The misandry of Love Actually and Christmas television.

Posted: December 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Ah Christmas. Despite the title of this blog I genuinely love Christmas. I don’t know why because it’s something I should hate. I hate the majority of people at the best of times, I hate crowds, I hate queuing (despite being English), I hate rudeness, I hate thinking of what I’d like as a present, I hate not being able to buy anything for a month in case someone else buys it for Christmas, I hate inconsiderate shits who think they’re the only ones doing the shopping, etc, etc Christmas involves all of those points, people become Grade-A morons as soon as we reach mid-November, I should despise Christmas with everything I have.

But I don’t, I love it. I don’t think it’s because of other people, I think it’s purely because of the way it makes me feel. Despite hating people at times I do like the way Christmas tends to make people a bit cheerier, if only a little. I don’t care much for presents, I’m an adult now if there’s something I want I generally buy it for myself. I suppose that’s not getting in to the Christmas spirit but it does annoy me a little.

So why the title of this blog? Well, because the website Jezebel, that high-brow teller of insightful and thought-provoking news stories (yeah, right!) posted this article a couple of days ago:

http://jezebel.com/i-rewatched-love-actually-and-am-here-to-ruin-it-for-al-1485136388

Now, there a couple of reasons why I want to write this blog, and both are fairly simple:

  1. This piece perfectly highlights how feminism couldn’t give a flying fuck about men.
  2. This piece perfectly highlights just how myopic feminism really is.

For the record, I love Love Actually, and love watching it when it comes on at Christmas, but I completely agree it is not without its flaws. Having said that, while the Jezebel piece, written by Lindy West, does make some valid criticisms of the film it comes from a perspective that is entirely female-centric. Not that that’s a problem in and of itself, I’ve no qualms with anyone choosing a perspective with which to watch and analyse a film, it’s just the fact it leaves out an entire demographic that could also have its own article.

You see, one of feminism’s great claims is that ‘it’s for men, too’. If that’s the case, why has West only focused on the female characters here? When it comes to analysis of Love Actually why has West decided that only the female characters are worth exploring? Simple, because feminism doesn’t give a fuck about men’s issues and probably never will. If they can’t find a way of making men’s problems a direct result of misogyny then they really aren’t interested.

So, what’s the point of this blog? Well, seeing as it’s Boxing Day here in the UK and my Christmas cheer will now begin to fade, I wanted to take a look at how men are treated at Christmas time, particularly in films. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy these films or that I’ll suddenly start hating Christmas, just trying to highlight the fact that, actually, stereotyped male characters permeate films too.

I’m not going to touch too much on the Love Actually article itself, there are a few comments that I’ll mention, but I would like to look at the male characters in that film and explore how, similarly, you could say they are equally one dimensional and sexist. Why? To show that, with limited thought, you can say anything is sexist. Or racist for that matter.

So, I’ll get the comments from the article I want to address out of the way quickly. Number 1:

None of the women in this movie fucking talk. All of the men in this movie “win” a woman at the end. This goddamn movie.”

All the men ‘win’ a woman? So that’s how feminists, or at least this one feminists, sees relationships, as men ‘winning’ women? She’s not talking about one or two relationships, she’s talking about all the men in this movie. Which means that every single last goddamn man in this movie is some kind of oppressing piece of shit who has no desire other than to ‘win’ a prize through their supposed entitlement complex. How fucked is that line of thinking? Not only is it insulting to the male characters in this film, it’s also insulting to the female characters. It’s also insulting to real world men and women as this kind of lazy, idiotic way of thinking is not limited to film when it comes to feminist theory.

Second one:

“HE’S TALKING ABOUT HIS PENIS, YOU GUYS. It might be a small penis, but it wrote Harry Potter.”

This is referencing Hugh Grant’s speech as Prime Minister when he basically tears the US President a new one. So, outdated stereotypes of women, lack of speaking female characters, misogynistic overtones are not ok but body shaming men is totally fine? I get that this article is supposed to be a light-hearted look-at-how-misognystic-this-movie-is-but-it’s-ok-because-it’s-still-quite-good-so-don’t-take-this-too-seriously type thing, but still, way to ruin your own argument by being a HUGE MASSIVE GODDAMN HYPOCRITE. Yeah, those massive sections of capitals are annoying to me, too!

Anyway, enough energy spent on that article, let’s flip it round and analyse the male characters, because that’s totally allowed right? I mean, if feminism is for men too then I should be able to do this kind of thing and feminists should be totally ok with it, right? Let’s see how that pans out.

I haven’t watched Love Actually for quite a while, but I’m pretty familiar with it to know most of the male characters. Bear in mind I might spell some names wrong. So, sexism towards men:

Kris Marshall – stereotyped man-who-only-thinks-about-sex and has to go to a different country because he’s such a creep in his own country. Thinks his penis is where his self-worth lies and actively seeks out the approval of women for his life to have any meaning. One dimensional.

Colin Firth – Middle aged man who is humiliated by his girlfriend with, presumably, a younger man and has to disappear to get over her. Immediately falls in love with someone else and becomes smitten with her despite it being presented, at least in the beginning, as being somewhat creepy. Goes doolally whenever she’s around. One dimensional.

The two black men – YEA THAT’S THE POINT! The only two black male characters are relegated to side roles and have no major input into the story at all. THAT’S SO RACIST AMIRITE YES!! That goes for the one black woman, she’s relegated to side character that could have been played by anyone. For the record the actors are called Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adbul Salis and Nina Sosanya.

Liam Neeson – Actually a decent character except for that one scene when he meets a new woman and then suddenly goes all week at the knees and like a lovesick puppy because men are so unable to behave like regular human beings in the presence of beautiful women. Actually, that goes for all the male characters, they are all unable to perform basic, normal, socially accepted roles when women are involved. One dimensional.

Hugh Grant – attacks the President of the United States simply because he wants to impress a woman. The entire reason for him doing what he does is because of a woman. Has her ‘redistributed’ (not fired) when he is unable to function with her around. One dimensional.

Martin Freeman – oh would you look at that, a socially awkward man who has trouble making small talk with an attractive woman until the very end. One dimensional.

Alan Rickman – loving family man married to gorgeous wife with, seemingly, perfect job, easily manipulated by attractive, young secretary to the point that he effectively ruins his marriage. Stereotyped portrayal of middle aged man as bumbling idiot who, again, behaves like a buffoon when in the company of an attractive woman. One Dimensional.

Andrew Lincoln – so smitten with unrequited love that he resorts to filming only the woman he loves on her wedding day. Cannot function when she’s around, literally contributes nothing else to the film. One dimensional

Ok, I’ve officially listed all the male characters I can remember. The point is simple: yes, men may have more spoken lines in this film, yes, men probably make more decisions in this film, yes, there are numerous female stereotypes in this film but if you think there is only one way of looking at a film you are dead wrong.

In Love Actually every single goddamn male character is unable to function when there’s a woman around. Their lives are dictated by their desire for female approval and acknowledgement. And it’s not just one regular, everyday Joe either, it’s every goddamn man in the film. When the Prime Fucking Minister of Great Goddamn Britain has to ‘redistribute’ an employee because he’s so fucking doolally every time she’s around he can’t do his job then what does that say about men? Yeah, you can approach it from the other side and say it’s misogynistic because his entitlement complex for what he can’t have is distracting him from doing his job, but you can also say it’s misandric because a man is completely unable to function properly when there’s a woman around.

Let’s forget this is a romantic comedy for one minute. Every single man, every goddamn last one of them, is absolutely rendered incapable of functioning like a simple human being whenever a woman enters their life. Even Liam goddamn-Bryan-Mills-from-Taken Neeson is reduced to nothing but a bumbling wreck when he’s introduced to a woman he likes. What is that saying about men as people? Yes, they can do whatever they want to do, whether that be a writer of the Prime Minister of a country, but it also tells them that their lives are incomplete without a woman, that being unable to go about your daily life is just a natural part of being a man. If that’s not one dimensional I don’t know what is.

It’s this kind of focus that I apply the old red/blue metaphor to. Sites like Jezebel only ever seem to focus on women. That’s not a bad thing, analysing literature and looking at any possible deeper meanings is why I’m an English teacher. But that only works when you’re allowed to look at an entire piece of literature. Whether that’s a book, a game, a film or a TV programme, if you’re only ever told about one demographic then you’ll only ever see the problems one demographic faces. Constantly being told how this film, or that film, or this TV programme reinforces sexist trait about women, without being allowed to have the same focus on men, does nothing but reinforce the idea that only women get stereotyped in films.

Think about Love Actually, which characters are ultimately the ones making the moves at the end? The males. How about that for a reinforcing of sexist stereotypes. Colin Firth learns a new language and races off to a different country to make a public declaration of love, Hugh Grant races off to find Martine McCutcheon and made a grand gesture, Martin Freeman, although rather awkwardly, is the one doing most of the work (I think she helps him in the end by kissing him), Kris Marshall goes another country in his quest for validation, Andrew Lincoln has to make a grand gesture to Keira Knightley and Alan Rickman is the one who purchases an expensive piece of jewelry and then has to make a groveling apology to his wife when he’s been caught out,

I’m not saying these films are unenjoyable, I’m just saying that if you watch a film from the perspective of ‘let’s see how misogynistic this piece of literature is’ then you are going to see misogyny simply because that’s what you are looking for. The red/blue metaphor is exactly that. Imagine a bookcase full of red and blue items. Metaphorically, red items are examples of misogyny, blue items are examples of misandry. I give you one minute and ask you to count the number of Red items. When that minute is up I ask you to name the number of Blue items. You can’t, because you haven’t been looking for blue items, you’ve been looking for red items.

That’s how articles like this Jezebel one work, because you’re constantly being told about the red items you remain completely unaware of the existence of the blue items, despite the fact that they exist and, sometimes, exist in equal numbers to the red items.

But what’s that got to do with Christmas films? Well, the same outdated stereotypes of men are played over and over again in Christmas films. There’s a film channel here in the UK called Movies 24. As soon as November 1st hits the name changes to Christmas 24 and it shows nothing but Christmas films until early January. I’ve watched a lot of Christmas films and the same stereotyped male characters appear with alarming regularity.

Here are some examples of main characters:

The successful but cold and unemotional businessman who goes back to his home town and falls in love with a local woman, giving up his success to move back and be with her.

The single father who is still grieving over his wife, unable to open himself up to new love, despite his child wanting that to happen.

The playboy who is convinced to change his ways by the love of a beautiful woman.

The slacker whose life is going nowhere but eventually falls in love with a woman and finally settles down.

And some supporting characters:

The successful but lacking-in-empathy businessman who does everything he can to provide for his girlfriend, who then leaves him for another man (the main character) who is more attentive and romantic.

The best friend who seemingly has it all worked out, except he can’t hold on to a woman because he’s so emotionally inept at being a good boyfriend.

The father who constantly lets down the main character (usually a woman) and come across as a complete douche. Sometimes he gets to redeem himself, but not always.

The ex-husband/boyfriend who has abandoned the kids and ends up doing nothing but making trouble for his ex. (interestingly, there are numerous films that contain single fathers with dead wives; there are no films that contain single fathers whose wives abandoned them, therefore reinforcing the sexist stereotype that only dads can be deadbeats.)

And that’s just a few. I’m well aware that women are also given stereotyped roles in these films, but that’s exactly the point. Writers like Lindy West give us all we need to know about how misogynistic major blockbusters like Love actually are, but doesn’t seem to give a shit about how the male characters, while seemingly well developed, are nothing but walking, one-dimensional stereotypes.

But those are just cheap, low-grade Christmas films, right? Well, let’s take a look at Doctor Who, one of the most popular TV programmes on BBC television. The Christmas special aired yesterday and I specifically looked for misandry. I wasn’t surprised, unfortunately (spoilers):

  1. Towards the beginning a female character is in an infirmary trying not to think about whatever is in the infirmary with her. She is being monitored by three other characters; two women and a man. She makes a comment about the man having put his hand on her leg earlier in the day. He turns to the other women and says something to the effect of “that was supposed to be comforting.” The elder of the two women throws him a look of scorn and replies “for who?” Implication that any contact made by a man against a woman is for some sort of creepy, perverted sexual gratification? Check.
  2. In a story with 6 main characters (I’m not counting Santa and his two helpers as a main characters), 2 being male and 4 being female, the only character to die is a man, the aforementioned pervy-leg-toucher. So, in a film with 3 female characters who could plausibly be killed off, they kill off the only male. Men shown to be disposable as well as creepy perverts? Check.
  3. In order to try and get Clara to wake up from an alien-induced sleep, The Doctor says stuff about her dead boyfriend. Her response? She slaps him across the face. Violence towards a man because he’s said something you don’t like? Check.

Oh, by the way, that last one also reinforces the stereotype that women are unable to control their emotions.

I could go on and on about the way men are treated when it comes to films and television but I won’t. All I’m trying to do is highlight the fact that men are not perfect in films and television. In fact, sometimes it’s the opposite, sometimes there are very, very few redeemable qualities in male characters in TV shows and films. The point is, we are not told about these stereotyped portrayals, we are not allowed to focus on these stereotyped portrayals for one simple reason – it removes the victim focus from women. That’s pretty sad.

Yes, women are stereotyped in films and television and, yes, these stereotyped roles probably play a part in the way some women go about their lives, but the positives for them is that things are changing, awareness is being made of these one dimensional portrayals and film makers are trying to change things. When it comes to stereotyped portrayals of men, particularly in TV programmes and lower budget films, there is nothing being done. These insipid, unfair, unrealistic, demonizing portrayals of men are not being changed, are not being challenged. If feminists claim that these types of stereotypes are damaging to real life women then why are they not open minded enough to accept that that same logic absolutely applies to men?

I know that a feminist reading this will probably just dismiss this as ‘man tears’ or some other pathetic bullshit justification but if West can find objection to a Hollywood love story where women are ‘won’ by men, then I can sure as hell find objection to the fact that men are presented as incomplete without a woman in their life.

Stereotypes affect everyone and should be explored accordingly. If feminists really gave a shit about men they would know that. But they don’t, no matter how much the claim otherwise, they don’t give a shit about men and probably never will.

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