Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Just Not That Into It

"met him on sunday/loved him by tuesday afternoon/woke up on friday/changed my whole life to make some room..."--Esthero

 A couple weeks ago, on opening weekend, I went to see a film that a lot of American women went to see: He's Just Not That Into You (HJNTIY). The theater was packed--with women--smacking on popcorn and sipping on Coke Zero as we tried to be enlightened. At least I was trying to be enlightened. Others had clearly come to a) get angry(-ier) about their current situation or a past instance of someone not being that into them, b) cry about every man who had ever hurt them, c) laugh at the stupidity of other women because they had clearly given up on men themselves, or d) spend their Saturday night seeing a star-studded chick flick because they [erroneously] felt nothing in the movie applied to them. Although the film was, by most accounts, fluff that fundamentally portrayed women as incredibly dumb and desperate creatures, there was some unpacking to be done. So instead of being able to fully enjoy the film, I found myself scribbling notes and questions into my PDA. For your pleasure, the major themes I noticed unpacked after the jump.

Why Are Unattainable Men So Sexy?

We all know that men with attachments are sexy, but why? I haven't ever quite figured this out, even for myself. In my opinion, formed by years of wondering what my own attraction to the spoken-for or otherwise occupied is, it's that women that have trouble with true, naked intimacy are relieved to find someone for whom they don't feel obligated to bare all. When a man is so obviously holding such a large part of himself from you, there's no compelling reason to be an open book for him, and so while your reasons for not wanting to be open may have nothing to do with other relationships or commitment issues, some women just aren't convinced that a man won't disappoint them once they've spelled themselves completely out. Attached men are virtually risk-free, because even when things fall apart, one only has herself to blame, which can be a welcome relief from pain that ebbs from another [uncontrollable] source. In HJNTIY, Anna (Scarlett Johansson) is sprung over very married Ben (Bradley Cooper). While obviously attracted to Anna, Ben does share with her towards the end of their first conversation that he is married--happily. Anna is so disappointed that she finds herself bitching to her friend, Mary (Drew Barrymore), about it. And Mary does what so many women do, issues a slight admonishment and warning chased quickly by a bevy of stories about women who found their true love while he was still married to another woman. Her mild encouragement of the situation gives Anna the free reign and courage to pursue a married man, and her friend doesn't feel one bit bad about it. Which leads me to the next point.

Is Most Of Our BIC Organic Or Does It Come From The BIC Of Others? Is BIC Transferred, Like Energy?

One thing HJNTIY makes clear is that female relationships breed a lot of the delusion and misjudgment about romantic relationships. During the course of the film, desperately single Gigi's (Gennifer Goodwin) relationship with her co-workers Janine (Jennifer Connelly) who is coincidentally married to Ben, and Beth (Jennifer Aniston) who's been trying to egg her live-in love of seven years to marry her, is the source of constant comedy. And yet, Gigi is a sad case--a woman constantly on the prowl for her eternal, perfect love. She obsesses over every number she collects, waits anxiously for men she just met to call, thinks every date is the beginning of the rest of her life. And while it's comical and over the top, it's real. Many of us live our lives this way, biting fingernails waiting for the love of our life to show up. And if he's not the love of our life, we like to try to make him it anyway. It's troublesome to see these larger-than-life issues up on the larger-than-life screen, because it makes clear just how dysfunctional female relationships can be. We never want to hurt each other's feelings, and we want to be hopeless romantics for our friends and sometimes ourselves as well. The cold, hard truth--which we all too often see and don't want to speak--sounds too harsh, too mean and the times when we should say "he's just not that into you" we say "you guys would have such cute kids". Of course, I should add the caveat that men often add exponentially to this conundrum by sending such conflicting messages. Just when women begin to feel that they should move on, a man will step back into the picture and accept more sex (those advertising posters talking about "breakup sex still means you're broken up" really piss me off, by the way--where is the self-control from the male side of the equation?!), or generally begin acting more interested. This is often, of course, just long enough to get the attention they crave back.

BIC transference often comes down to the simple truth that girlfriends never want to be on the wrong side of history.  If we say "move on, he's not feeling you" and he is, then silently there will always be a side-eye situation from our friend and possibly even Mr. Conflicting Message. If we say "girl, i think he really loves you, you should give him another chance" and he leaves her a broken shell of a person, there's always a bit of guilt for encouraging your friend to shoot for the moon and then watching her crash violently to the Earth. Thus, a vicious cycle is born. All that said, I think women are naturally a little off-balance. After a deep depression coupled with a hysterical laughing jag that suddenly morphed into a horrifyingly long sobbing session in front of my best friend and a drive-thru cashier on Friday, I'm all too aware that the hormones coursing through our body ensure that we are going to have our fair share of unbalanced thoughts, ideas, and half-baked plans. I mean, Tameka Foster Raymond, who my best friend and I have decided is suffering from severe postpartum symptoms, is a prime example of the fact that women don't always make the best decisions. But our friends too often contribute their own hormone-driven craziness into the fray, making bad situations worse.

With All Of This Intel, Op/Ed, Pontification, and Discussion Are Women Getting Smarter or Dumber?

The scariest part of HJNTIY for me came after the film. As I was waiting for the bathroom (you already know how long to wait was with all those women and their 32 oz. diet sodas), there was a group of three young twenty-somethings in front of me, talking about the movie. "No, you don't even understand that I am totally dating [that character]! I mean, on Tuesday, we went to lunch, and then he didn't call like, for like two days. But then he totally sent me a text and I'm like 'okay'..." You get the drift. This exchange went on for several minutes, during which she listed at least two blatantly disrespectful slights from this guy. And the entire time I wanted to shake her and ask if she had seen the same film I did. She sounded exactly like the crazy, desperate character in the film--and neither she nor her homegirls were able to see or were willing to acknowledge this. It frightens me to see so many chicks sitting in the theater for 100 minutes watching a film about how insane and ridiculous women's behavior concerning opposite-sex relationships can get, and then to bust out of the theater thinking about how to apply those same insane and ridiculous tactics mocked satirically on-screen to their own dating life. Don't you get it?, I wanted to ask. You sound like an idiot!! "He totally likes you, too," her friend said, and sad, desperate girl seemed happy with this assertion. But when she caught my eye (and sight of my horrified, incredulous gaze) and said "she understands!" I fixed my face and smiled. I nodded. There was no hope for this girl. Why not just give her what she wanted? It would either fall on deaf ears or she would get what I was about to say. "Oh, yeah," I said, "he's totally into you." In a flash, she had her cell out, texting her dignity away.

Surely No One Believes That Black Women Don't Struggle With HJNTIY Issues

Which brings me to another point. It's pretty glaringly obvious that there's not one substantial Black role in this film. There is a random Black woman being sexed up on a couch by a wormy White womanizer, but that's about it. I see the logic in that, and I see the prejudice in that as well. There are certainly Black actresses who could have carried, and even added a substantial amount of depth to, one of these roles. But I also see the point that having a Black woman would make it an entirely different film. In the interest of being true to who the characters are, it would have been something of a detour to begin unpacking the neuroses of Black women in relationships, as our cultural allowances and hinderances are vastly misunderstood and misrepresented already. It's not that we're not just as delusional and insane, but our delusion and insanity is demonstrated in much different ways. That said, it wouldn't have hurt to throw Zoe Saldana in Jennifer Connelly's role or something. But bygones.

My fear for women is deep-seeded because honestly, if you sit through an entire film that tells you your way of relating to men is wrong and gives you a fairly comprehensive picture of what doesn't work, and you're energized by the dont's and disregard the do's, where can help possibly come from? The silver lining is that this site isn't going anywhere for a long, long time because clearly, BIC will never go out of style.

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