Good day, let's talk social constructions!
Ok. This is not the kind of thing GARY! and I normally discuss on Austin Eavesdropper, being far too busy thinking about dance parties and clothes and stuff to fill our heads with weighty matters like gender stereotypes. But, seriously. I want these - and by "these" I mean reductive, uncreative depictions of the Typical Man and Typical Woman - to stop.
Alright. The advertising brains behind this Super Bowl Dodge Charger ad knew it would piss women off, and the feminist response has been said and said well. The commentators include my delightful editor Andrea Grimes at Heartless Doll, and I recommend you reading her post.
The bottom line: women are oppressive nags, men attached to them are neutered drones; women like vampires, men like fast cars. For the thoughtful lady (and gentleman), this commercial is...boring. No woman wants a man like that, and I'm not sure he exists either, except perhaps in the imaginations of people who create Super Bowl commercials. Moving on.
The trailer for Valentine's Day is a smidge more subtle, and yet, it makes me angrier. Angry because I know woman friends of mine, whom I adore and who are smart, sharp, and sane, will pay money to see this movie.
Watching this trailer, I am reminded of the first time I heard "Your Body is a Wonderland" by John Mayer. Even though I am not the ballsiest or certainly the most articulate feminist that ever walked, something feminist indeed pricked up inside me when I heard that song. Something called suspicion. Suspicion for any guy who has ever called my skin "porcelain" and my mouth "candy lips" just so he could get in my pants. And ladies, that is what that song is: an I-will-be-getting-in-your-pants-because-I-am-sensitive song.
Now with the upcoming release of Valentine's Day, that small, suspicious voice is piping up again. I think she's saying: "You about to get played, sucka."
And ladies? We ARE being played. No one cares whether you are single on Valentine's Day. This is a made-up fret.
I should probably stop right here and say I am not patently against girly movies. Love Actually? LOVE IT. I'll watch it again and again, cry every time, and replay the scene where Hugh Grant dances to The Pointer Sisters roughly eight times upon each viewing. I will eat every Jane Austen remake up with a big British spoon, quote Clueless 'til I'm blue in the face, and if Colin Firth stars in anything I'm pretty much sold.
But I won't watch a movie that makes me feel like it has been focus grouped to death. A movie that was made with a very talented, charismatic, and good-looking cast to be sure, but by placing this cast in t-i-r-e-d roles. Queen Latifah is the sassy black friend? You don't say! Ashton Kutcher is aw-shucks boyish yet tender dreamboat? SHOCKING.
Also, and this is a spoiler alert so stop reading if you plan to see this movie. Bradley Cooper gets with a dude in the movie. Did you know that? Watch the trailer again. Doesn't it look like he's got eyes only for Julia? Friends, those come-hither gazes are for Eric Dane, but the marketing team of Valentine's Day carefully excised that detail. Maybe this is so they could save one surprise among a set of storylines we can pretty much figure out ourselves (sorry), but I can think of a few cooler surprises. (Like Kathy Bates getting with Jessical Biel). Warner Bros! Yay for featuring two gay male characters; now step up to the plate and own it!
One last thing to say about all this. I have been trying to figure out why I adored Love Actually, yet met Valentine's Day - and last year, its 2009 doppelganger He's Just Not That Into You - with a hard eye roll. A tough question. But I think the answer is this: while appealing to my estrogen, Love Actually didn't feel oh-so-carefully calibrated to monetize a made-up point of female insecurity. I know I know - I'm married, so I cannot speak for single women here. But I am willing to bet actual single ladies don't greet Valentine's Day with impending disaster. I bet they don't beat up pinatas. I bet they don't drink the pain away. When I was single, my friends and I drank...but not for pain. For chocolate. Because red wine and chocolate are delicious together. You know it, and I know it.
(Ok I lied; I have ONE more thing to say and then I promise I'm through. I'm mad Valentine's Day co-opted my beloved Phoenix and Mika. Grumble harumph grumble!)
EDITOR'S NOTE, 2/14/10: I received an insightful, wise email from Rose at Pink Sun Drops after I posted this, and asked her if I could share part of it with y'all.
Rose and I were discussing exactly which message Valentine's Day, the movie, is trying to peddle about Valentine's Day, the holiday. Reading her email helped me realize how quickly I latched onto the reductive parts of the film's marketing, and didn't stop to consider the fact that there may be a more subtle, non-couple love lesson squirreled away inside the story itself. On that note, here is Rose:
"Valentine's Day has always symbolized love for me, whether that be with a significant other, your family, or your friends. My Dad said he didn't celebrate Valentine's Day, but would always go out the day after and have teddy bears, chocolates, and balloons delivered to my school for my sister and I. I love that memory. Recently I've become aware that there are indeed women who hate Valentine's Day, though, so I don't mind seeing that take on it either. That being said, I am generally wary of all star casts in movies as they seem to bomb the most often. But I always keep hoping for another Love Actually. I guess in the end I'm hoping this movie emphasizes, as Emma Grace puts it the production notes from the movie, "It doesn't have to be a couples' thing; it can be just about family and friends... as long as you're with people you love."
--Thank you for your gentle words, Rose. If I was a better journalist, I would actually go see the movie, and report back! Sadly, I am not, but if you go see it, I will be intrigued by your reaction. Please share if you do, yes?