I’m always of two minds when it comes to writing about things I don’t like. One the one hand I feel it can be useful to discuss why some things–both winners and turkeys– do or don’t appeal to you. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to create anything (hello four scripts that I’ve started and abandoned), so I hate the idea of spewing all over someone’s creative endeavor. But I just rewatched He’s Just Not That Into You (I know, I know), and it made me kind of angsty and itchy and irritable all over again. So I went back to something I had written on it years ago and I’m reposting here.
Disclaimers first! I love romantic comedies. I don’t think we women are fools for looking forward to the next Kate Hudson romp. I’m not allergic to stories about wealthy-looking people with nice teeth searching for love in a semi-fetching way that involves a luxury apartment, drinks after work, and a third act misunderstanding that threatens the stability of the entire relationship until our protagonist realizes his or her foibles, the hijinks subdue, love can roam free, happiness for everyone (I don’t care what anyone says– Just Go For It with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston was funny, they had chemistry, and it gave me hope for the longevity of the genre). But movies like He’s Just Not That Into You help me understand why some people say women are stupid.
He’s Just Not That Into You is about a loosely connected group of women who need to realize that their men (who vary from first dates to long-term boyfriends to husbands) exhibit behavior that can only suggest one thing–right, you guessed it, he’s just not that into them. There is Gigi who laps after every guy who buys her a vodka tonic and who develops an implausible relationship with Lothario Alex who is also best friends with Conor who lusts after Anna who is sleeping with married man Ben who is ambivalent about his wife Janine who is best friends with Beth who can’t get her boyfriend of seven years, Neil, to agree to marry her.
I can get on board with the premise. Let’s find a way to encourage women to stop having cranky conversations with themselves and their friends about guys who aren’t responsive (and I don’t sit in judgement– I’ve spent many a tequila soggy night asking “But why, why, whyyyyy won’t he love me?”). I want to believe that this movie (and the book upon which it was based) meant to give women the freedom to trust themselves and know that the sun doesn’t rise and set with the phone call they aren’t getting from the unavailable man they’ve fallen for. I want to believe those things, but they didn’t seem to hold up in the movie. This movie should have been titled He IS Just That Into You– after watching these women get crapped on for two hours, somehow most of the scenarios result in a happy ending. It takes everything it sets up in the first hour (don’t call him if he’s not calling you; be suspicious if he stops having sex with you; if he’s married, chances are he’s just with you to get some tail; if he doesn’t marry you now, he never will) knocks it down and asks us to ignore it all. Ladies, he is just that into you– you just have to stick around and wait until he realizes it.
We don’t even get the Sex and the City camaraderie. We never see the women providing each other with real support. Sex and the City– an episode of which inspired this movie- did a much better job of showing the ways in which platonic love was real, necessary, and just as crucial as any sort of romantic partnership. One way that He’s Just Not That Into You did hearken back to Sex and the City was with its suggestion that romantic love is only for white, straight people with bouncy hair. I won’t say too much about the gay characters in the movie (sex-crazed men used only to offer advice to the straights in distress) or the people of color (the two black finger-snappin’ sistahs extolling the virtues of ribs and ice cream as a way to overcome their sadness, or the unspecified African women sitting around a fire explaining that the reason he didn’t call was because he was eaten by a lion). But I will say it probably would have been less offensive if those “characters” had been left out.
I don’t blame He’s Just Not That Into You for not telling the truth. Romantic comedies aren’t here to elucidate all that doesn’t make sense in the world, but this could have been better. It could have held onto its main idea and still hewed to the romantic comedy statistical mean (yes, there’s trouble in paradise, but love will find a way). It could have been a movie about love that actually had a heart.