heteronormative hollywood

The Change-Up starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds is a body-swap comedy about a family man, Dave Lockwood (Bateman) and a single man-child, Mitch Planko (Reynolds) who swap bodies and experience each other’s lives. Other than the obvious Freaky Friday rip-off, the movie poster alone should show you that this movie is going to be bad. Instead of giving you readers a long, and boring review of the movie as whole, I am going to present a character analysis to point out the obvious offensive material.

We start off with Dave Lockwood, a hard-working father of three who loves his job and his family but wishes he spent more time partying and sleeping with women. You can tell that his life obviously sucks because he has to live in a beautiful house in the suburbs and deal with his wife Jamie (played by Leslie Mann) and crying babies. Poor Dave, how can a man in his 40’s live a life like this! Dave is portrayed as a demasculinized man because he actually concentrates on his career and family rather than the “masculine” act of having no emotional attachments to someone, and sleeping with different women.

This leads us to Mitch Planko. Now Mitch is a struggling actor who lives on his own, has a nice sports car, and is able to sleep with as much women and smoke as much weed as he can. Why? Because he is a single man who is good looking and can do what ever the hell he wants. In other words, he is “living the dream”. Mitch constantly swears and uses offensive and vulgar language to bring on the LOL’s. For example when Dave asks Mitch what his latest girlfriend’s last name was, he comes up with this jtem of an answer, “I don’t know. Tatiana Calls-Me-Up-at-Three-O’Clock-in-the-Morning-and-Wants-to-Fuck-stein. Who gives a shit!” Isn’t that just knee-slapping comedy right there? I mean seriously, who gives a shit about the woman you have been seeing for weeks and you’re having an intimate relationship with. Who gives a shit.

These two characters shows that to be “masculine”, one has to live a single man’s life and sleep with a lot of women and try to avoid having a life-long partner and “stinky” children. In this movie (and most Hollywood movies – let’s be honest here) Dave is a “loser” and Mitch is the “winner”. The idea of the masculine man that this film demonstrations is problematic because it tells men (heterosexual men to be exact) that the only way to be a “real man” is to not have any life long commitments to anyone and thus allowing them to sleep around and use women as they please because that’s what “real men do”. The more women you sleep with, the more of a man you are. Dave is not “masculine” or de-masculinized because he only got 1 woman and is now stuck with her forever, along with three screaming children.

Now let’s move away from the male characters of The Change-Up and let’s have a look at all the female characters that appears in movie. I am warning you now; they are all 2-dimentional characters with no depth. Before even viewing this film, I already knew that it would fail the Bechdel Test*

The first woman that is present is Dave’s wife Jamie. She is the mother of Dave’s children and claim’s that she has a job but the only time you see her is at home with the children. To add to the domestic stereotype of women, she cries hysterically and becomes angry with Dave (well technically Mitch since Mitch is in Dave’s body) for not helping out with the children. That’s about it. That’s all I could say about the woman you would think would have a larger role.

The reason that I believe that there is no character development of Jamie is because she is just a part of Dave’s successful life. She is a prize that he gets for having a well paying job. This is very conventional of films like this. We see a man that is studying hard, concentrating on his career, finds a well paying job, makes his wealth, and then eventually finding an attractive wife in order to complete the successful lifestyle.  If he doesn’t have the wife yet, his job is to get one (and a very particular type of woman) to be deemed a success. Jamie is just there to show filmgoers how successful Dave really is, and so there is no need for her to develop throughout the film. Unfortunately women like Jamie are used a lot in Hollywood films.

The next woman is Dave’s assistant Sabrina (played by Olivia Wilde).  Of course, Sabrina is the sexy assistant that Dave has had a crush on for a long time but can’t do anything about it because he is married (bummer!). When Dave and Mitch switch bodies, Dave finally has a chance to date Sabrina. Sabrina obviously falls for Dave’s charms and they start seeing each other. When it was finally time for Dave (in Mitch’s body) to sleep with Sabrina, he realizes that it was wrong and run’s home to his wife. Sabrina ultimately ends up with the real Mitch even though she fell for the charms of Dave and was un-impressed with Mitch when he was in Dave’s body. But hey, Mitch needed to settle down with someone so I guess it should be her.

Again, we see the woman as an object, a mere prize to be won. Mitch ends up with Sabrina after he successfully made the big business deal with the other company (while he was in Dave’s body) and realizes that working hard really does pay off.  Following along with our heteronormative narrative, paying off comes in the form of scoring a sexy woman.

The very minor female characters are Mona the Porn Star and the infamous Tatiana that we don’t need to know her last name. Mona the Porn Star is only there to be an exploited sexual object that Dave has to sleep with for the soft-core porno that Mitch was involved with before the body swap. She is seen as very unattractive because she has extreme plastic surgery on her face (Joan Rivers-esque). They do a close up on her fake breasts to bring on the comedy.  Tatiana is Mitch’s current girlfriend who we later find out that she is pregnant. Dave (in Mitch’s body) can’t sleep with Tatiana not because he is still married, but because Tatiana is pregnant. Because you know, pregnant women are extremely unattractive. He calls Mitch a “freak” for sleeping with her all this time. He ultimately rejects her and she leaves.   The minor female characters are merely used as punch lines for sexist comedy, which shows how our society treats women who differ from the norm.

All the women in the film were objectified and were sexualized in order to make the audience laugh or to please the male gaze. In one scene Jamie is completely naked and is walking in slow motion in order for the audience to get a good look at her naked body. When Sabrina and Dave (in Mitch’s body) were about to have sex, she is sitting on him topless while he is fully clothed. In another scene Sabrina and Dave get a tattoo on their date and Sabrina gets a tattoo on her inner thigh – requiring her to open her legs, with no pants on, for the male tattoo artist. Being a pornstar, Mona’s body is used as comedy because of the plastic surgery that she has done. She is deemed unattractive and so they use her looks to make the audience laugh. Tatiana, the pregnant girlfriend, is also naked and even though she is a beautiful woman, she is used for laughs because she is pregnant. This is problematic because it gives the audience a distorted view of the female body and it makes the audience see women as an object to laugh at or an object to please the male gaze rather than respecting and appreciating the woman and her body.

Without looking at the offensive material I would give this movie a 1 out of 5 stars. Overall it wasn’t really funny (people are still using toilet humor to get cheap laughs?) The only reason I was able to watch the whole thing is because Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are nice to look at.

Side note: If you are an Arrested Development fan like myself, I would recommend you not watch this film because it will effect how you feel about Jason Bateman/Michael Bluth. If you are a Ryan Reynolds fan I suggest you skip this one too because it’s boring as hell.

*The Bechdel Test is a film test that follows these three criteria’s: 1. It has to have at least two women in it 2. Who talk to each other 3. About something besides a man. For more information visit http://bechdeltest.com

editor’s note: abby is a second year student from the University of Windsor.  this is her first time writing for a blog and is excited to continue to writing movie reviews from her feminist perspective in the future.  


1 thought on “heteronormative hollywood

  1. I loved this, Abby!
    Nothing like a quality, feminist movie review :).

    PS: The part about the Bechdel Test was so interesting and true!

    Great work :)!

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