Helen the Everyday Stranger has a thoughtful post on gender stereotypes in movies. The two (three?) of you that have been reading me a while may recall that is a subject of some interest to me. My general view is that there are definitely stereotypes and most stereotypes have a counterpart that, being equally flawed, peeves the other side as well. The know-it-all wife suggests that women have to do everything, for instance, is countered by the can’t-do-anything-right husband. I thought that I’d written on this, but I can’t find the post to save my life.

In any case, Helen observed something while watching the Horse Whisperer:

Last night I watched Horse Whisperer on tv, even though the satellite kept kicking out and even though the movie is mediocre at best-while I like Kristin Scott Thomas and I think Scarlett Johansson is the bee’s knees, the movie was one of those sappy tear-jerker types that follows the following pattern:

– Rugged, quiet durable man
– Woman in an unsatisfying relationship, whose attentions are devoted to something else to get through the days
– Unsatisfied Woman meets Rugged Man
– Rugged Man and Unsatisfied Woman hook up
– Unsatisfied Woman feels torn, but ultimately returns to unhappy relationship due to a sense of obligation, leaving Rugged Man to spend the rest of his life mending fences or whatever the fuck Rugged Men do.

This pattern is repeated in most sappy chick films. Bridges of Madison County is another good example. The people decide to continue their lives, lives in which the woman is ultimately responsible for something that means she has to live that life, and the man is a nomad, live-off-the-land kind of guy. I sit there on the couch, drinking a gin and tonic and nursing the beginnings of one hell of a cold, and I think: What a stupid movie. Why can’t the woman be the live-off-the-land, wild exotic creature, for once, instead of the Unsatisfied Woman? Why is it always the man that gets to be the one with the luck of the nomad?

My first thought is that as a woman she would be in a better position to answer that question than I. These films are, after all, are not made with the male ego in mind. On that score I would guess that it’s because independent and self-directed men are in high demand despite a good portion of society attempting to change course on that. A woman is also more likely than a man to pride herself on being supportive. And outside of tastes, for good or for ill women are more likely to find themselves in a supporting position than an emotionally independent one. Helen, as she points out, is an exception to that stereotype.

As it so happens, so am I. If I’d had my druthers, I probably would have spent the rest of my life in the city that I was raised in. Range-roaming? Not so much. I obviously came willingly, but Clancy had to drag me out to new horizons and chance-taking. I find women like Clancy and Helen interesting, if only because I have a habit of seeking out people different from me. Helen is apparently a former military brat and has never really had a home. Clancy had a home and escaped it at the very first opportunity.

Clancy and I have another year or so here and then we live Mormonville for somewhere else for a little while followed by somewhere else. Just thinking about it exhausts me. Interestingly, and sort of lending credence to stereotypes (which are likely at least partly self-perpetualizing) I often found myself out-of-step with most young ladies. It wasn’t that we didn’t see eye-to-eye. We did, but when I looked forward I saw a very dark abyss of isolation and never moving beyond pre-set boundaries. Of never being free and of living a life of servitude for the spouse and the kids. Neither wanting to bust out and therefore just staying in night-after-endless-night.

That feeling alone accounts for why I left Julie after several years. Some years later a similar guy with a similar temperament left her largely for the same reasons. Ironically the prospect of stasis lead to adventuring. Not much, though, as I latched on to the next girl I found and geared to settle down and my successor with her latched on to her predecessor. In some ways, we stuck to our homesteading ways. Or at least I tried to before I met someone bound to end up anywhere-but-where-we-were. Anyhow, myself , my Julie’s ex, his ex-wife-slash-fiance, and my wife are all different ducks.

Which brings me back to popular entertainment. Of the five of us, only Julie really buys in to mainstream romantic movies. And Julie only got that way cause my predecessor with her was a domineering military-wannabee-type. Well, that may not be range-roaming, but he strived to be a stereotypical guy. And I suspect we all look at movies like the Horse Whisperer and ask ourselves “How come all the movies end up this way?”

Category: Theater

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One Response to Imitation of Someone Else’s Life

  1. Becky says:

    I guess I always saw that appeal for many women is that those men are a break in their boring, monotonous pattern. That is appealing, whereas, it may not have had anything to do with the man’s “nomadness” or being a rancher.

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