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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gender stereotypes that I wish would end. UPDATED.

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?


Frank J. Rivera said...

I'm sorry, Tolly. I am revoking your woman card (because I have the power to do so. I do. Read the Gay Boy Rulebook. It's right under "telling girls their hair looks FABULOUS!!!"). This post has entirely too little coverage re: Taylor Lautner's abs.

Kidding, kidding. Agree with pretty much everything stated above. And yet, Bradley Cooper going gay for someone else does press interest buttons. If only because I'm curious as to how he goes from this to The A Team. it too much to wish that Mr. T's replacement & Cooper become the gAy Team? "I pity da foo that doesn't bring me chocolates on Valentine's Day!"

p.s.: your hair does totally look fabulous. GAH STEREOTYPES!

Jeff said...

Love Actually seemed effortless! This seems so forced. And the hiding of the gay plot is total BS. As is any attempt to work in a Julia Roberts laugh into a trailer.

Anonymous said...


Instead, I suggest we all watch Paris Je T'aime to get our fix of love & group movies

& speaking of Super Bowl commercials, Google (also w/ a French theme... are we noticing a trend?) killed it, à mon avis, no gender roles required.

Rachel said...

Well, I'll speak for the single women. I, too, dearly love a good rom com. Own/love "Love Actually", every Jane Austen adaptation (4 hour BBC original, you know this), Bridget Jones, John Hughes' Molly Ringwald trilogy, etc...but this trailer made me pretty angry for the same reasons. I also know that all my intelligent, beautiful, successful girlfriends will pay good money to see this and, without getting all women's lib, we deserve to be represented in a better light.

Every Valentine's Day that I wasn't dating someone, all my single girlfriends and I had a great night out on the town. Thinking back, those years were more fun than the times I was with someone, because there was no pressure or expectations. We definitely didn't sit around at home, dejected, guzzling wine (hopefully I'll never hear J. Garner slur,"Can we have another bottle of wineeee?!" again. Sidenote: I also LOVE that it's wine. Ya know, because we're ladies...), hitting pinnatas (WHAT is that?!) and hanging a banner that says "I Hate Valentines". Get a grip, Biehl. You crazy lady.

And, goes without saying that I'm doubly pissed they used my dear Phoenix and Mika. Don't drag them into this hot mess!!!

Grant said...

Movie Alternatives...

A Very Long Engagement

On an unrelated note... Don't you ever trick me into listening to the Black Eyed Peas again. I want to pour bleach in my ears.

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

I agree with your sentiments completely, especially since the song "Lisztomania" is my fave Phoenix song. I think it's sad the way people promote Valentine's Day as either full of love, or full of hate.
I could go on, but this movie looks so smarmy!
That commercial was awful as well.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Frank - Oh dollface, if you like Gay Bradley Cooper 2.0, have you watched the cabin scene in Wet Hot American Summer with Michael Ian Black? **Hot**

@Jeff! My darling. :) You summed up in two sentences what I spent paragraphs trying to figure out, and that is the "forced" issue indeed. Love Actually does seem like a well-told story! Whereas V-Day a story that has been squeezed out of multiple marketing team meetings. Also, SHIRLEY MACLAIN! Kathy Bates! C'mon ladies. No.

@kellystonebock - Believe it or not, you are the second person who's mentioned Paris Je T'aime to me today! It's official. That's what we'll watch instead.

@Rachel - Hell to the yes, single lady.

@Grant - I love you for including A Very Long Engagement.

@Chelsea - Le sigh, Phoenix. I keep thinking how *funny* it would be if Peaches was played in the background instead. :) A totally different film, methinks.

Also....anyone who wants to go see Valentine's Day, I apologize if I've spooked you from commenting here. Wanna take me to task for endorsing Love Actually, yet hating on Valentine's Day? If so, you've got the floor.

Jessica D said...

haha! Women are for vampires and men fast cars. You're great!

勁爆 said...

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.............................................

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna jump in my Dodge Charger and burn rubber to the store to buy a bag of Hershey Kisses then go see Valentine's Day. Then I'm headed for Victoria's Secret (for inspiration), the drugstore for Viagra...and WOO HOO!... You KNOW what's next! (OK. Just kidding about the Viagra).

Unknown said...

Mmmm, Taylor Lautner's abs...

I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, right. Gender and...stuff.

In all for realsness, I am so NOT into the vast majority of movies that have been released lately. Valentine's Day (let's distract people from the awfulness by hiring every single actor alive today!). When in Rome (why, Kristen Bell, why do you continue to negate any cred you ever had from Veronica Mars? WHY??). The Amy Adams flick that (hot British man aside) looks to be TERR-I-BLE. I can't even remember what it's called, I've blocked it from my brain.

Don't even get me started on the Super Bowl commercials. The men and women of America should be insulted. But chances are, most of them aren't. They're too busy eating Doritos and drinking Bud Select.

Laura Roberts said...

I agree that I will NEVER go see this horrible movie. And that Love Actually was cute. But I think it was equally contrived, but in a different manner, because I seem to recall reading an interview with the director, who was convinced that Americans can be swayed by anything with a British accent (and Hugh Grant). That pissed me off, but I can definitely see what he meant, as Hugh Grant (despite his many [transvestite-hooker-laden] transgressions) is still deemed a "nice guy," whereas someone like, say... Peewee Herman? George Michael? Uhh... maybe even Robert Downey Jr.? Is not. Stereotypes, man. They are a total biznitch!

Laura said...

Sing it sister, and yes I was angry too when I heard Phoenix played in the trailer.