I did, unfortunately, see Love Actually. I don't want to relive that experience. Read the NYTimes review of Love Actually to get some idea of how obnoxious and misogynist this movie is. And so many people think this is such a charming lovely Christmas movie. Morons. It's "romance" as conceived by evolutionary psychologists - a field of dreams for men of all ages, and a horrible nightmare for any woman over 30. You think I exaggerate? Compare these two scenarios from the movie:
Guy considered ugly in the UK goes to America where the women love his accent so much that he is taken back to an apartment to have a five-way - I kid you not - with them. And then he finds true love with one of them and goes back to the UK with her and another one in tow, to give to his buddy like some retarded sexbot souvenir.
Laura Linney, who should be horse-whipped for accepting this role, plays an American woman who can not have love ever again because her brother, a violent psychotic, has access to a telephone literally twenty-four hours a day at the psych ward he is committed to and therefore calls her all the time night and day. That's the only "love" that Linney's character gets - with a violent psychotic brother living at the worst psychiatric facility ever.
Apparently, once upon a time, romance movies with strong female characters weren't considered "chick flicks" and even men could admit to enjoying them. I expect this is because at the height of the age of the Patriarchy there was no question that women were inferior to men, so men could enjoy a strong woman character without feeling pussy-whipped. But no longer. Now that Patriarchy is on the defensive, the only way for a bro to enjoy a movie about romance is to ensure that women are humiliated, as in the Sarah Marshall movie, or humiliated (Emma Thompson's character) AND deprived of romantic love entirely due to being the slave of a psycho (Linney), while the all the male characters' dreams come true in Love, Actually.
That's how evil filmmakers are these days. I would have said "Hollywood" but Love Actually was made in the UK.
There are, however, the rare pro-woman, even, *gasp* feminist romances out there. The minority to be sure, which is why it's important to make a list. I decided to start making that list:
- His Girl Friday - this is a feminist movie by accident - the Rosalind Russell character, Hildy, was originally a male but the director changed it. Also, ad-libbing was allowed so Russell hired a writer to give her bon mots to give her character. But even if by accident, I'll take it. Because it was originally written for a man, the character's trajectory is to want to get out of the newspaper business and go live in the sticks and settle down and get married, but can't because he's too good a journalist. They couldn't change that without ruining the story entirely so they were stuck with it - even for a woman. And bonus - the boring guy that Hildy ultimately rejects is Ralph Bellamy and she ends up with Cary Grant. Talk about a no-brainer.
- The Little Mermaid - Katha Pollitt and I vehemently disagree on this one. Pollitt thinks that just because the evil character Ursula sings about how mermaids don't need to talk to get a man, and ends up right, it proves that The Little Mermaid is sexist. Pollitt didn't watch the movie very carefully because the reason that Prince Eric resists Ariel in spite of the fact that he thinks she's pretty and he likes her personality is exactly because she can't talk - and in his first woozy encounter with Arial, after she saved his life, he remembers she was singing. But even without her voice, Arial manages to communicate with Eric. But also, her character is filled with intellectual curiosity - she's virtually a mermaid archeologist, with a collection of human artifacts that she tries to figure out. She becomes attracted to Eric while on one of her expeditions to the surface, in defiance of her father, who hates humans. And perhaps most importantly of all, she is driven by shameless lust. This is rare enough in any movie much less a Disney movie. And in fact you really get a sense of progress when you consider that the last Disney fairy tale animation before this one was Sleeping Beauty, in which the title character, well, slept through virtually the entire movie. What a difference from Ariel. People who think the Little Mermaid is sexist are all wet.
- Cassanova - was a delightful surprise. I rented this because I thought Heath Ledger was damnned cute, but I was prepared to grit my teeth through the interchangeable-sexbot view of women which I figured was inevitable with any story about Cassanova and wow, that was so not this movie! Instead the heroine is awesome - an 18th century proto-feminist philosopher. Cassanova falls in love with her and they end up on the road together as a traveling theatre troupe and the heroine becomes a playwright. Swoon. It's a total fantasy but so what? And on top of that, there's quite a bit of Catholic-church bashing throughout. Which makes this pretty much a perfect movie.