Wednesday, February 25, 2009

i've become obsessed with "he's just not that into you." not because i thought the movie was particularly good, or even that it was good at all. and i know it sounds stupid that it's a movie based on a book based on a single line on sex and the city, but despite all these claims to intense un-importantness, i think it manages to take a stab at dealing with a hugely complex, and in fact important issue.

first of all, i frankly do not understand people who cast aside shows like sex and the city with the criticism that they assumed that one's personal life is the most important thing in the world. people act as if this is being shallow, and that it implies that women are stupid for focusing on such an issue. but why? i think its ridiculous to act like we are above this; everybody wants to be fulfilled in their social life, wants to have people in their life who make them feel interesting and valuable. so why do we criticize shows or movies that make such a topic their focus?

i think the issue raised by "he's just not that into you" takes an important step beyond the simple initial stages of courtship. i think it acknowledges an idea not mentioned in teen magazines, in which he is into you or he is not. there are gradations of attraction between everyone, and i think the statement puts an added level of responsibility on you. specifically, what do you require from your lover? how "into you" do you require him to be? i think it asks you to look at your relationship objectively, to see if he is actually meeting your expectations of being "that" into you, which most likely means matching the level of how into him you are. and it requires you to set the breaking off point, not the other person. i think many people, especially women, who are generally socialized to focus on the feelings of the other person, do not see the need to set an active breaking off point. and i think that often causes the person to end up too embroiled in the emotions of the situation to see that they are compromising their self. by wanting to understand and forgive the other person's flaws, which is a completely honorable goal, something of the self is lost.

although it is objective, it is also an interestingly subjective commentary on an individual situation, based on what you are asking of someone. in a specific situation, "that" into you then takes on the specific meaning- you want to get married, you want to have a baby. is he "that" into you? the sentence itself is helping you to set your goals by providing a blank word that you can fill in as you, as an individual, see fit.

as for the movie generally, i was up and down throughout the whole thing about whether i approved, finally leaving with the conclusion that i was "simply confused." the opening scene won me over initially, by acknowledging that this insecurity was not any innate quality of women, but something that has been bred into us by society. that is like check one for me when talking about these things, because clearly its going to get offensive if you start blaming women; there are a lot of messed up things going on out there.

then there's Ginnifer Godwin's character Gigi, who is very over the top and depressing. i guess basically i was confused by whether the moviemakers made her like that on purpose to highlight and exaggerate these weaknesses in ourselves, or they just wanted us laugh at her. Drew Barrymore's character was pretty much the same, and confused me similarly. and because these two women are held up as the exaggerated example of what NOT to do, it was definitely odd to have them both end happily without learning a lesson. if those women can be as crazy as that and still get men, then clearly the movie has negated its own reason for existing.

the men seemed like reasonable people, and i thought the movie did a good job of not being man-hating. mostly the film suffered in that department by having useless actors; they were pretty fair to the man who cheats on his wife, except that he seemed like a robot and so we couldn't connect with him at all. i do not buy that ben affleck is a sensitive photographer who does not believe in marriage. justin long is a geeky nerd, not a playboy stud. i'm not opposed to challenging actors, but clearly this was not that kind of movie, so they really should have just used people who fit the bill.

i'm also not sure that scarlett johannsen was the best women to cast as the evil vixen who steals the man away. she was the only character who seemed halfway interesting, or who seemed to think for herself. she was the only one who seemed independent enough to decide that she wasn't "that into" somebody, rather than focusing on their level of into-it-ness. and she wanted to travel to india! clearly someone who sees that life is to be filled with experiences, not merely with a ring on your finger.

i thought that jennifer connelly gave the best performance hands down, though the reviews are right to say that it doesn't really belong in a romantic comedy. i think in a role that could have been the blind, blank woman being cheated on by her jerk husband, she instead played the emptiness as depression. it seemed clear that her vapid lines and nagging were the sign of a woman who doesn't really care what she's saying, and that she had internalized her husband's lack of attraction to her to the point that she was hardly occupying her body. when she breaks down with the revelation that they don't have sex any more, i think she really embodied the way that such a situation can crumble a woman's feelings of self-worth.

that's another situation where, going back to the beginning of this post, you could criticize such a woman if you wanted to. you could say, clearly she has an empty life and pretty weak self esteem if she cares that much about someone thinking she's attractive. but i've seen the same thing in some of my smartest friends. sexual attraction matters to all of us, and is capable of breaking a person. and couldn't we all stand to be a bit more objective and evaluative about our romantic situations?

Friday, February 20, 2009

i read sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs recently; while i wasn't a huge fan, i am a fan of masturbatory discussion of minute television factoids, so readers prepare. as i cleaned my apartment the other day, i had a roseanne marathon on the tv. it was the last season, as any fan of roseanne knows (come on people, it's a good show!), the season where the show compleeetely jumped the shark. it reminded me of chuck klosterman's discussion of Puck on the Real World, who tried to change the nature of reality television through his open acknowledgment of its falseness. i think in a similar way, Roseanne tried to push the bounds of the sitcom television world, and failed as well. it is extremely difficult to break the accepted dimensions of tv show formats, and roseanne's failure showed that it is not just the corporate heads who restrict tv, but audiences as well.
let me explain. in its final season, the conner family wins the lottery. now the lottery is a very common storyline is sitcoms; I can think of episodes in Full House, Family Matters, and Step By Step where this issue arises. But inevitably, by the end of every episode, they discover that there has been some sort of a mixup, and life returns to normal. this is what is so fundamentally comfortable about sitcom life- it does not change. it is the same reason why sitcom children rarely move out of the house as they graduate high school, attend college and so on. it is also part of the idea of the everyfamily- we want to feel like the family on the screen could be our family, and we certainly don't want them to be lucky and get breaks that we aren't getting. i think the exception to this would be shows that are set up in a wish-come-true format like The Beverly Hillbillies and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air- the very nature of these shows is to portray wish fulfillment, people like us somehow finding themselves in crazy different situations (mostly coming in to a lot of money). But once a show has settled on being a family just like you, they cannot break out of this format.
in the last season of roseanne, we go on to see the problems that the conner family would face having come into so much money. roseanne tries to mingle with a higher class of people, the neighbors become jealous, and ultimately it tears their family apart. but more importantly, it is not who the conners ARE. when we entered our relationship with the show, it was with the fundamental understanding that they are equal or lower than our family. they essentially tried to create a new show in the last season, and that was why it failed.
it failed so badly that in the last episode, it was revealed that the entire plotline was actually a dream, and that dan conner had in reality died. now that is some backpedaling if i've ever seen it. i think it was a great move, because it allowed them to erase that terrible mistake, and return the family to the down-to-earth gristle-and-bone family that we had spent so many years with. but it also shows that tv audiences don't want to be pushed, they can't even accept a show moving to another similar format. and its interesting, that's all i'm saying.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Well at least there's one good thing about being less well paid than men.