Monday, August 3, 2009

The Ugly Truth: Everyone loses

This review of the Ugly Truth by Sady Doyle in the Guardian pinpoints exactly why sexism in movies is bad for both men and women:

The fact is that nothing in The Ugly Truth is new. Most of its messages are taken directly from relationship advice guides for women. The Ugly Truth is He's Just Not That Into You in spirit, if not in title. The message of these guides, paradoxically, is not that women should subordinate themselves to men because men are stronger and smarter. It's that women should subordinate themselves to men because men are very, very stupid and deeply, unbelievably weak.

The average straight man, if dating guides for women are to be believed, is a fragile, delicate flower, ravaged by primitive desires beyond his control, needy to the extent that he requires constant, fawning admiration (but not too much – the idea that a woman is actively pursuing sex or a relationship will scare him, as he is a skittish creature) and absolutely incapable of dealing with any sort of criticism or challenge from the women in his life. This is conveyed in the movie in a scene where Mike reveals that his macho front is a put-on, caused by dating women who "didn't like him". (The question of why on Earth he deserves to be liked is neither asked nor answered.)

A woman's natural desires – to talk about her life, to laugh at jokes that are funny, to disagree with people when they're wrong, to have real orgasms – will drive a man away, if not scar him for life. However, the advice goes, you can actually control men (to the extent that you can get them to date you) by pretending to be someone other than who you are – someone who simply delights in doing every single little thing a man wants at all times. Because men are also, fortunately, so stupid that they won't realise you're lying.

(Note that I'm not saying men and women are like this, but that dating guides and movies perpetuate these stereotypes. So before someone makes a comment regarding that, finish the rest of the post.)

When men and women are painted in such broad strokes in movies and dating guides and popular culture in general, EVERYONE loses. Women are told to dumb themselves down for men, men are viewed as stupid, easy to control and one-dimensional, and heteronormativity is reinforced.

I don't know about you, but I don't know a single person - man or woman - who acts this way. People are much more complex than romantic comedies and dating guides suggest. Sure, one could argue that movies aren't explicitly telling us how to live, but films definitely influence people and their actions.

When dating and relationships turn into formulaic interactions based on the assumption that all women date based on intellect/emotions/feelings and all men date based on the state of their penis, everyone who interacts outside of that dichotomy suffers (of all genders).


tessarae said...

so glad you linked to this; i love her. but it's sady, not susan!

otherwise, spot-on :)

lindsay said...

Shit! My short term memory is no good, it seems. Thanks love!

tessarae said...

i only know because her regular blog is tiger beatdown, which is hilarious and amazing and which i read religiously. quick fixing!