To give this post some context, I first have to make a confession:
I watched a Romantic Comedy, willingly, by myself. . .
Now that I'm done being embarrassed,
I've been noticing a trend of female characters that I can actually identify with in these kinds of movies lately, or at least the previews for them, as I'm usually more into blood-guts-explosions-zombies kinds of movies, or depressing/foreign/arty/indie flicks. At any rate, in the course of RomComs of late there seems to be a trend in the presentation of strong, busy, unemotional, successful characters for women.* At first I think yay! Smart women in movies! Characters with which I can identify! The thing that these women need to learn over the course of the two-hours of the film is that they need to get in touch with their feelings/express them, not try so hard, and that its okay not to be perfect all the time. These are things that it seems I am having to learn of late. On the surface, this made me feel a little better in this hey I'm not a total freak kind of way. Upon closer examination though, it makes me kind of angry.
Women that are outside of their prescribed gender roles by being all of the above mentioned things/possessing said qualities need to learn to be softer, kinder, more emotive, less pushy, etc. in order to fall in love and live happily ever after. THEY NEED TO RETURN to the cultural script of who and how they're supposed to be in order to be lovable and gain happiness.
The message is basically that you can't have it all. For a woman, their is success and fortune OR there is home and hearth and the leading man.** A woman need to give up her success in some measure in order to be romantically fulfilled. It isn't quite The Stepford Wives drastic of CEO to homemaker, but it does seem always to involve some professional compromise, or stepping down. Either as a condition of their personal happiness or a consequence thereof. If they don't have to make the choice between love and career, the choice is made for them, because somehow by being in love, and all the things implied thereby, they become less able to be the successful powerhouses that they were and find themselves crying in the board room and loosing their job/the big client/case/etc.
What worries me the most about this is my fear that it might be true. I've spent the better part of my life working hard and being busy, throwing myself into everything possible and giving it all my all. I've been avoiding feeling by doing. This had to stop. I was headed straight for destruction in a heart-attach at 35 kind of way. I was bottling everything up, and it WAS going to come out, one way or another. I definitely feel as though I was forced into dealing with things more than that I chose to do so in a lot of ways, although it seems that I knowingly put myself in the position that would force me to do so - my course of study, my extra-curriculars, contemplative practice, etc. I made the choice to attend a Graduate program that I had been forewarned, 'tears you apart completely and then rebuilds you piece by piece'. I'm in serious doubt some days as to whether or not the re-building process has begun and simply feel dismantled. Now that I am allowing myself to feel things and express them, I'm not as efficient, less prolific, less of all of the things that I was and did in order to avoid the things that I'm not feeling. I feel as though I'm less intelligent. Is it possible that this is a case-by-case basis? If I had not grown up in a world of playing through the pain, feeling the burn, sucking it up and getting on with it, could I potentially have learned to be both expressive and successful at the same time? Or could I even learn to do so from here?
Is the criticism and the message of these movies actually about our culture as a whole, and not just a commentary on women being in their rightful place?
*No Reservations, Bride Wars, The Holiday, The Women, In Her Shoes, The Proposal
**Clearly I'm operating in a heterosexist system of the popular culture and this genre in particular right now.