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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: "The Ugly Truth" Is, Indeed, Ugly

Here is a thing I was writing in e-mails to everybody late last week: I seriously never thought I would see a movie more offensive to all of my many delicate sensibilities than Observe & Report! But I did. I saw that movie. And then I wrote about it, for Comment is Free:

Anyone who goes to the movies looking for sexism has her work cut out for her. Most movies are directed by men. The vast majority of top studio executives are men. Male demographics are prized. And, maybe because of the above-mentioned facts about who is producing and creating movies, most movies tend to focus on male experiences and male heroes, while movies made “for women” tend to be tossed-off, patronising and terrible. It’s more challenging, actually, to look for movies that aren’t sexist.

Nevertheless, when every single review of a movie mentions its misogyny, I pay attention. Particularly when it comes from a screenplay written by three ladies, and when one of those very few female studio executives – Amy Pascal, of Sony Pictures Entertainment – was responsible for green-lighting it.

This was why I ended up going out to a theatre in Queens, New York, in the middle of the day, to see The Ugly Truth, the beautiful, terrible brainchild of screenwriters Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Readers: If there is any experience more humiliating for a girl than uttering the phrase “One for The Ugly Truth, please,” I haven’t had it yet. As I took the ticket, I realised that to any outside observer, this would appear to be the absolute worst-case scenario for my life.

Oh, it is long and it is angry. Read it, please, that my suffering may not be in vain.


  1. Dorothy wrote:

    I read it.

    And then I read the comments.

    And then I died a little bit.

    To think, Katherine Heigl started out as the hot female alien on Roswell… how far she has come..

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 7:37 am | Permalink
  2. Sniper wrote:

    Re: commenters

    How is it even possible for so many people to be completely ignorant about the role of cultural criticism, what feminism means, and what human rights might actually be?

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink
  3. mr_subjunctive wrote:

    Good post, Sady, though between actually having to see the movie and reading the comments on the article you wrote, I cannot imagine that the article was worth what you went through to get it. Perhaps it paid well? he said? hopefully?

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  4. snobographer wrote:

    Sniper – they work really, really hard at it.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  5. Sady wrote:

    @mr_subjunctive: Oh, the joy of yelling is enough for me.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink
  6. AFitz wrote:

    The comments…..oh, the comments.

    I'm dying.

    I'd give up on humanity right now if it weren't for your wonderful blog.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  7. Hypatia wrote:

    "women should subordinate themselves to men because men are very, very stupid and deeply, unbelievably weak."

    Whenever I see an analysis of sexist media that reveals this underlying message, I can't help but think of Commedia dell'Arte, in which the servants are always smarter than their masters and content in that knowledge. Or the Uncle Remus stories. Or the Feast of Misrule. Or any other culturally-sanctioned turning of tables that allows the oppressed group just enough pride to continue to endure their lot.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink
  8. LSG wrote:

    My favorite comments are the ones that plaintively sigh that poor, poor Gerard Butler just deserves SO MUCH BETTER. If only he would keep playing roles allowing him to wear leather panties and hack up racist "Persian" monsters, then we would appreciate his true talent!

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  9. ripley wrote:

    Great review, but golly, the comments.. good grief!

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    The comments on that article/review are a thing of terror. The article/review itself, however, is very good! I am thinking of sending a link to a friend of mine, who recently saw the movie (and enjoyed it! For some reason), to see what she thinks.


    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  11. Marste wrote:

    The comments over there are ridiculous. Lordy.

    I actually went to see this over the weekend, in large part because I'd heard such bad things about it, and I am a sucker for punishment. I like romantic comedies and I like Katherine Heigl, but this was just horrifying. Seriously, it was so much worse than I thought it would be – and I thought it would be pretty bad. I was dismayed to see Heigl's name up as an Executive Producer, and I'm even more dismayed to learn that it was written by women.

    The whole thing kind of makes me a little sick, actually.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  12. snobographer wrote:

    On this movie having been written by women – is it possible that maybe the screenplay wasn't quite so bad until the male director, the all-male associate and assistant directors, and the all-male editorial staff got their grubby mitts on it?

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Oh God, the comments on that article can be summarized with "How dare you point out that a movie that insults you is insulting? The nerve of you, you silly girl!"

    Great article, though, Sady. I find it comforting to know that other people know how terrible that movie is.


    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    I don't get why everyone in the Guardian comments keeps telling you not to see films like 'The Ugly Truth' if you don't like them. Do they not realise that you're getting paid, presumably, to write about these films? And what's with the 'it's Hollywood's job to make money AND THAT IS ALL shutupshutupshutup' argument? For an unabashedly leftist newspaper there seems to be a lot of idolising of the free market.


    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  15. Tangoing with Evita wrote:

    I posted your article on my facebook. Hope that's all right. Yeah, it was that good. But again…the comments…I think a part of me has died.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  16. Tangoing with Evita wrote:

    Jeez, the hell is up with that guy being all "But what about class????" Oy vey.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  17. Robert Hutchinson wrote:

    I know one shouldn't necessarily judge a movie by its promotional materials, but I knew I didn't want to see this movie just from the poster. "Ha ha, the seat of love for men is their junk! FUN WILL ENSUE."

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  18. QL wrote:

    I read two comments and then stopped, I'm in the mood today for DESPAIRING FOR HUMANITY.

    And yet I despair, when, oh when, will the madness end. God forbid that a women, indeed, any person, be honest and enjoy themselves in a realtionship or the flirtatious prerelationship stage. Seriously, what are you thinking. Men are tough, souless creatures who cringe at the merest hint of emotion or human need. Women are clingy, weak, emotional wrecks whose only chance at happiness is to mask every aspect of her real personality and in a blatant pretence of being an independent intelligent woman, which will, mind you, collapse when she falls in love with a man stong enough to support her true, weak, clingy self. (He'll also rag on this woman behind her back, but that is simply the nature of the tough, souless, real man.

    I find films like this just as (if not more) insulting to men than women. Not only are women type cast as pathetic creatures, men are supposed to be attracted to them! It is completely unacceptable that a man be attracted to the Katherine Heigl from the beginning of the film, he woudl be accused of being pussy-whipped, or having a pants-wearing partner. Horrifying.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  19. Masha wrote:

    Your article: Yay! You expressed it better than I ever could. It sounds more depressing and misogynist than I predicted. I haven't seen a romantic comedy in ages, and considering most of them seem to be like this, according to my memory (with the exception of "But I'm a Cheerleader," but of course that's not well known because it's about lesbians), I don't understand how anyone could watch them and like them. Do they sit there and think, "Hahaha, men are stupid! Hahaha, he told her to show her cleavage and act stupid! So funny, how do people think of these things? Comedy Gold!"
    The comments: AGHHHH.
    They can be summarized also with, "God, you are such a humourless buzzkill! LIKE ALL FEMINISTS! Don't you dare critisize popular culture, you… you FEMINIST!" Good god, the idiocy makes me want to scratch my eyes out.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
  20. Chai Latte wrote:

    The article was fan-freaking-tastic. I was actually tempted to see this, but then I saw the reviews. HOLY CRAP SADY. I mean I knew you loved us when you endured all those Judd Apatow movies for us, but this…I might have to ask you to marry me after this. You were AMAZING.

    The comments, however, made me want to throw up in my mouth a little. UGH. The stupid, it burns!

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Yes, the comments were rubbish.

    The status quo accepters pulled the following nonsensical (paraphrased) lines:
    1."Hollywood, it is the way it is because it is."
    2."So what. They make money. Why would you question that?"
    3."Films reflect society, they don't shape it. What's your problem?"

    One guy slammed you for caring about the issues.

    Two posts later, he slams his female friends for 'buying into' this crap. The same crap that you'd cared enough to write on and anti-crap-ize.


    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink
  22. Emily wrote:

    I was really hoping that this wasn't just another lazy, uncreative rom-com. I watched the trailer and I couldn't help but notice as Butler is whispering in Heigl's ear that the parallels to Cyrano de Bergerac are RIGHT THERE! Wouldn't it have been much more interesting if the mysogynist fell in love with the man Heigl's character is trying to seduce?

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  23. CLD wrote:

    I read your post and thought it was great. Then I scrolled on down to the comments and threw up in my mouth.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink