Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The more I think about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, the angrier I get.

When Observe and Report came out last month, plenty of bloggers were outraged about the date rape scene in particular, and the treatment of Anna Faris's character in general. And I totally understand why a lot of people had problems with the movie, but when I saw it, it didn't really upset me. It's an intentionally ridiculous dark comedy, and the characters are supposed to be awful and absurd. There are definitely some questionable moments, and I didn't love it, but for the most part, I found it funny and wasn't offended.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, on the other hand, infuriated me. It exemplifies everything that I hate about the depiction of gender in comedies. And the fact that the misogyny and homophobia are somewhat subtle makes it all the more insidious and problematic.

At first, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The premise is adequately clever, it's well executed, and there are plenty of funny, albeit cheesy, zingers. I liked the ghosts, especially Emma Stone's character. (Yet another dorky girl, although not so cute this time.) And I didn't have a problem with the portrayal of Connor Mead as a glamorous, successful womanizer at the beginning of the movie.

So here are the aspects of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past that did bother me.

1. Connor is supposedly a heartless Lothario because he's been hurt in the past. Because Jenny, a childhood friend on whom he had a crush, kissed another boy at a middle school dance. That, apparently, is supposed to justify him spending the next twenty-five years treating women like garbage, like disposable, brainless pieces of trash who exist only for his own brief pleasure and amusement. Um, no. Sorry. I mean, fine, be an asshole who treats women like shit, but you don't suddenly become sympathetic just because a girl you liked kissed another boy when you were fourteen.

2. I hated the depiction of the bridesmaids. Apparently the filmmakers thought it would be hilarious to portray three bridesmaids as interchangeable, worthless, vapid, disloyal sluts. I disagree.

3. For some reason, there are several references to homosexuality that come out of nowhere, add nothing to the movie, and are questionable at best and offensive at worst. If there were some justification in the context, that would be one thing, but all these references accomplish is to reinforce dated and restrictive notions of what constitutes acceptable masculinity and femininity, and to paint gay people as being inherently weird and ridiculous. Not cool.

4. There is nothing substantively appealing about Connor Mead that should justify Jenny's interest in him, beyond their shared childhood memories. He's a good photographer. He's physically attractive. Those are his good qualities. Nothing else. Jenny should have stuck with Brad.

5. Connor never actually suffers any real consequences for his actions. People say a few mean things about him, the ghosts scare him a little, and he undergoes some pratfalls. That's about it.

6. Worst of all, in the end, after his experiences with the various ghosts, Connor realizes that he should stop behaving like a womanizing asshole. Because if he doesn't, nobody will like him and he'll wind up miserable and alone. That's the reason. The entire reason. Not because, say, women are human beings and they should be treated as such. Not because treating people cruelly and callously makes you a bad person. No. The big revelation is that Connor has been rejecting the idea of love out of cowardice, but that he will be happier if he opens himself up emotionally. That is the big fucking happy ending that's supposed to make the audience root for him. At no point does it dawn on him that women have brains and emotions and are worthy of consideration and respect. At no point does it occur to the protagonist that it would be better to be a less selfish, self-involved person. He has no reason to believe that he could make Jenny happy. Just that being in a relationship with her might make him happy. And that's supposed to be a satisfying romantic comedy ending.

Fuck that shit.

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