Control Freak Women

Husband went out of town yesterday and I took advantage of the situation to watch The Ugly  Truth.  That Katherine Hiegel movie about men who are pigs? 

Yeah.  It’s about what you expect.  But I started thinking about how many women are control freaks in this kind of movie.  And if you think about the dynamic of these movies, it’s a Taming of the Shrew dynamic – the guy that gets her to let her hair down and not worry quite so much is the one that wins her in the end.  Movies about men rarely involve cute obsessive tendencies and control-freakness.  Movies about men – anything by Judd Apatow, for example, involves a man who wanders around the house naked or doesn’t have a job.  The man is tamed in the opposite way – he gets his act together for the movie. 

Is there something about control freak women that is somehow sexy?  Or is it just a matter of the idea that a successful woman must be incredibly flawed to be able to get anywhere in business?  Or just that control freaks aren’t sexy, so inevitably they will be portreyed as pathetic, loveless fools who must be rescued by a man?  Also, this formula is pretty old, because all of my favorite Doris Day movies start with her character as a control freak with “bedroom problems”, so maybe we need a new script. 

You know who one of my favorite actresses is?  Sandra Bullock.  I think it’s because she doesn’t play the control freak.  Well, I hear she did in the Proposal.  But if you look at the really good Sandra Bullock classics out there, you’ve got While You Were Sleeping, in which she plays a family-less dreamer working at the MTA, and Practical Magic, in which she plays a witch, and is awesome.  28 Days and Miss Congeniality both start off with her as a total mess, in one way or another.  Annoyingly, in Miss Congeniality, she winds up getting fixed up.  In 28 Days, she mostly fixes herself, with a hapless crew of misfits. 

I genuinely like chick flicks, but is it just me, or are they getting worse and worse?  I can identify with Lucy from While You Were Sleeping.  She has dreams, but she’s kind of a mess.  I can’t identify with well, anyone Katherine Heigel has every played.  Those women are extremely organized and ambitious and successful.  (And uh, young, but that’s pretty much a given.) 

So I guess the real question is: how do we make it stop?  How do we convince people to write female characters that actually feel real?  Maybe a woman in her late twenties or early thirties who is a midlevel employee at a large company where she works in a cubicle and feels a little lost finally meets the man of her dreams and his love reminds her that she is really quite awesome and she leaves her sad little company, starts her own business, and takes over the world?  Somewhere along the way, they will of course get into a big fight and split up, and then one of them will make a publicly humiliating romantic gesture that wins the other one over.  You know if you watched it, you wouldn’t hate it quite as much as those other chick flicks. 

Does this movie exist? Please tell me about it. (Thinking about it, Sunshine Cleaning is actually pretty close, and is really good.  Go rent it.)  Also, please point me in the direction of other fun romantic comedies that do not involve main characters who are morons.



Filed under Entertainment, Feminism

5 responses to “Control Freak Women

  1. Jo

    YES to this post. (Sandra Bullock let me down in the Proposal). I can’t fully enjoy chick flicks and it makes me sad for teens who get their ideas about relationships from those movies.

    C also hates them because they play men as horrible babies, just like a lot of the sitcoms. They’re unkind to all genders. Makes me angry.

  2. I can’t stand romantic comedies because of the gender stereotyping. If you ever find one with relatable characters, please let me know.

  3. About Katherine Heigel–she’s staring as Stephanie Plum in “One for the Money” and if you’ve read any of the Stephanie Plum novels, you know that Stephanie is 35-ish and a flipping mess. So, although the movie almost entirely promises to bomb, it’ll be one where she DOESN’T play the control freak (in fact, in the first chapter of the book, her car gets repossessed while she’s driving it).

  4. Erin Schurmann

    While I can’t really think of any rom coms that feature three dimensional characters, I really dig this drama called Being Erica. You can watch it on Hulu. She’s basically a very smart 30 something English Lit graduate who has a lame career, has been fired from her job, been dumped by a guy she’s been dating, and has just hit rock bottom. And it’s about how she essentially pulls herself together. Not realistic b/c she can go back and relive parts of her life to learn lessons and improve her outlook on things. But it’s nice to watch a show where someone who is smart and talented has just gotten screwed over in life a bit.

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