Scary stories from a lovely place
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey’s ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’ promotes itself as a male chick flick. Guys love it. Girls love that their guy wants to watch it. But it’s more than just appealing to men. It’s male fantasy flick.
The girlfriend that every guy wants is the lithe, smart and beautiful Andie Anderson. Andie is every man’s fantasy. She’s sexy, she wants to watch sport, she drinks beer from the bottle, she’s funny and sassy. Ben is a fantasy too – he is the man every guy wants to be, or likes to think he is. He rides a burly Triumph motorbike, he’s cut and good with the ladies. His office is a veritable manctuary – posters of sportsmen, swimsuit models, a pool table and two nerdy sidekicks to follow him around.
It’s Ben’s confidence that forms half of the storyline – he believes, and bets with competitors at work – that he can make a woman fall in love with him in a week and a half. Lots of guys I know like to think they are that confident.
Besides the humor and Ben’s delicious body, I’m not sure what else in this movie is for the females in the audience. In fact, it’s actually insulting to women (as perhaps most chick flicks are). Andie is clearly intelligent – she’s a Journalism Masters graduate from a top university – and she longs for a more fulfilling career. She finds her own ‘how to’ column vacuous and boring, and wants to be published for writing about real issues. But when she has this opportunity she stays in New York. Why? At the behest of Ben in the closing scenes of the movie. She is continuing to fit the male fantasy. Andie’s feminist foremothers would be rolling in their graves.
The other aspect of male fantasy that Andie fits snugly into is that of an uncomplicated, predictably stable woman. Ben is attracted to her confidence and beauty – but it’s when she’s emotional and girly that he begins to find her unattractive and very irritating. Andie changes her whole demeanour for her side of the plot – to make a guy break up with her within 10 days – as research for her magazine column. She begins to dress ‘girly’ in floral dresses and pigtails. She plans their future and what their children will look like. She pretends to be a vegetarian and cries to strangers that Ben thinks she’s fat. She leaves tampons in Ben’s bathroom and pretties up his blokey apartment with teddy bears and a pink, lacy toilet seat cover.
Ben’s reaction is extreme – he tears his hair and screams “no, no!” before confronting Andie about her transformation. The message is clear. True womanhood can be scary. To land the best guy, she better not show any typically negative female qualities.
Unfortunately I actually find this movie entertaining. Even though I can see the unhelpful archetypes of male authority and female submission I do find it funny. And at times, even poignant.
But it remains a male fantasy flick and it’s no surprise that I’ve watched it with two different guys. Years ago, I saw ‘How to lose a guy’ at the cinema with my boyfriend. It was unequivocally his choice. I was happy to see it, but I clearly remember not particularly wanting to. And the other is Stephen. We watched it recently but I had to walk out of the room in parts because I found Andie and Ben’s manipulation of each other a bit troubling.
If they had just been nice to each other they wouldn’t have experienced such dramas! They would have lived happily ever after in the first half an hour. But that would have made for a much shorter, and more boring chick flick.