to fuck up my relationship, Andie?

Make Him Miss the Sports Thing

Motherfucker. Didn't we cover this already? Because I feel like we've covered this already. It must be a double-plus ungood supermistake all women make. Otherwise why put so much emphasis on it? Trope-laden misogyny? Nah.

(Content note: explored sexist tropes include female tears as blackmail, division of labor in shared households, making him miss the sports thing, taking over his private space. The movie makes light of eating disorders and touches on fat-phobia. Implied physical abuse. Elevatorgate. Giant clitoris. Gender essentialism. Swearing. Kink reference. Drug reference. Batman.)

After checking in with their respective buddies and reaffirming for the audience that yes, Ben and Andie are still shitty people who think what they're doing is hilarious, a date at Ben's place commences. Because women "love a man who cooks." That's true. I also love a man who does the dishes, takes out the trash and does other necessary household chores according to a mutually agreed upon division of labor each to their own needs and capabilities.

Every single event in this movie plays into a common and toxic trope, and this one is no different. It taps into the double standard that when a woman does housework she is meeting expectations, but when a man does housework he is exceeding expectations. This one is very near and dear to me, having grown up in household where dudes got standing ovations for carrying a dirty cup halfway to the dishwasher. If there's one thing I hate it's a grown-ass man expecting cookies and cuddles for performing the minimum requirements to keep himself alive and not living in a cesspool. It's not like the movie outright goes there, but like I said, it does touch on it.

While Ben finishes up dinner, Andie walks in with a box of stuff, leading to a short montage of that common mistake you and I and everyone we know always make: taking over his apartment. I can and will describe the sequence of events for you, but we both know I don't really need to. Does Andie throw out his comic books and replace them with a pink doily thing? Yes she does. Does Andie put a pink bedspread and teddy bears on his bed? Yes she does. Does she put icky girly CDs in his CD player? No. Psych! Yes she does. Why wouldn't she? I personally can't count the times I barged into a dude's apartment, vandalized his living space and rearranged his things. I've been in a lot of relationships that didn't work out, all them because of precisely this.

Is this really a thing that happens? Well, no, obviously not, but is this an over-the-top representation of that thing I keep hearing about where men whine about women things in their bathroom? I once heard a dude complain about his girlfriend keeping her hair care products and razors in his place and how awful that was for him, then in the next breath praise her for being so pretty and put together "like those magazine girls" without a lick of irony. Seems to me like this trope, even if it is based in reality, is more down to male misogyny than female obliviousness, but then again I think that about everything.

So Ben offers Andie a nice lamb dinner, and she starts crying.

I can't get through two goddamn minutes of movie without finding something to talk about, can I?

I'm only going to mention this once, here, but I need you to know that this is a thing that occurs multiple times throughout this movie: whenever Andie wants to fake bad emotion, she starts fake-crying.


Female tears are seen as an act of manipulation, if not outright aggression by a lot of men. I once dated a guy who would yell at me and physically hurt me when I cried, which I did because I was scared he would yell at me and hurt me. Then we would always have to sit down and have a drawn out lecture about no, he was right, I really am manipulating him and I should be ashamed of myself. That was the worst manifestation of this that I've personally experienced, but it wasn't the only one by far. So yes, trust me, this trope is alive and well, it's very pervasive, and it gets women beat. I won't get into the how and why of it here, it would lead us too far down a very nasty and complicated path, but believe me when I say that a lot of people, mostly misogynist men, truly believe that tears are not so much a manifestation of emotional pain or just a simple biological function as they are weapons in the war being waged on their manhood. Which is to say, crying is not safe. Even in non-abusive contexts, a woman who cries will be seen... well, like any other woman, but even more so: hyper-emotional, unfocused, meek and not up to whatever task is set before her.

I think a lot of women have this experience on some level. I think a lot of us have had our tears met with hostility, accusations, condescension and other assorted fuckery. I hate this movie for buying into the toxic and distressingly common idea that when a woman cries, she is indeed playing a game. You were right all along, fellas. We really are that awful.

Oh, right, why is she fake-crying? Because his dinner looks so nice you see, but she's a vegetarian!

Andie is not a vegetarian.

These is one of the two core problems I have with Andie's approach in this movie: either she mistakenly believes that she is doing something women commonly do or, as is the case here, she is just doing something annoying that people do regardless of gender. Showing up to a one-on-one dinner date without mentioning that you don't eat meat isn't a bad thing women do, it's just downright annoying and inconsiderate no matter what sex or gender you may be. It's like showing her not tipping at a restaurant. That's not a female-exclusive dating faux pas, it's just being an asshole.

Smash cut to a health food restaurant. What? Okay. I'm pretty sure this movie takes place in New York, and I've never been, but that seems like the kind of place where you can get some goddamn hummus delivered to your house if, for example, there's something on TV you were planning to watch. I guess Andie blackmail-cried so hard god the creator himself got fed up with it and instantly teleported them to the local tofu shack. And yes, this is all done in an effort to make Ben miss the game. Andie does not miss the game. She runs into the kitchen to watch the TV there.

I've worked in a restaurant. If I saw anyone make a move to run into the kitchen, I would dive tackle that carefree chucklefuck like a starving tiger before he burns his stupid ass and sues us into oblivion. Give that fucker the People's Elbow in the name of kitchen safety. Maybe it's different in New York though. I hear people are a lot more accommodating and laid back there.

Sexist non-sequitur!

I don't know, unnecessarily hostile server, but I think I love you. Please take me home with you and scold me vigorously.

And with all that going on, I'd almost forgotten to tell you Andie's trick for sneaking away to go watch TV. Are you ready? It's a doozie. Even for this movie. Brace yourself. I warned you. Here it comes.



I just...

Did I mention that Matthew McConaughey isn't a very good comedic actor? Everyone else in this movie does fine, but his acting is just all over the place and generally weird and unsettling. As much as I dislike every movie Kate Hudson has ever been in, she does know her comedic acting. The side cast is just wonderful. But, and I don't mean for this to be insulting or reductive, Matthew McConaughey genuinely acts like he's on something. Something powerful. It really doesn't help this creep-vibe he's giving off as a character. It's just weird.

Oh, and Andie gives his penis a girly name. Yar.

Yeah, I kind of wonder what her plan is here. They get back to Ben's place and to distract him from the questions he has about her motivations, she makes a move on him. Yes, that happens, and no, I'm not going to deconstruct it any more than that. If crying is manipulation, why not everything? Just every single thing a woman does? That's kosher.

So, would she be willing to go through with this? She's already shown reluctance to actually sleep with the guy. It's never outright addressed, but Andie strikes me as the sort of person who buys into the whole "men are just cocks with a body attached" thing. I have the same problems with this here as I did the first time around, with one added question: why not sleep with him? She's already shown to not give a single watery squirt of shit about his feelings, so why not? The meta-answer is that they're saving the sex thing for later in the movie, when they actually start falling for each other, because sex is a sacred and magical butterfly sparkle thing that only people in twue wuv can engage in in good conscience and pure heart, because obviously. I think the in-character answer was made very clear earlier on: good girls don't have sex. It would make this light-hearted comedy about gender stereotypes way too fucking real.

After some spirited debate about what constitutes a proper name for a man's dick (Princess Sophia, she insists. Krull the Warrior King, he counters.) Andie leaves. But not before this happens:

Do you see how hard he grabs her here? This isn't, like, a thing in the movie. It happens during the comedy bit about appropriate penis names and in context, it's him stopping her from getting closer, during some hilarious dialogue. But seriously, do you see how hard he grabs her? Fingers and nails digging into her skin? It's hard to tell from a screenshot, but Hudson's skin actually turns an angry red for a second there.

And I can't joke about that. It's such a tiny little thing, but it's there, and I noticed, and I wasn't even looking for anything like that at all. But there it is. It makes me literally sick to my stomach.

Andie gets into the elevator, pretty confident that Ben is about to dump her. Instead he runs after her and pries open the elevator door...

Actually, no, let me describe the proper sequence of events here, because it matters: Andie does that intentional turn-him-on-and-flee thing she does (as do we all) and we get a shot of Ben almost ripping up a teddy bear in presumably partially sexual frustration. The next shot of Ben is him forcing open the elevator doors, breathing heavily and visibly angry.

Can someone get Richard Dawkins up in here? Because I get the feeling that if we show him this movie, dude might have a revelation or two.

No Elevatorgate here though. Ben just asks for another date through gritted teeth. Andie agrees, baffled at his stamina. Somewhere out in the cold Gotham night, a child is born. A crow flaps its wings. A dark figure perches on the gargoyles. I am so very sad.

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