Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Apparently We Can't Think For Ourselves...

I watched Bride Wars just before the weekend, and I was struck by just how simple-minded romantic comedy writers think their audiences must be. I can overlook the redundant montages, the gimmicky pranks and pratfalls, and the cliched "guy next door" who pines for the leading lady. However, why is it that the writers of big Hollywood formula movies always feel they have to "justify" said leading lady deciding to dump her current beau for said pining guy? And they always, always do it by having her current beau turn out to be a giant d-bag!

In Bride Wars, that title went to poor preppy Chris Pratt, who started out so sweet and cute with his fortune cookie proposal. You really rooted for him and Anne Hathaway because here was a young guy who didn't do something cheesy or over the top but instead tailored the moment quite specifically to his girlfriend. It showed he really thought about it; it showed he really thinks about her. But all the while, you have Bryan Greenberg secretly in love with Hathaway, and considering only one of the two dueling brides could actually go through with having her wedding on June 6 (the date both were booked at the Plaza), it was clear from the get-go that person would not be Hathaway.

Pratt, therefore, had to turn into a controlling, machismo ape of a boyfriend in order for the audience to "understand" Hathaway breaking off their engagement. In this movie, and this particular situation, it almost appeared to come out of nowhere-- how quickly he turned. Usually, though, the writers drill it home so strongly and so early that it becomes almost repetitive, and it leads audiences to wonder just what the leading lady ever saw in them. Even in the kids' holiday movie Eloise at Christmastime, it wasn't enough that the character of Brooks be the wrong guy for Rachel Peabody, the daughter of the hotel (ironically again the Plaza) magnate who was secretly in love with a young singing waiter. No, he also had to be a downright crook with feds on his tail: he had stolen a bunch of money to make it look like he had his own, and once he and Rachel married, he was planning to just live off hers until there was none left. Perhaps that is an extreme example, but you get the idea...

The writers think they're doing their audience a favor by not forcing them to think or consider a perhaps moral gray area. But that is not indicative of real life. When you fall for two different guys at the same time, as I have on quite a few occasions, you only have your gut to tell you which one to pursue or which one is "right" for you. The first time I ever faced such a quandary was when I was in the sixth grade. There was one guy who lived down the block from me and who had gone to my elementary school (and yes I can hear myself and how that sounds) who I thought was just so cute, and then there was this new guy I met when I switched to a junior high an extra mile away, for the first time intermingling with a new set of kids. They were both dirty blond, brown-eyed, and dimpled. The guy from down the block never seemed to take notice of me, even though I purposely roller-bladed up and down the block when I knew he was out skateboarding. The new guy, on the other hand, always sat just a row away on the bus, and I often caught him staring at me as I laughed and joked with my girl friends. I had a feeling I had a better shot with him, but a little part of me kept holding out for the other one. And with no one to point out either of their flaws, I was left to my own devices, and afraid my instincts would be the wrong ones (because let's face it, even these more mature women I saw in chick flicks made the wrong choice for awhile before finally "coming to their senses"), I found that quite unsettling.

Having stacks upon stacks of reel world "references" where someone always hands you the "right" guy and the "right" answer does not adequately prepare you for what you have to face in the real world. Just another arena in which I was ill-equipped once I finally got there for myself.

The writers also think they are doing themselves a favor by writing a guy who deserves to be cut loose so their female lead won't be called "a bitch," but in reality (in my opinion anyway), it makes the women far less likable, let alone relatable, that they've supposedly been with this d-bag for so long and only now do they see the light. I have no patience for that kind of weakness; if you don't know or respect yourself enough to know when a person is bad for you, you have much bigger problems on your hands than when/where to get married!

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