Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leap Year, and More

I found this article through a friend's Facebook page: Amy Adams' 'Leap Year': What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Women and Marriage, and I thought it was really funny and true. (I also saw the trailer, although I was mostly impressed by how over-the-top contrived the scenario was.) Why is there this idea in film that all women turn into maniacs around marriage? Age, life experience, and personality don't seem to matter-- show us a ring (not even a ring-- a ring box) and we go batshit crazy. What's the idea behind this portrayal? Like film portrayals of sex, I wonder how much life imitates "art" (if "Leap Year" can be considered art) in the arena of marriage as well. If we didn't frequently see it in movies, would women still be expected to squee, squee, and squee some more over every detail of our friends' wedding plans? Would there be so much pressure to plan intricate, expensive, and flawless weddings?

There's also this common idea in movies that the most attractive men are lurking in the most unlikely places. However, rural towns aren't exactly hotbeds of 30-something men.

Yeah Matthew Goode, grow a scruffy beard...you're not fooling anyone. In The Holiday, Jude Law was located in a small English town. And a helpful reader also suggested New In Town, Hope Floats, and Baby Boom as featuring undiscovered rural men right here in my home country (I guess Harry Connick Jr. isn't especially worried about getting typecast). I know there are exceptions, but there's a hefty chance that despite the attraction between them, an urban woman and a country guy (why is the man always the country one?) probably wouldn't have much in common in the real world. However, in films, we only see the beginnings of these relationships and rarely, if ever, how they progress over time. (There's also the question: Why is the only attractive man in town still single?)

I lived in a rural town for a time, and I do miss a few things about it. The limited number of choices available was liberating in a way, as I wrote about here. However, would an urban woman, who is used to choosing between a panoply of options in every area of her life, really be content with a small town's one eligible man? Maybe these movies are speaking to the part of us that's tired of being overwhelmed with choices. I might be giving these movies more credit for depth than I should, but it's a thought.

(Addendum: After I wrote the second part of this post, I found that the author of the "Leap Year" article has also written about the Harry Connick Jr. phenomenon...here, if you're interested. It's a funny coincidence that we both thought to write about the idea independently, but we did.)

13 comments:

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

I'm going to try to guess the answers to your rhetorical questions. A lot of them are predictable, but so are the films.

Why are women in films always obsessed with weddings? Because it's a way to control women in real life.

Why are the most attractive men in unlikely places? Because the women who live in big cities don't want to think that all these fabulously attractive men live close to them (because that means they've failed to bag them).

Why's it always a city woman and country man? Well, the films always revolve around a woman, and the country people are always the 'other' group. Also, there's probably some stuff about real women being able to look good in heels, while real men have to be able to mend a pig fence.

Why is the only attractive man in town still single? Because it would be far too complicated if he wasn't (or there were lots of them).

Would an urban woman, who is used to choosing between a panoply of options in every area of her life, really be content with a small town's one eligible man? No, but she's still meant to feel guilty that she's not.

Wow, this pop. crit. is really depressing, isn't it?

Ily said...

Haha, I had no idea that I asked so many rhetorical questions in this post! Thanks for having a go at them :-)

As for question #2, it's funny because there's another romcom subgenre that's the opposite: the "hidden in plain sight" love interest. As far as country men/urban women go, I think it's definitely wish fulfillment-- a lot of women are tired of being all things to all people, and might imagine how it would be to step off the treadmill and adopt a slower pace of life. Of course, it also addresses the inner conflicts women might have about working high-powered careers and still trying to "have it all" and be perfect at it all. On some level, the man might be secondary.

I agree, it's kind of depressing, but to me it really exemplifies why it's important to analyze pop culture. I think the dumber the media, the more likely we are just to kick back and have it wash over us, which means that the dumbest movies might actually affect us more than, say, a nonfiction book that it would seem more natural to break down and analyze.

I think that if we don't break them down a little, even if it seems excessive, then it's too easy to just automatically start comparing your life with the film-- a proposition you will lose. I'm not saying everyone does this, but I think a lot of us do.

Anonymous said...

Ily,

I'd be interested to hear what you think about the movie Continental Divide. It came out in 1981. It sounds like the opposite of Leap Year.

I saw it as a kid and I remember really liking it (and this is me whose gag reflex is triggered during the ookie-gookie scenes in so-called romantic comedies). I almost cried a the end (and I NEVER do that at movies).

Continental Divide stars John Belushi (don't hold that against the movie--He does a great job) as a journalist who gets sent from the city out to the wilderness where he meets the country girl in the Rockies where she's studying eagles. She's not the helpless, lonely I-gotta-get-married type. Both characters have jobs and their own points of view and both of them have to learn to compromise in order to get along.

And, IIRC, it does not end with a marriage proposal or a wedding. It ends realistically.

I'm beginning to think that card-carrying "romantic comedies"--by depicting situations that are patently false and people who behave in unrealistic ways are actually undermining the concept of real romance--romance that is grounded in reality and isn't fluffy and dimpled and dripping in syrup. It's like the writer is saying to the audience, "We all know this crap isn't true, but it sells, right?"

-SarahT.

Ily said...

I haven't seen that one, thanks for the rec! I think the weird thing about "Leap Year" (according to that article) was that Amy Adams' character wasn't "the type" either, she was supposed to be a serious businesswoman, but she somehow morphed into the kind of person who went into hysterics when the topic of marriage was brought up.

Stilitano said...

See that? And here I just go squee squee squee over this blog.

And it's always a country man because duh, we don't mind a man with a few teeth missing and a horrible bumpkin accent as long as he has Kentucky Fried Abs. :)

Anonymous said...

hi there..
well this post is not actually related to your article..
i just wanted to know.. because i guess you might know..
when asexuals have sex do they feel anything?or its just a monotonous movement ..
i mean is it like because asexuals dont drive any pleasure from sex thats why they dont like it?

edgeofeverywhere said...

Interesting questions! I've never really thought about how so many movies have undiscovered hot single men lurking in rural areas. I do wonder what would happen to the relationships after the big happy get-together that ends the movie. How many of the urban chicks do you think would get totally bored and unhappy?

Ily said...

Stilitano--Hee hee, and thanks :-)

Anon-- Asexuality means that a person has no sexual attraction to any gender, not that a person dislikes sex. So, what happens technically when an asexual has sex is irrelevant to whether or not they're asexual. Asexuals can certainly orgasm and have pleasure from sex just like anyone else. But since we are not sexually attracted to anyone, most of us have little or no impetus to have sex. Hope this makes sense!

EoE-- My guess would be, a lot of them. It can be really hard to just pick up and move to a new place where you don't know anyone, even if your dream guy is there.

Anonymous said...

""Anon-- Asexuality means that a person has no sexual attraction to any gender, not that a person dislikes sex. So, what happens technically when an asexual has sex is irrelevant to whether or not they're asexual. Asexuals can certainly orgasm and have pleasure from sex just like anyone else. But since we are not sexually attracted to anyone, most of us have little or no impetus to have sex. Hope this makes sense!""


hi ..me again..
actually , i m an asexual myself or so i believe..
in all my life i never felt anything sexual,no sexual attraction... never masturbated even .. never felt any need.

then i got married,its been one year and i never felt anything during sex.i am just so neutral about it. i just do it because my husband needs it.
but you say that asexuls feel pleasure during sex, so then why dont asexuals like sex if they can feel sexual pleasure?
so that means i am not asexual and i have some harmonal problem?

Ily said...

Hey Anon, everyone is different. We *CAN* enjoy sex, but that doesn't mean all of us do. I think a lot of asexuals feel the way you do-- not repulsed by sex, not excited by it, just "blah" about it. Not all sexual people enjoy sex, either. I think it's worth mentioning that an ability to get aroused or feel physical pleasure from sex doesn't necessarily equate to a desire to seek out sex. In my mind, physical sensations are only one part of a sexual experience.

If you haven't, you should definitely check out AVEN, www.asexuality.org. You'll find a lot of people talking about the same question that you're raising. It sounds like you're in a difficult situation with your husband, and if you ever want advice or support from people who've been in your situation (I haven't), AVEN is a great place to ask.

Julio said...

Good post!

Common! People still believe in romance?
Pff...
I have to watch more TV.

Your points are very interesting... but I'm tired of this "social behavior".

I don't know why people still wanna believe in love like a felling;

I don't know why they live to fall in love and fall frustrated so many times;

I don't know why they think that they won't be alone anymore with a "relationship";

I don't know why they think that a ring will change their life.

I don't know and I'm getting very tired of trying to help those so called "normal" people.

Preet said...

"If you haven't, you should definitely check out AVEN, www.asexuality.org. You'll find a lot of people talking about the same question that you're raising. It sounds like you're in a difficult situation with your husband, and if you ever want advice or support from people who've been in your situation (I haven't), AVEN is a great place to ask."


thanx dear..actually i never talk about this with the real people around.i just feel they wont be able to understand, or they will think that i am sick.
so thanx again for listening and understanding and i will definitely check Aven.

Anonymous said...

Hot men don't lurk around in rural areas, at least not any rural areas i know of. I would buy that there are some hot men lurking around in rural Ireland or England though, because a man with an accent makes them that much more appealing. Or the only way a hot man would be lurking around rural Ireland is when a scruffy looking Matthew Goode shoots a movie there.