Saturday, April 26, 2014

More misuse of the term "romantic comedy"

Richard Brody, one of the two movie critics (both old white males) at the New Yorker gets on my nerves in the worst way. There is just something so alien about his perspective on the world, not to mention his creepy obsession with the TV show Girls.

But for the most part I've resisted the temptation to slam Brody and chose instead to just avoid reading him. But when I saw the headline for his article The Troubling Power of Romantic Comedies show up in my Facebook newsfeed I had to read it, although I knew that I would not be happy with what Brody had to say - and I was absolutely correct.

Brody, like so many many others, doesn't seem to understand what the term "romantic comedy" means. Here is his description of the movie "The Other Woman" which he is claiming is a romantic comedy:
Cameron Diaz plays Carly Whitten, a New York corporate lawyer who is trailing a long string of unhappy relationships; she finds sudden love with Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a handsome and virile venture capitalist who neglects to inform her that he’s married. In planning an erotic surprise for him at his Connecticut home, she meets Mark’s wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), who, in turn, confronts her about the affair. From that confrontation, a friendship quickly develops (as Carly says, “We’ve been played by the same man”). When they suspect that there’s another other woman (Kate Upton) in the picture, they take off in pursuit and become amateur detectives, and ultimately learn even more about Mark’s hidden life.
On what planet is that in any way "romantic"? It's a straight-up revenge fantasy!

And as much as I loathe Brody, he's not at all the only one out there confused by what a true romantic comedy is. As I've blogged about here, the misogynist "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is considered a romantic comedy when it is about punishing and humiliating Sarah Marshall for dumping the movie's protagonist.

And then there is the hideous, misogynist "Love, Actually" which is finally getting called out, as I wrote about here.

I think the problem can be summed up by the fact that a good percentage of men agree with this man writing in defense of prostitution (in response to this article by Katha Pollitt):
I'd suggest that having an extra-monogamous outlet that isn't fraught with relationship shit is valuable even without patriarchy.
This is the new ideal in "romantic comedies" these days - female bodies as outlets that aren't fraught with relationship shit.

This approach to "romance" is most clearly demonstrated in a web series called "Compulsive Love" which I blogged about several times last year. The series isn't specifically billed as a romantic comedy, but one of its producers, Kevan Tucker, claims it is:
“The show doesn’t trade on irony, cynicism or satire at all. It is unabashedly romantic; in love with the idea of being in love."
It is about as "romantic" as a porno, which makes sense because the story, written by Adam Szymkowicz (we have 62 Facebook friends in common) is pretty much indistinguishable from a porno - man sees woman, man has sex with woman, man moves onto the next woman.

The underlying moral of "Compulsive Love" is that everything would be great with "romance" until some individuating aspect of the woman intrudes on all the sexy sexy sex.

The only time the woman's personality comes into a "Compulsive Love" storyline is as a plot device to break up the protagonist and his latest fuck-doll so he can move onto the next one. One woman becomes a nun. One is controlled by her mother. One is a lesbian.

And "Compulsive Love" has no problems with prostitution - one of these "romantic" storylines involves women who "punish" the romantic hero for trying to weasel out of a gambling debt - which of course he does because is good to be asshole in Bizarro World - by forcing him to pay off the debt by performing cunnilingus.

Yes, that's what Kevan Tucker considers "in love with the idea of being in love."

Although maybe the most repulsive example of misogyny claiming to be romantic comedy is the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Talley's Folly. The story is about a brave hero who stalks a woman for a year, humiliates her, insults her family, and physically restrains her from getting away from him. He wins her love in the end, of course. 

The problem is that "romantic comedy" is now being made and defined by misogynist oafs who don't value women except as prizes for men who refuse to take "no" for an answer, and as relationship-free fuck-dolls.

In case you are wondering at this point if it's possible to even make a non-misogynist comedy, the answer is yes, yes it is. Here are some I've collected on this blog:
  • The African Queen
  • Casanova (with Heath Ledger in the title role)
  • Hysteria
  • Impromptu
  • It's Complicated
  • His Girl Friday
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Owl and the Pussycat