Monday, July 6, 2009

And we wonder why we live in fantasy worlds...

Okay, so I like chick-flicks and chick-lit as much as the next sappy American girl. In fact, I'm a sucker for them. A matte finish book in a pastel with a catchy title or a well edited, snappy trailer has my insides quivering with girlish excitement. It's silly I know. But I can't help myself. Perhaps it was the Disney movies I was reared on, or the happy endings we're taught to believe in as impressionable children, or maybe, just maybe it's the unquenchable belief that there has to be bright spots in our sometimes mundane existance, and that, no matter what, things are going to be okay in the end.

Whatever the motivation, though, I can't help but get sucked in to the drama-filled world of the literature and movies that are designed specifically for women. That being said, the most recent of my foray's into this genre is He's Just Not That Into You. And though my gut instinct is to squeal girlishly at the movie, not only was it, at times, painful to watch, but the very message the movie was trying to send was, in the end was defeated by the actual storyline.

The movie begins with one a "flash back" of one of the main characters, Gigi, who is pushed down and called names by a boy. Her mom then tells her that the reason the boy calls her terrible names is because he likes her, and has a crush on her.

From here, Gigi then narrates a series of typical exchanges between women of different socio-cultural backgrounds, all discussing the typical woman thing to discuss: why he didn't call. And while the exchanges are comical and believable, Gigi ends this commentary with the fact that despite all of our excuses and the exceptions we make for the men in our lives, we don't want to admit that it might just be because "He's Just Not That Into You".

And though Gigi begins not knowing this simple fact as she ventures out on a date with a relatively attractive man, she quickly learns, after chatting with a cynical bartender that despite the obsessive compulsive checking of her phone and voicemail and sitting, showering, and yoga-ing while staring at her phone, that if a man wants to talk to you, he will find a way.

As the story cycles through we meet a couple in a seemingly happy relationship. Beth wants to get married, Neil has vows never to do so, and this is a source of conflict for their seven year relationship.

We also meet Anna, an aspiring singer who meets Ben in the grocery store. And though Ben admits after a smoldering conversation outside the store that he's married, this leaves Anna both curious and undeterred. She begins to heavily pursue Ben after talking with a friend who told her about another friend whose boyfriend left his wife for her friend after they met at a church function.

Throughout the twists and turns of the storyline, Gigi thinks she finds "the one" with the jaded, and completely unaware, advice giving bartender, Anna sleeps with Ben, who lies to his wife about smoking but tells her that he's cheating on her, and Neil and Beth break up because Neil refuses to pony up a ring.

And while the prevalent theme throughout He's Just Not That Into You is exactly that: if a man doesn't call and doesn't actively pursue you, he really isn't into you. If he's not marrying you, he doesn't want to get married, and if he's lying to you, he's better left in the dust. And even if you're friends tell you a story of a girl who's schmuck boyfriend ended up being a knight in rusty armor, that girl the exception, and you are NOT the exception. Ever.

But here's the thing, the movie ends just like in every other chick flick that I've ever watched, except My Best Friend's Wedding: just about everyone except the slutty Anna and perhaps lying, cheating Ben, end up with their "Happily Ever After".

Gigi does, in fact end up with her jaded bartender. Neil and Beth end up back together, and, after making a deal that they wouldn't get married, Neil proposes anyway.

Even the ancillary characters, like Mary and Conner (who Gigi went out on a date with at the outset) even up together and happy.

Paradoxical, no? I think so. The whole point of the book in the first place is to educate women about a man's not so mysterious signals, isn't it?

And yet, we still get our happy ending. Though Gigi puts in some lamely sweet ending monologue about believing in yourself and your dreams, and listening to your heart (blah blah blah) the ending shots are those of couples happily canoodling in various settings. And the Disney moment is complete. All we need is some cheesily peppy music and a quasi-blooper roll filled with sappy couples shots and we're golden. Oh wait, they provided that too!

That's not to say that I didn't like the movie; quite the contrary. They really did put together an amazingly easy movie to watch in a two hour time frame. We get laughter, romance, uncomfortable moments, and even a brief "Knight on a White Horse" moment when Neil comes to Beth's rescue after Jen's father has a heart attack. It's a veritable smorgasbord of girly goodness.

I just wish that the signals of the movie were more clear than a typical man on a first date. If the point was to teach us a lesson, then don't tell us 'you're not the exception' and then make the characters the exception. Because guess what, friends, we walk away thinking "oh, well, we're the exception, too!"

Please believe me, I am not a nay-sayer by any means. I found the love of my life through difficult and exceptional means, however, I know that for some it isn't that easy. Good people struggle to find relationships and, sometimes, despite all the effort and time they put into a relationship, these fail.

Let's be honest. Haven't you met someone, or more than one someone, that struggles to find happiness in love? And though the hopeless romantics in all of us wants those people to find the love of their life, in reality, sometimes it doesn't happen.

Now I'm not saying that I want the movie to be doom, gloom and blackness, but let's have a healthy medium. It's not just those who have cheated or been cheated on who should have to struggle to recoup. All of us have had to fight at one point or another.

So here's all I'm asking for: let's be as realistic about the struggles and the fights and the hard times as we are about the happy ones. Not everyone's happy ending is summed up in 2 hours (give or take) and though I know movies are a form of escapism, if we're going to say: you're not the exception, let's make the movie reflect that.

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