like disney for grown ups

submitted by: sol skyers

It’s that time of the year everyone!! “Out with the old and in with the new“, and what better way to start off 2012 than with a brand new season of “The Bachelor”, where 25 beautiful women come from all across the country just to meet this single hunk.

While introducing the Bachelor to the women who are competing for his affection, they have these brief introductory scenes, where they say a little something about who they are, what they do and what they hope to find on the show. There were a few things that immediately caught my attention and struck me as odd.

Once upon a time shows such as this one, made most if its viewers feel a little green with envy that only the most beautiful women stood a shot at winning the love of their real life prince charming. However nowadays if you look closely and pay any attention at all to the stories of some of these women, you’ll quickly learn that a lot of these women may look the perfect part yet seem to have the same misfortune and bad luck that many of us women have on the other side of the HD television screen.

So far within the first thirty minutes of the show I have heard the story of a woman who had been broken up with via text message, another woman who is a relationship expert blogger, yet cannot seem to find her own true love, who, while telling her story, looked as though she was about to break out into tears. Oh, and of course, the single mother who claims her son is what makes her world go round. I don’t know if it’s just me, but who is watching the little boy who makes your world go round while you are galavanting off trying to find true love?

Now anyone who knows me knows that I myself am a hopeless romantic, but I cannot say that I would abandon my everyday responsibilities just to find ‘true love’. I think it is extremely absurd to showcase these women as desperate enough to come from all of these unique walks of life in hopes of finding Mr. Right. To me it almost appears as though all of these women represent rejection at its finest and here is where they have all been sent to rally and riot for love.

The Bachelor chosen for this season is no virgin to the whole television experience, he was previously on the Bachelorette where he himself was rejected, so all-in-all this season reeks of second chances. A woman just showed up and claims that she knows everything there is to know about wine, (catering obviously to the fact that the bachelor owns a vineyard), so he proceeds to ask her a question regarding a specific type of wine.  She then confesses that she knows nothing about wine at all except that she loves to drink it.

The lengths that people in general will go to make put themselves in the running, to win a spot in someone’s heart is rather ridiculous. This could be why two people get together then divorce or break-up later down the road. That’s the thing with being fake: anyone can do it and many people are fantastic at it. But most can’t do it for the entire ‘happily ever after’.

So the bachelor fast forwards a bit and reveals upcoming scenes, some which include women who clearly have emotional and psychological issues, which I mean many people suffer from mental illness and or some sort of emotional instability, but to have it showcased in front of millions of people just screams desperation for tv ratings. (we love to be validated in our belief that all women are neurotic and unstable).  It definitely adds drama to any reality based television show, and gives most people at home what they want to see.  And what they want to see is what they expect to see.  The socially constructed categories we have all been raised in come to full light on television – there is something audience’s love about being able to believe in the mythical Cinderella and her Prince Charming.  This show is like Disney for grown-ups.

I have carefully inspected the 25 women and I have noticed that not anyone of these women are of color, have any noticeable physical disabilities. There are no women who are plus size, nor are there any women who seem to be over the age of 30. Now I can safely assume that Mr. Ben submitted his special list of what it is he is looking for, but this perpetuates that nasty little cycle that I as a feminist does not like. So what Ben, only Caucasian females under the age of 30 who have silicone breasts are up your alley? Here I thought that true love was about the connection that was made between two people, not just on the superficial exterior. Whatever would Cinderella have done if Prince Charming had a beer belly or a receding hair line? I especially love how all the women are dolled up, looking their absolute best. All of the stops have been pulled out to make this show (or rather, showcase of white, upper class women) a success. Makeup, hair extensions, false lashes, designer dresses, perfect bodies…what happens if it rains, or when he wakes up next to you in the morning and – omigoodness – sees the real you?

So, I lastly see a woman who seemed the most ‘normal’ on the show who quit her job of five years to come onto the show…I don’t know what to say about this.  Television portrays women as so desperate and pathetic that we are willing to do anything at all just for someone else. And that their careers and old lifestyles are disposable. Which sort of makes them … a little disposable.  

I am sorry, but what are we teaching our daughters and our sons? That it’s okay not to pursue professional careers because the man of their dreams will foot the bill and sweep them off of their feet? Are we teaching our sons that it’s okay to be sought out by gold digging women as long as she has a great set of breasts?  That only skinny, white women are sexually attractive? That women and or men who may be in a wheelchair or may have a prostetic limb are undeserving of love? We unfortunately live in a world where we have to set positive and realistic examples for our upcoming generations, but it is something that must be done!

It is a new year and we are only two months in, and I’ll be damned if I am going to buy into this whole sexist, and racist, and patriarchal show. It’s getting a little old.  Wake me when Hollywood decides to let a gay or lesbian search for true love, and among those 25 suitors let there be people of all shapeus, sizes and colors.

Peace, Love & Unity

~Sol Skyers~

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.