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Sexist Beatdown: Mystery Dream Date Edition

Well, hello! It appears that it is just about time to solve a mystery for you. That mystery being: WHERE THE HELL HAS SADY BEEN ALL WEEK?!?

I will tell you where, my friends! I have been working on the Giant Mystery Project, which is now more like the Surprisingly Massive Mystery Project, and I will let you know about that one when next it goes somewhere. (Which it… might? I don’t know, this is an additional mystery.) But, anyway, time to write for the blogs again! For, as you may know, the Giant Mystery Project is the one where I watch romantic movies. For chicks! And, having watched a ton of these movies for the chicks at this point, it is time to burden colleague and fellow chick Amanda Hess of The Sexist with a portion of my findings.

Specifically, those findings relating to your Imaginary Boyfriend! Who is Matthew McConaughey, apparently, and also very dull, or a jerk, or currently being cheated on, by you, with your other Imaginary Boyfriend, who might just be Matthew McConaughey again. Exciting, I know! But what the heck is up with your Imaginary Boyfriend, anyway? What does he mean for Masculinity In Pop Culture? Join us as we… don’t find out! But we do discuss it, so.

matthew_mcconaughey2ILLUSTRATION: Yeah, you can do better.

SADY: well, good morning, my friend!

AMANDA: is it time to talk about cute boys??

SADY: indeed! boys who are cute AND dreamy! and also enormous jerks whom you will hate with a fiery passionate rage until you figure out that they are actually dreamy and in love with you and then everything will more or less work itself out. i saw “bridget jones’ diary” for the first time this week. were you aware of this?

AMANDA: i believe i saw that movie in the theater, with my mother. 

SADY: oh, good! did it make you want TO DIE?

AMANDA: if not that one, then the second one. i have seen both of them!

SADY: oh, my!

AMANDA: sadly, NO. i was more interested in how dreamy modern Mr. Darcy was. but then again, i was 16, i think.

SADY: really! i found him extremely boring! but then, i was instilled with deep hostility against bridget jones. because – i have to share this with you – there are these constant fat jokes? like, bridget is fat and unlovable and fat and a chain-smoker and unlovable and omg, SO FAT, bridget jones! and then they show her weight at one point? and she weighs four pounds less than i do.* and smokes fewer cigarettes. and, probably, drinks less. it was a sobering moment which i reacted to by throwing something at the screen.


SADY: but back to modern-age mr. darcy! because he symptomizes, for me, a major problem of the romantic comedy version of Your Boyfriend, which is: he is boring as hell.

AMANDA: i think i remember being a thin 16 year old … and seeing that weight show up on the screen … and thinking, WTF, I am fat? actually, I do remember thinking that! my extreme discomfort with this movie is breaking through my residual attraction to Colin Firth! but ANYWAY. back to him. don’t remember much about his character, actually. i suppose that’s the point.

SADY: right. i mean, i know we are talking here about Masculinity in Pop Culture, particularly through the lens of romantic fantasies For The Ladies, but as someone who has seen a lot of these fantasies recently, one thing that bothers me is that they never do manage to create a believable human dude at any point. like, the versions of men presented for our delectation are either completely vague and dull and personality-free yet handsome (your Mr. Darcys, your Hugh Grant in early-period films, etc.) or charming and handsome assholes (your Edward Cullens, your Hugh Grant in this film, etc).Colin Firth in particular has built a career of playing these ciphers.

AMANDA:Yes, and romantic comedies in general are sort of build on the idea of the Suspension of Unbelievable Dudes. consider any romantic comedy that is based around cheating and/or, for the lack of the better term, “homewrecking.”

SADY: ah, yes. i invite you to consider these for me!

AMANDA: consider: the Wedding Planner, with the totally chemistry-less rom-com dream team of Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, about a wedding planner falling in love and hooking up with the groom in a wedding she is, of course, planning. which makes both characters, in real life, scumbags. but on screen, they are magically transformed into … simply boring.

SADY: oh, my goodness, yes. sleepless in seattle, same deal. it is basically about a lady with a boyfriend who instead decides to stalk a dude whose emotional vulnerability she heard about on the radio one time… and her boyfriend/fiance just goes for it! in the scene where she’s like, “sorry, yo, got to go meet up with this dude i been stalking,” Boyfriend (who is the spectacularly vanilla-pudding-like Bill Pullman) is just like, “too bad for me, good luck!” i watched this with my mother, who commended Bill Pullman for doing the right thing.

AMANDA: Yeah, romantic comedies set up this weird alternate universe where cheating isn’t bad, and is in fact encouraged, as long as you are hopelessly in love with Other Person whom you met about 2 days ago.

SADY: well, and also it provides… CONFLICT!!! like, there is always supposed to be this other dude in the background who is totally wrong for you but of course you don’t know that yet. and that dude alwaaaaaays gets shafted. perhaps because he is basically a ken doll. he is there to distract you from realizing that you are Totally In Love with this other person until it is nearly too late! at which point you put him back in the box.

AMANDA: Right. And then, all of a sudden, totally after the fact, you realize that Other Dude is a jerk, or also cheating, or boring, or dumb, and this justifies the affair you have already embarked upon.

SADY: indeed.

AMANDA: Which brings us to the Other Other Dude in romantic comedies: the fancy “career” of the protagonist who is married-to-her-work! … until a really boring hot dude drops into her life, which makes her realize that life is not all about planning weddings. it is also about having others plan weddings for you.

SADY: yes. often, in fact, she meets this gentleman through her career! consider, my friend, “failure to launch,” which is about a lady whose job is to give apatovian losers boners and hence inspire them to better their lives. which is an odd job. but whatever. because one of the man-children she is hired to date is TOTALLY HOT! and he believes she must LOOSEN UP! and she does. or “how to lose a guy in 10 days,” or… shit, this is all matthew mcconaughey. he is basically the dude who makes you hate your job with his boner. in every movie. I FIGURED IT OUT!

AMANDA: I guess I like my job too much to let Matthew McConaughey’s boner convince me that my boyfriend is a jerk? “Women are so complicated!”

SADY: we are! it’s true! but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, as a gender, it’s that wanting something for your life other than a superdreamy boyfriend is misguided, and you need to Get Your Priorities Straight ASAP. with boning. illicit cheater boning. which is what women want, the end, i have solved everything.

AMANDA: but why is the cheater boning dude always so boring? Have you seen Made of Honor? I’ve heard that it is My Best Friend’s Wedding but with a hilarious role-reversal. Is that dude boring, as well?

SADY: um. he’s that dude with the super-boring face? and i never saw the movie, because his face in the poster was so boring. so that might answer some questions. for all i know there’s a third-act twist where he’s a bungee-jumping heroin-dealing bad boy, but his face would still probably put you to sleep before you figured that out.

AMANDA: so … yes. but it’s not as if the women in these movies are terribly compelling, either.

SADY: well, yeah, but they’re meant to be Us. ALL OF US. personalities get in the way of mass identification. and, to be fair, not all movie boyfriends are boring! some are also hateful and borderline-abusive. such as gerard butler, in “the ugly truth,” where the entire point is that gerard butler hates women like poison and fire and snakes all combined, and he takes it on himself to teach katherine heigl how awful women are so she can date, and then you learn that he broke up with a girl once so it’s all okay.

AMANDA: and he’s in his mid-30s? isn’t that supposed to happen in college?

SADY: NOT FOR GERARD BUTLER. the wounds of gerard butler do not heal easily.

AMANDA: he has nice abs!

SADY: he also has a face like a pork shoulder. which is mean, but also bridget jones gave me bad body image this week so i will excuse myself there. okay, MAYBE I WON’T. sorry, gerard butler. but anyway, i think we’ve learned a lot about what women want from men this week. it is (a) boredom, (b) an excuse to quit their fancy jobs that they love with all the passion they should be reserving for matthew mcconaughey, (c) grace under being-cheated-on, and (d) ????

AMANDA: Um … have you ever seen a romantic comedy that does not do this?

SADY: “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” is a romantic comedy! and i liked it so, so much! but it’s never mentioned in our recaps of the genre. because if a movie is GOOD, it avoids the “romantic comedy” label-of-death. also if it is focused on a dude, which a lot of them are these days. and then the ladies get to have no personality! equality! GIRL POWER!

AMANDA: yes, in the world of film, even women can be brainless objects. this is truly progress.

SADY: well, i’m just going to go and bask in the glow of How Far We’ve Come, if you don’t mind.

AMANDA: I’m going to go watch What Women Want. I am told the answers to all of our questions lie within that film.

SADY: ah, what is the point of chatting when mel gibson could be shaving his legs or something right in front of your own personal face? good luck to you.

AMANDA: it is what I want, apparently!

*FOR THE RECORD: I have verified that Bridget Jones not only weighs four pounds less than I do, in this movie, but a mere ten pounds more than a lady friend of mine, who is one of those girls with the fashion-model genes that make strangers come up to you and express unsolicited concern over how skinny you are and ask you whether or not you are in fact healthy. This information is included, not so that we can all talk about our bodies – that is gross, our bodies are all fine and dandy – but to demonstrate that, though the fat jokes would have been grating and gross and unappreciated in any context, they are especially so in this movie because they are about a person of SMALLER THAN AVERAGE BODY SIZE, JESUS. And they wonder why the ladies are all so insecure these days.


  1. Heather wrote:

    this is hilarious and awesome. and so fucking true. also describes exactly why i hate bridget jones diary. and all the hoopla where renee zellwegger was eating like a NORMAL HUMAN BEING to gain weight. like, “oh my god, and i had a MILKSHAKE after dinner! the nerve!”

    but i have to admit something: i’ve always found matthew mcconaughey kind of hot. i think it’s the southern accent. i know, this is embarassing. but i just remember the matthew mcconaughey that starred in “a time to kill” where he was serious and not a jerkface instead of the dude who has done 500 horrible romantic comedies. (i don’t think that justifies anything, but i’ll pretend!)

    Friday, December 11, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  2. Nickey Robo wrote:

    Hilarious as always. I guess it’s also a bit of an anachronism, but what about Fever Pitch? I guess Drew Barrymore has to become more “understanding” of Jimmy Fallon’s irritating Red Sox obsession, but she also has a cool high powered job (math!) that she loves and never considers quitting. Maybe you should make a list of less awful romantic comedies?

    Friday, December 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Gnatalby wrote:

    I really like the books, and when I saw the movies I noticed that they dropped her weight by about ten pounds.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  4. sara wrote:

    I’d second Fever Pitch. It’s pretty awesome.

    Otherwise, I’m wondering if what you’re identifying as a symptom of bad romantic comedies – paper-thin protagonists – is in fact just a symptom of bad movies? Given that most romantic comedies are also bad movies?

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  5. Brenda wrote:

    Romatic comedies are my most hated genre. Which makes me feel bad because I always try to avoid the kneejerk “things that are labeled as For Ladies! are inferior” thing, especially since lots of stuff that is or was supposed to be girly is actually awesome, and I hate when the only thing I have to say about a movie is pointing out how sexist it is. But I watched The Proposal (which was not even supposed to be terrible) on the plane one time and I was like ARGh by the end.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  6. DBN wrote:

    I don’t know a single woman who finds any ‘romantic comedy’ either romantic or funny. I have never been attracted to any of the Fantasy Boyfriends in them, nor have I ever identified with any of the women protagonists. In fact, I might actually have found Matthew McConaughey attractive had he not played such unappealing characters. And I could almost like Jennifer Lopez, had I not seen in her in these awful roles.

    Where is the romantic comedy wherein J-Lo is a hardened cop and M-Mc is a florist who launders money for the mob, and they fall in love while she’s trying to catch him and to get him to turn state’s evidence? There can even be a wedding scene, like, when she’s chasing him and finds him at somebody else’s wedding where he’s doing the flowers. Fuck, they could even dance all romantic-like in the church or whatever, while the string quartet is rehearsing, she in her Serious Detective Suit, and he dressed up like the awesome hot gay florist from that new TLC show. And he could be all M-Mc-ishly seductive with his ‘come to the ‘dark side’; we have flowers and cannoli’, and she could be all, ‘while I enjoy the sexy fun times with you, I will *never* compromise my ethics and career for your boner.’ And if she could just get him to testify, they could *be* together, but he’s scared of the mob, because, hey, it’s the mob, but if he really loves her, he’ll take that risk, amirite? And then, with his testimony, she takes down the entire organization and gets a huge promotion. Then she buys them a house in the countryside where he can build a greenhouse and grow his own flowers, and she can get some respite from the daily grind of being the new Deputy Chief of Police or whatever the fuck. FIN.

    I mean, it would still be superficial, heteronormative, mainstream Hollywood crap, but I *might* be willing to pay monies to see something like that.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  7. Sady wrote:

    Oh, come on! There are some movies in the romantic comedy and/or general romance genre I really like! “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Eternal Sunshine,” “Annie Hall” (with problems from creeper Woody Allen), the sections of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that do not include EXTREME RACISM although I acknowledge that might be too big a hump to get over for some. You could probably classify the two Disney movies I really liked as a kid and still do like in one case among the genre – so, that’s “Beauty and the Beast” (still like it) and “The Little Mermaid” (not so much) for those who are interested. “Dirty Dancing,” also. “Say Anything,” also. Perhaps I am a sap, but despite the 9 million identical and not-so-great movies released in this genre, I still think there are some gems! And I am getting to watch movies I like, liked, or entertained myself immensely by hating on, so that is pretty fun as of this moment and I seriously hope I get to do more of it.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  8. snobographer wrote:

    McConaughey was thirty-seven types of awesome as the too-old-to-be-hanging-with-high-school-kids skeezy stoner dude in Dazed and Confused. Otherwise, he’s pretty much the same guy in every movie.

    May I make a recommendation for your project? If your project is basically profiles of masculinity in rom-coms? I thought Michael Showalter’s The Baxter was a pretty decent send-up of rom-com cliches from the perspective of the nice-but-boring disposable fiance guy. If I could change anything about it though, I’d have had him end up with his true female counterpart – the generally unlikeable materialistic lady. Think Kelly Preston in Jerry Maguire, or Ashley While You Were Sleeping. Instead, of course, he ends up with the adorably quirky underconfident lady – a more low-key version of the pixie dream girl.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  9. Sandy wrote:

    Not only did they drop her weight, but in the books, much was made of the fact that when she thought she was finally “skinny enough,” everyone asked her if she was sick.

    Ahem. Not that I’ve read the books.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  10. Sara wrote:

    I thought the point in Bridget Jones was that she was never really overweight, and that it was all in her head? That’s how I always took it when I read the books. That she was good-looking, but insanely neurotic.

    And wasn’t she averaging about 124 in the book and 138 in the movie? That would seem like they increased it. But to me, I think the movie took the snark out of it and tried to make Bridget “fat,” taking the irony out of all Bridget’s complaints.

    As for the Matthew McConaughey genre of rom-com… I have no words. His boner would not make me quit my career track.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  11. Gretchen wrote:

    Thank you! The one thing that really bugs me in rom-com and other movies is when people leave each other at the alter for someone they just met, or for their high school crush, or it doesn’t really matter why, it’s a shitty thing to do and not just to the person expecting to get married, but to your family and their family, and the people who flew in from out of town and just everyone.

    Sara: I agree about Bridget’s weight being mostly in her head, at least in the books. The books were far more enjoyable and smart than the movies.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  12. orlando wrote:

    Somewhat ironically, given the specifics touched on in the original post, the “Fever Pitch” you speak of was a remake of an English movie (itself adapted from a Nick Hornby, of “High Fidelity”, book) which starred, you guessed it – Colin Firth.

    If you’re going back as far as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, doesn’t that mean you have to include all the Katherine Hepburn / Carey Grant / Gregory Peck vehicles, and conclude that the genre has only gone pants in the last twenty years?

    Also, “Down With Love” – made of awesome. Sarah Paulson is to die for.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  13. GATECREWGIRL wrote:

    Made of Honor starred Mr. Fabulous Hair/Forgettable Face Patrick Dempsey and Michelle something or other (who is actually kind of hot and I really like the second wedding dress she wears at the end of the movie). Yes it is sort of My best Friend’s wedding on its head, except that Mr. Fabulous Hair is a complete douche/man baby who treats women like they’re disposable and there’s a dude with creepy short shorts who serves no plot purpose whatsoever. I go on a lot of overseas flights…

    Also, I loved the Bridget Jones books (admittedly mostly for the bits about the crazy mother) and the movies COMPLETELY MISSED the bit about her urban family unit being her support system (especially as refers to her weight, as @SARA and @SANDY have mentioned – when she gets to her “target weight” people ask if she’s sick and tell her she looks “drawn”). Also her relationship with her brother is completely ignored by the movie. I liked BJD as a justification for the “urban family unit” as a support system. Although I’m sure there’s better books that exemplify this…

    Monday, December 14, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  14. EmmATX wrote:

    DBN – “Where is the romantic comedy wherein J-Lo is a hardened cop and M-Mc is a florist who launders money for the mob, and they fall in love while she’s trying to catch him and to get him to turn state’s evidence?”

    As I read the rest of the comments I kept waiting for someone to point out that this is actually almost the exact plot of a really fabulous romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez – “Out of Sight”.

    It was her pre-pop star days, and she plays an FBI agent who gets kidnapped in a prison escape by sexy bank robber George Clooney. They banter! They separate! They get it on in a pretty hot yet tasteful sex scene! And yet his boner does not cause her to give up her job.

    Also Steve Zahn is in it, and is hilarious. And, Catherine Keener and Ving Rhames, and Luis Guzman and Michael Keaton. I highly recommend it for your non-misogynist rom-com needs.

    I had high hopes for Jennifer Lopez after I saw this movie. Then her first single came out, and it was all downhill from there.

    Monday, December 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  15. emjaybee wrote:

    Although he is not a bad looking man, the stoner aesthetic of Mr. McC has never drawn me in. Because if you’ve met many stoner dudes, you know that lots of them are just as giant of a**holes as frat dudes, plus they want you to read High Times articles about the newest breakthroughs in hemp technology, and then they hit you up for weed money. Also, they often possess magificent BO, compounded by their aversion to closed-toe shoes. So when I see Mr. McC, all I can think of is sweaty smelly squinty dudes who never get jobs and have freeloading friends who sleep on your futon.

    Monday, December 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  16. DBN wrote:

    Ooh, EmmATX, thank you! I’d never heard of that movie. It sounds like something I’d like to see – great cast.

    “Oh, come on! There are some movies in the romantic comedy and/or general romance genre I really like!”

    Ah, okay, Sady, if you’re thinking of the genre in broader terms, then there are definitely some movies to love. I had in mind more the mainstream rom-coms of the past ten years or so, particularly the ones with Freddie Prinze Jr.

    And I am totally with you on “Beauty and the Beast”. It’s one of the few Disney movies I’d show willingly to my hypothetical kids. (I haven’t seen most of the more recent ones, so I can’t offer an opinion on those). But, yes, BatB is freaking great, with a heroine whose favourite thing to do is read, and a villain who is the handsome, respected Manly Man. And even the Beast is good (well it’s a bit problematic with the imprisonment thing, but otherwise), attempting to woo her by giving her a library, not jewels or wealth or praise of her beauty. It showed that not only did he respect her as an intelligent woman, but that he actually paid attention to and cared about who she really was as a person.

    I also tend to like John Hughes movies – although they are lumped in together with the more fare of ‘teen movies’, his tended to be a bit more nuanced when it came to things like class and difference. Except, of course, for the awful “Sixteen Candles” – what was he thinking? But “Pretty In Pink” was awesome, although I hate that they changed the ending because of idiot focus groups.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  17. Rachel wrote:

    I Could Never Be Your Woman!

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

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