Beyond confirming that I really, really don’t like Ricky Gervais, and ignoring the filmmakers’ evident confusion about the difference between “not telling a lie” and “saying whatever the hell comes into your head”, glossing over the breathtaking unoriginality of the last-minute-objection-at-the-wedding climax, and even going so far as to let them off the hook altogether for the cheap-sounding musical score, the film mainly irked me for another all-too-familiar reason, suggested in the title of this piece.
Can anyone out there remember any film ever made in which the storyline focuses on a physically unattractive female winning over the gorgeous alpha-male, purely by means of her wit and self-deprecating charm?
I didn’t think so.
(And before you say “Strictly Ballroom”, let’s not forget that the clumsy and pockmarked female love interest is transformed by that film’s end into, if not exactly the equivalent of beautiful dancer Paul Mercurio, at least a reasonably attractive young woman who no longer bumps into things. She’s definitely not fat and her dress sense improves considerably whilst she also manages to lose the bottle-bottom specs, get her hair sorted, and cure herself of acne.)
Yet how many Hollywood films feature EXACTLY this dynamic, but of course going the other way around? About ten a minute.
What really makes me sick about this particular narrative arc is that whereas the beautiful females are meant to be able to look beneath the surface and see the loveable dude beneath the double-chin and sagging gut, the loveable dude’s quest to win over the beautiful woman is never questioned. So who exactly is the superficial one?
There was a funny moment, one of the only ones, in “The Invention of Lying” in which hapless Ricky professes his feelings for genetically perfect Jennifer Garner; telling her that she is the sweetest, most caring person he’s ever known. This is apparently based on the fact that while she’s reluctantly enduring a dinner date with him, his Mum starts dying and gorgeous Jen goes along to the hospital rather than taking a cab home.
Um, I believe that to be normal human behaviour and not indicative of any great wellspring of compassion in the heart of what can only be a saint.
Ricky’s rhapsody about Jennifer’s shining spirit is a “laugh-out-loud moment” (to use the parlance of tabloid reviewers) not because of any jokes in the script (in fact this is supposed to be one of the film’s many tedious “heartfelt ‘n serious” bits), but because her character, up to this point, has not exhibited a single one of the numerous lovely and eternal qualities which Ricky fabricates that she possesses, but has in fact consistently demonstrated nothing but extreme shallowness, outrageous vanity, and harshly judgmental attitudes towards pretty much everyone. She’s basically a stuck-up airhead cunt. But she sure is pretty! Really, really, really, really pretty!
Isn’t that what Ricky’s character honestly meant: you’re a complete fucking bitch without a single thought in your brain, but I still want to stick my penis in you because fat schmucks like myself never get to bone hot women? (Except in crap movies like this which then make us movie stars so we can hopefully graduate to boning hot women in real life.)
Yup. That’s what he meant. Three guesses who wrote the script.
“Knocked Up”, yes I did see it, no I can’t remember why, worked this same angle. Gorgeous blonde (Elizabeth Heigl) gets drunk and shags stoner loser (Seth Rogan, who’s based his entire career on the “fat slob scores hot chick” thing) resulting in accidental pregnancy. Forgetting that it’s no longer the 1950s and that she’s nowhere near the end of natural fertility, she feels compelled to bear the offspring of her repulsive and embarrassing one-night stand, and during the pregnancy “gets to know him.” Once that’s accomplished, she cannot possibly resist the REAL PERSON hiding behind those sweaty armpits, and lo and behold, TRUE LOVE happens. So she had to overcome her prejudices about below-average looks and he had to overcome…uh….? I think he smokes less weed and has a job by the end, maybe that’s the trade-off.
I recently saw another terrible film, about a bunch of suburban schmos who think they’re bikers, called “Wild Hogs” (OK, I was mildly depressed and watching a lot of TV after Xmas. Shuddup). This cinematic masterpiece featured the beyond-unlikely romantic pairing of Marisa Tomei – wasted in a practically silent supporting role – and William H. Macy. I wondered what could’ve happened to former Oscar-winner Ms Tomei’s career for her to have even considered accepting a part which forced her to squeeze every possible iota of meaning and subtext out of great lines like “Hi!” But besides that, there was absolutely no explanation for why this extremely pretty and fit young woman who owned her own adorable restaurant, would have the slightest interest in the Macy character, who in addition to being a clumsy and socially awkward geek twice her age, sports a face like the ruins of Pompeii: you can just about work out what everything once was, but it’s definitely not in the right place and there seem to be bits missing.
This kind of shit is so standard now, that the hack writers of “Wild Hogs” didn’t even bother to justify the improbable chemistry but just assumed the audience would find it plausible that this exceptionally attractive and together gal was instantly smitten by Macy’s repertoire of endearing antics, which were mainly a heart-melting tendency to walk into walls and being irresistibly incapable of either completing a sentence or looking anyone in the eye. That is, until a 5 minute dance lesson with a, frankly, enormous John Travolta (har har har geddit) results in shriveled Macy unleashing a previously undiscovered talent for world-class partnering. Hot chick in the bag and confidence restored, all he has to do now is overcome 40 members of the pussiest biker gang in the galaxy, which he dispatches with ease and it’s vroom vroom into the sunset!
It’s true that in “Shallow Hal” this sick-making convention was supposedly toyed with, but in fact it reinforced it. I mean, we’re supposed to find it funny that fat Jack Black is unknowingly attracted to a fat girl but not funny that Gwyneth Paltrow should be attracted to fat Jack. No, that’s just her seeing his inner essence shine through.
So why exactly is it that beautiful women are supposed to stop being shallow and stop limiting sexy contact to guys as hot as they are, while ugly dudes are considered “aspirational” for daring to ask out the office hottie? How come ugly dudes aren’t ever asked to look beyond the surface and maybe check out whether the pimply frump with B.O. lurking behind the water cooler doesn’t in fact have some well-hidden but fine qualities? Perhaps she can fart the Star-spangled Banner? Tee hee. Maybe the slightly-over-the-hill woman with the bad perm and irritating giggle who works the till at the local video store is actually in possession of a wicked sense of humour and does this funny dance thing that gets everyone in hysterics, if you just give her half a chance to overcome her crippling shyness?
Movies never seem to ask those questions.
What really pisses me off about this Hollywood obsession with unattractive nerd men pairing up with female winners of the beauty lottery, is that it has bled out into real life. The combination of those movies and the ubiquity of hyper-surreal porn (in which the women are also invariably better-looking than the cocksmen) has resulted in a population of males that all think they deserve to be with women who look like models, whilst taking zero effort in their own appearance and rejecting as unworthy women who are in fact far more superficially desirable than they will ever be.
Some years ago, I lived in the house of a guy who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, overweight, balding-with-long-back-and-sides and bespectacled, and who dressed exclusively in knee-length shorts, flip flops and T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of software companies. He was searching desperately for his mate and I remember hooking him up one time with a female friend close to his own age who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, slender, a bit wrinkly around the eyes, in recovery from crack addiction, and with a great wardrobe of stylish attire.
After we’d all gone out together and then he and I returned back to the house we shared, he actually wouldn’t speak to me for a while. He was seriously offended that I thought he and my female friend were on the same level in the desirability stakes. In fact, I can assure you that she has a far easier time picking up guys than he does picking up girls, but nonetheless he told me she was “damaged goods” and went back to drooling over the recently-single goddess of the local music scene, who was blonde, fit, 20 years younger than him and with a line of suitors that spanned the Golden Gate Bridge.
My tongue loosened by MDMA one evening I tried to talk to him about this.
Has it ever occurred to you, I asked him, that Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful (to give her a pseudonym) might spend a lot of time, energy and money on the following things: exercising, eating correctly, having hair, nails and skin professionally serviced, buying on-trend and flattering clothing?
You are attracted to her at least partially (mostly) because of these things – because of the way she makes herself look, I continued. It’s true that she had good raw material to begin with, but I guarantee you that she, like most other women, then maximized on her natural attributes in order to make the best of them.
Therefore, do you not think it likely that she – like you – might possibly be interested in a mate who is also fit, well-groomed and nicely dressed? Don’t you think she is also interested in appearances seeing that she takes so much care regarding her own?
But no. My poor dear friend really could not see that there was anything wrong with him setting his sights on Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful, nor did he feel it unlikely that she would someday look beyond his shlumpy exterior to unearth the gem that quivered for release beneath all that Adipose tissue.
It’s true that her previous boyfriend had been one of the ugliest dudes in the Bay Area, with facial skin like exploded bubble wrap, but he also happened to be an egoist of monumental proportions who was something of a celebrity on the local scene, which in the attraction sweepstakes cancels out the equivalent of at least two receding hairlines.
Dan Savage, of the brilliant Savage Love “advice” column, once did an extra-brilliant piece about the lonelyhearts issues of the TMI community (that’s Traumatic Brain Injury). Apparently the number-one most desirable feature in women sought by TMI men (this whole article is from a hetero perspective by the way – homosexual beauty fascism being a topic unto itself) was that they be “able-bodied”. Though there are obvious advantages to dating someone who can walk, if you happen to be stuck in a wheelchair, the desire for able-bodied love apparently wasn’t just about convenience and having someone to mop up drool, it was a status thing. Savage quite rightly pointed out the obvious hypocrisy of expecting the able-bodied woman to look beyond the disability and embrace the severely damaged body of the male TMI victim, whilst the male TMI victims themselves were completely unable to do this and were actively disinterested in seeking love amongst their own ranks.
He also noted while doing his research, that though he did indeed occasionally see an able-bodied woman selflessly devoting herself to her TMI lover, he never, as in NOT ONCE, saw an able-bodied man with a TMI woman.
(Before angry male spouses of female TMI victims come after me with pitchforks, let me make clear I’m talking about relationships formed after the injury, not ones that survived it.)
Beauty fascism isn’t nice. It’s not nice to dismiss people because they are physically damaged, or just not terribly cute, because they have no fashion sense, bad hair or rotten taste in shoes. Obviously, we should all be able to look beyond the surface exterior to discover the soul of a person and we shouldn’t be so stupid and naive as to think that a person of great beauty is also a great person.
But one-sided beauty fascism is even worse. This idea that men don’t have to be that great-looking in order to be attractive to women but women, no matter what their other qualities, must still be great-looking in order to attract even below-average-looking men is just super-twisted.
I just went on Google and typed “fat dude skinny chick” and found a popular question on Yahoo Answers to be one that dealt with this dilemma, specifically “How can I get a skinny chick to like me, a fat dude?”
Unsurprisingly, most of the answerers banged on about getting one’s unique and loveable personality to shine through the fat.
Not one person suggested losing some fucking weight.