Friday, September 22, 2006

About a Movie

I watched a movie last night. In it, the main character finds out his girlfriend has been out with another man. He'd been trying to call her to tell her a good friend's father had died. He tried the friend she was supposed to be with and she didn't answer the phone either. He headed over to where the family of the man was gathering and saw his girlfriend's friend. This led to questions and suspicians. Finally, he knew. She was with someone else.

Not suspecting that he knew, his girlfriend comes home. She doesn't understand why she is upset. He confronts her and asks her who she was with. She continues the lie, insisting she was with her girlfriend who was having marital trouble. She finally gets that he really knows something and confesses. He goes crazy. He slaps her. She is begging for him to listen to her. It didn't mean anything, she says, please talk to me. She continues to plead. He is yelling at her to get out. Just get out. She refuses. Overwhelmed, he grabs a huge kitchen knife and screams at her once more to get out. She doesn't believe he is going to hurt her. She knows he wouldn't really do that. He chases after her. She gives up and leaves.

The rest of the movie is about her pursuit to regain his trust. She loves him and understands now that she was just scared about the future. Eventually, she is able to get him to see and the movie ends with you knowing they are going to try to pick up the pieces of their lives together. This kind of bothered me. The fact that he slapped her and grabbed a knife was never brought up in the story. I'm not sure that it is a good message to show someone who resorts to violence when upset as a good relationship option.

But first I need to confess something to you. I lied a little about what happened in the movie. The roles were really reversed. It was the guy who messed around and the woman who did the slapping and knife-wielding. And my concern is this: in a society plagued by violence against women, is it wise to show a woman hitting a man and it not being questioned or examined in any way as part of the story?

I don't know why last night this stood out to me. I've seen plenty of movies where a woman slaps a guy across the face, sometimes a drama and sometimes a comedy. I think my mind was already headed down the path of questioning during the previews. In one comedy/romance, coming soon to a theater near you, a woman punches a guy when she confronts him about his infidelity. It is done in a way that people laugh when they see it. So, you see, I was already thinking about whether portraying women hitting men is a good idea when the movie started.

I have been on the periphery of a domestic abuse situation as a friend trying to help, so I may be a little more tuned in to depictions of violence. Sunshine Scribe recently wrote about the problems of violence against women. There has also been a lot being written lately in the blog'verse about feminism. Maybe it was all these things combined. Additionally, I have always been very sensitive to inconsistencies in causes. (I don't want to explain what kind of consistencies I am talking about because I don't want to get off track. And it will take us off track. Believe me.) I am careful to call it inconsistency and not hypocrisy because I don't think of it that way. I see in causes sometimes a lack of thinking all arguments through to their conclusions and a fervent, passionate, well-meaning lack of perspective. I wonder how many women will go see this movie, feminist-minded women, violence-denouncing women, who won't question the depiction of violence against a man. I shouldn't use women only in this example. How many men will do the same? Isn't it understood that women, by far, are the victims of domestic violence by men but that domestic violence against any individual is wrong? Man, woman or child?

Overall, I liked the movie. There was a little too much, um, shall we say, sexual activity for my particular taste. I prefer the good, old-fashioned fade out; however, it did examine relationships at different stages and the difficulties they face. It showed people at a crossroads, facing a now or never precipice, deciding to make a change in their lives. If only they had shown the woman obviously struggling with her desire to strike out but reining it in; or, if they had talked about her response. I don't know.

There are always "if onlys," aren't there?


bubandpie said...

It sounds like there were a lot of things in that movie that I wouldn't necessarily get on board with. (I'm not sure that "I was scared of commitment" really works as a get-out-of-jail card for cheating and lying about it. Not with me, anyway.)

In your original synopsis, I was bemused by the fact that the woman seemed unfrightened by her knife-wielding betrayed boyfriend. Once the gender roles are reversed, the situation changes: it's not just that the guy trusted that she would never hurt him - he also trusted HIMSELF, believed that he could defend himself if necessary. It's a very different thing, really.

That doesn't mean it's right for a woman to hit her husband or boyfriend (and certainly there are many situations where it's unwise and inadvisable to do so), and of course there are situations where the woman may actually be more physically intimidating (bigger, stronger, better trained at fighting perhaps). But if this particular woman was not really a physical threat to this particular man, her action of hitting him and threatening him with a knife has a very different meaning than if their roles were reversed.

Mary-LUE said...

It isn't a perfect scenario, reversing the roles. It just occurred to me that perhaps we should question whether it is inconsistent to say there is never an excuse for a man hitting a woman, even if it is "only" slapping but if a woman slaps or otherwise threatens a man, it might not be such a big deal.

Sheila said...

So what was the movie? (gotta know :) )

I agree with you on this one. We have a new motto at our house - you touch no one when you are mad. (A situation arose between the siblings, hence the saying) It's been effective for keeping their hands off each other, but also for talking about anger and appropriate expressions of anger. This would make an excellent post. I'll stop now.

Inconsistency. I agree with you.

Mary-LUE said...

Last Kiss with Zach Braff. Sorry for the spoiler if anyone else read this! And Sheila, what are we doing at the computer on Sunday a.m.? Shouldn't we be preparing our hearts for worship or something?

Em said...

Interesting point... I have to admit that as soon as you switched the genders the whole dynamic of the scenario changed and my expectations concerning their behaviour altered. Hmmm... food for thought.

V-Grrrl said...

It starts young--in preschool. Ever notice how when our girls are aggressive, doing something like pushing a boy that's teasing them on the playground, we're kinda proud that they "stand up for themselves" and won't take crap off a boy. We see them as confident and poised to be successful. However, a boy that smacks a girl is automatically seen as a JERK, one of THOSE.

Kristen said...

See, one of the biggest problems with contemporary interpretations of feminism has been that the original idea behind "equality" has turned more into "superiority" or "greater power" - and I don't think that was the original purpose. It's not okay for men to hit women. It's not okay for women to hit men. PERIOD.

sunshine scribe said...

I was really interested to read this post. Hurting people with physical force or your words is not okay no matter the gender. The stats tell us that women are more often victims of abuse but like Kristen said it is not okay.

Inconsistency though ... your point is so very valid.