Monday, April 26, 2010

Its a girl thing

Its incredible how much a woman's world can revolve around a man. And I dont mean only in real life. I mean, look at the movies people make. And I dont even mean the Bollywood wedding dramas that are born out of a quasi "traditional" society's obsession with the institution of marriage. I dont even want to talk about the regressive soap operas that pass for primetime entertainment on Indian television. I mean the movies churned out by Hollywood year after year. So-called "feel-good" romantic comedies that my girlfriends and I have grown up on.

The ones where a cutesy, oddball heroine (I wont say actress, coz to call it 'acting' wud be a bit of a stretch) after overcoming several comedic-themed obstacles ends up with her perfect man, bidding goodbye to singledom forever, knocking on the doors of her very own happily-ever-after.

I think now they've started to call 'em 'chick-flicks' coz obviously what self-respecting, virile, masculine 'man' wud want to watch them anyway, and what post-feminism, evolved, confident, assertive 'woman' wud either. These movies must necessarily be for airheaded foolish romantic 'chicks'. Obviously, right?

Piyu, Mits and I have been watching these movies year after year on Star Movies, HBO, in movie theatres, on laptops, separately when we're miles away and on dvd players for our sleepovers when we happen to be in the place at the same time.

There must be dozens we've seen and discussed. Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, My Best Friend's Wedding, Runaway Bride, America's Sweethearts, the whole Julia Roberts romcom repertoire. 27 Dresses, What Happens in Vegas, The Women, Love, Actually (which I've seen like five times), Just Like Heaven, Jerry Maguire (okay, this one only barely qualifies), The Other Sister, In Your Shoes, Definitely, Maybe, 13 Going on 30, Mona Lisa Smile, Maid in Manhattan, He's Just Not That Into You, A Lot Like Love, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, When Harry Met Sally, Princess Diaries, Enchanted. And I'm pretty sure there were more that I cant really remember right now.

But it never really occurred to me to think about what men think about romantic love, if they're really equally delusional, and enjoy this delusion just like we do. Atleast for the two hours that it takes for the movie to pan out.

That was until I saw (500) Days of Summer today. I could not connect with the movie for more than ten minutes at a time, and by the end of it, I just could not bring myself to care about either character. I was surprised to that I actually disliked it so much, when a lot of my guy friends claimed to have really, really liked it. Finally, a sensible romantic movie, they raved.

I thought the movie was adequately glossy, deliberately quirky, and pseudo-realistic. But what struck me was the extremely insincere, vapid character that the glorious Zooey Deschanel played. The woman has strange mood swings, she's intense but depressive with a fear of commitment and she unceremoniously dumps poor quirky lil Joseph Gordon Levitt's character simply coz she doesnt think he's the one and she doesnt think its working. He is supremely heartbroken and mopes around thinking of all the great times they had together, till he realises that she's just a heartless bitch who turned around and married some other guy.

Until the very end, the woman remains a pretty toy with unreadable intentions and absolutely no ambition. I was horrified that my friends had related to this movie and enjoyed it so much.

I finally got what it was like to be the guy for once. To be straitjacketed into the roles of Mr. Right, the One, the Perfect Guy. Or alternatively, the Jerk, the Oversexed Guy who cant seen your Inner Beauty, the Jock, the Sensitive Guy, the Metrosexual, the Power-Hungry Boss, the Effeminate Guy and so on.

Women complain about being stereotyped all the time. Well, we do the same to the guys, dont we? Do women care less about good looks in their partner than men do? Are men really more shallow than women are? I dunno, I think only fools make such generalisations. Gender politics is way too complex for me to decode anyway.

But then I also watch 'guy films'. The superhero movies, the espionage thriller, the mindless action flicks. And strangely, even serious Oscar dramas like There Will Be Blood and Gangs of New York, The Hurt Locker or The Departed. Women barely make an appearance, they hardly even register their presence when they do. If you look at these movie's and their version of reality, a man's world wud appear to revolve around himself and other men and gadgets and war and cars and saving the world. Men talk about women a lot lot less than women about men in the movies. Which strikes me as strange. Coz I really dont think we cud be that different really. We are essentially the same species, right?

Piyu once wisely said to me, "A chick flick is so much fun! But the end ruins everything. The ending is always too unreal! A guy like that wud never pick a girl like her. The Prince wudnt even look at Cinderella if she werent so beautiful. Fiona marries Shrek, but wud Fion ever love Shreka? What if the ugly duckling turned into a plain old goose instead of a lovely swan?"

For all their failings, these movies are very entertaining. And I think that is precisely coz they have unreal endings. We want a fairy tale to assure us, that somewhere out there is someone who will love us for what we are, without asking for compromises. I cant believe I've written such a pointless post today, but what really got me thinking was my conversation with Mits and her obsession with Ally McBeal.

Mits has got to be one of the most rational, logical people I know. A thoroughly modern thinker, and my music buddy and paradoxically, a true romantic. She also balked at (500) Days of Summer like I did and said something very very interesting.

She said, "I dont think I'll ever fall in love with a guy coz of how he looks, or what perfume he wears, or how much money he has, or even what books he likes, or what movies he watches or what musical instrument he plays. I think I'll only fall in love with someone who's been a true friend to me, who's stuck with me and helped me and who really knows me and can take all my shit. Coz that is really what love is. The rest is just infatuation."

She messaged me an Ally McBeal quote to put on my blog when I told her I was writing this post. So here it is,

"I've spent my entire life loving my perfect man. Somebody I've never met. I have a rough idea of what he looks like. I have a more specific take on what he thinks and what he feels. But I have an almost exact sense of how he makes me feel. I may never meet him. I've actually been told he's not even out there. The men or women in our dreams live in our dreams. And in the real world, the best we can do is settle for someone who comes close. Becoz it is the reasonable thing to do."


Deeksha said...

Interesting observation,one which I myself am guilty of every time I have to endure a chick flick (I came to realize that I dislike them quite a while back-except may be,if they are chick flicks, Romy and Michelle's high school reunion for its comic bookness and Sex and the city for its grandeur)

You have raised a relevant issue of the disparity of what constitutes entertainment for the sexes. For the men,women are never involved (unless it is porn,where actually the main lead is sex),for the women,men form the crux,the end-all.

However,I often find the treatment of men in chick flicks almost derogatory inspite of this. The relationship between a man and a woman is infantilized enormously. Popular jargon and smart repartees find their way in conversations, and the whole thing acquires the dimensions of a pop culture act,minus the dimension of depth. (Don't get me wrong-I never watch art house movies either). What these people do is typical-know what naturally attracts most women (drama,glamour,romance,happy endings,ken doll like men) and churn them out without thought to anything else.Why does that man pick that girl in much contradiction to real life? Because It is porn for women.

On the other hand,take 300-a brutal,magnificent affair meant for male entertainment. At the end,most poetically,Leonidas,in his last moments, says 'My queen.My wife.My love'and succumbs.One of the touching instances of romantic love (I also find the order of these words heartwarming),where the brevity of expression is the soul of it. Perhaps you may say that about men in general. Perhaps the way they express themselves (in love) can never be moulded in,say,lad-flicks. I will borrow from a favourite author 'Because of the miracle that is male compartmentalization'.

Deeksha said...

And Legally blonde because Elle Woods is my personal idol ;)

Tangled up in blue... said...

Dee, I think ur comment is much much more sensible than my whole entire blogpost man! :D and while I'm still ruminating on all the other things you've said, I must say, I really loved 300! I even thought Xerxes was hot in that whole bald, hairless, nostril-flaring way of his!

And the fact that these movies are porn for women, that is an astonishingly accurate observation! Wow, Dee! :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

soin, totally totally agree! and subtlety is way too hard to find in Hollywood movies anyway..for them, its like in-your-face wins the race..

But I think one of the most sweet and subtle love stories I've ever seen, is this Iranian film..Majid Majidi's Baran (Rain)..look it up if you ever find time..:)

mgeek said...

Hey, I loved (500) days of summer. :-) I guess we'll argue about it someday ;-)