Romantic comedies slipping into caveman territory

By Amanda Marcotte
Sunday, February 1, 2009 19:23 EDT
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At the Alamo Drafthouse, it’s become traditional to wait in line for a bit before they open the doors in order to get the best seats, at least at any show that’s going to be packed. Which means a lot of time pondering movie posters, and this one is one that’s been insulting me and Marc as we wait in line a few times now. It’s just further evidence for my theory that romantic comedies are backsliding into record lows of reactionary bullshit. And worse, that they’re devouring actresses whose main appeal is that they seem intelligent and like they should really be above this shit. It’s not just Katherine Heigel or Anne Hathaway whose talents are being wasted on this shit. Isla Fisher, who was the best thing about “Wedding Crashers”, should be getting darkly funny roles, but instead is doing “Confessions Of A Shopaholic”, for instance. At least Amy Adams seems to have wiggled out of that snare, for now at least.

But obviously, this poster just about beats all. It’s the classic modern attempt to mollify women about vicious gender stereotyping by phony flattery through insulting men—men are such dogs, amiriteladeez?! But the “men are dogs” stereotype is ultimately about putting women in their place, because it packages these assumptions:

* Women are naive, emotional, and kind of stupid, which is why men can exploit these “feelings” women have to steal sex from us.

* Women are obsessed with irrational things like weddings and getting flowers, and they lose their minds over this. (Men are compelled by their supposed out of this world horniness, but rarely are they depicted as losing control of themselves to the point where they lose their dignity.) This is why men have the upper hand, because women are too crazy to hang onto it. It’s certainly not that this is a male-dominated society, no siree, and to make that abundantly clear, female rom com characters now usually have a lot of professional power.

* Women don’t really like sex that much; they just tolerate it to lure unwilling men into pretending to care about us.

* Men are cold, unfeeling creatures that just want sex and nothing more. Women cannot change this, so we have to accept it. For some reason, just abandoning men altogether if they suck this much doesn’t occur to anyone.

* But for some reason, if you buy into this bleak worldview where men and women are completely different, and at war with each other, you’ll be rewarded with True Love. You can tell how this movie ends from the poster, which I suppose is the point. The nasty dog who breaks women’s hearts for fun will eventually realize he loves this one, and she’ll get with him, despite the fact that he gave her plenty of upfront warning that he doesn’t respect women. But he does now, because she bowled him over that much. It’s a fantasy for women who don’t feel like they get much respect in their own lives.

Why are romantic comedies getting uglier over time? Marc’s theory as we contemplated this poster was an interesting one—smart, independent women that don’t buy into this crap are a growing demographic, and said women have given up on romantic comedies. They’re a big part of the audience for prestige pictures, and they venture out to romantic comedies only if they’re slightly smarter ones, which is something Judd Apatow is making a fortune off of. But they’ve given up on the by-the-book ones. The audience for those has been whittled down to women who buy into this sexist crap, probably because they live in communities where they really don’t get much respect. If that’s true, then it would make sense that the more stereotyped the world in the movies are, the better, because it makes the fantasy of getting True Love as your reward for putting up with this crap all the more satisfying.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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