I should have known better.
When I boiled down my movie-reviewing options to “The Proposal” and “Year One” for the weekend, I should’ve gone to see “Year One.” Sure, it looks like one of Jack Black’s bad movies (his movies are, in my experience, either freaking awesome or freaking horrible. There is no middle ground.) but romantic comedies almost invariably grab my feminist chain and yank it, hard.
“The Proposal” was no exception.
Sure, it starts out tweaking convention (female lead is a high-powered exec, male lead is her dutiful, talented, devoted secretary) but it ends in the classic “man = in charge, woman = femme and perky” setup. When the two of them kiss near the end, an onlooker exhorts the male lead to “show her who’s boss!” and in the final sequence, her hair is loose and wavy rather than pulled up severely like in the rest of the film, and she’s giggly and sweet instead of straightforward and businesslike as she was in the beginning.
Now, taken on its own, this isn’t a problem. Some women are happier being femmed up. Some guys are happier being in charge. Some relationships where the guy is more assertive than the gal work. Not a problem.
But taken in the larger context of the standard romantic comedy, this bugs the shit out of me. Where are the romantic comedies featuring women like me? I’m talking strong women who don’t become femme-d out giggle machines once we’ve found a guy. Women who care about their careers even after they get married. Women who don’t want kids, who’d rather be single than in a relationship that didn’t work for them, who expect to have an egalitarian relationship with their husband?
Yes, yes, I was an English Major. I know that romantic comedies are about reinforcing the societal order (which is why all of Shakespeare’s comedies end with at least one marriage). I know. But that’s what pisses me off! The societal order is messed up on this front! Relationships don’t have to be “macho dude in charge of sweet femme wife.” I want romantic comedies where the couple wind up in an egalitarian relationship! I don’t mind if there are ALSO romantic comedies with macho dudes and sweet femme gals. But I’d like some freakin’ diversity! Some options. I’d like to see a romantic comedy where the final relationship actually resembles my own, and not the one everyone seems to think I ought to have.
Is that too much to ask?
If you know of a Hollywood romantic comedy in which the heterosexual couple wind up in an egalitarian, non-stereotypical relationship at the end, PLEASE let me know in the comments. It will be on the top of my Netflix queue so fast your head will spin.