Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it... and I want my money back.

I get it. We like roller-coasters, we like horror flicks, we like apocalyptic tales of total destruction and annihilation. We like to be scared. Maybe our lives -- too planned, protected and Purell-ed are too boring and we long for the thrill of knocking on death’s door just to see if anyone will answer. Or maybe, our day-to-day activities are so mundane we cling to reminders of what we value most - the chance to see and breathe and live another day. Maybe Tyler Durdin was on to something when he terrorized that convenience store clerk at gunpoint just so the clerk would wake up the next morning and value life more than anyone else ever possibly could. Then again, Tyler Durdin was a crazed figment of one man’s imagination and more importantly, Fight Club should never be a film to live your life by.

But I get it. The adrenaline rush that comes with the prospect of losing everything you hold dear - and then the rush of satisfaction when you get it all back. Isn’t this why we flock to theatres to see these “end-of-days” movies? At least, movies that toy with the idea of the end-of-days but are never actually the end - because let’s face it, who would want to go see a movie where every human being actually died and everything was lost and there was nothing but total despair? That would be, probably, kind of a downer.

Besides, if we really want to see war, destruction, despair, and the suggestion that we’re headed towards our own apocalypse, don’t we just need to turn on the news?

And that might beg the question, is this why 2012 - Roland Emmerich’s latest global destruction flick - is hopelessly cheesy and ridiculous? Because the death of civilization is too possible; too real - that he has chosen to hand us a parody of what the end of the world might look like so as not to make any of us feel uncomfortable in our ever-increasingly insecure post-9/11 world?

Or is Emmerich really just that terrible of a writer?

2012, for those who haven’t seen it (and I really don’t recommend that you do, unless you have 158 minutes of time you really need to waste and a REALLY good sense of humour), is an unforgivably bad movie, and easily the worst end-of-the-world movie to have come out of Hollywood in the past couple decades (although maybe I should re-view Armageddon before I make that claim; I was 15 years old and in a Ben Affleck haze at the time and may have found merit in some of the wrong places...).

And maybe the claim that 2012 is the worst of the bunch is a bit unfair - I mean, the Americans (er, I mean humans) did save the world in Independence Day by uploading a virus to the Alien spaceship’s mainframe -- miraculously and mysteriously compatible with Jeff Goldblum’s Windows laptop -- and then blowing the ship to smithereens with this feisty line from Randy Quaid: “in the words of my generation, ‘Up yours!’” It’s not like anyone can argue against the silliness and the tongue-in-cheek pro-USA rah-rah-rah nature of Emmerich’s first disaster movie - and maybe 2012 isn’t even any worse in that regard; It certainly does have its own tongue planted securely in cheek for much of the film (really, the governor of California is an Austrian former actor who dies when Armageddon hits California first? Yeah, there’s subtlety).

But there’s something missing here. Independence Day was made in the NINETIES. Pre-9/11. Pre Iraq and Afghanistan. Pre-economic devastation. This was a funny, cool, kick-ass movie. Our enemies were these twitchy, foreign entities, arriving from outer space with every purpose to destroy us, and without any reason why. Watching the White House blow up was comical because at the time, it seemed impossible. We got the 30-foot drop roller-coaster thrill of watching it explode; while we still had the seatbelt safety of knowing the real White House was tucked away on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was fun to be afraid during a time when people felt they had nothing to fear. The US was all-powerful; untouchable; infallable. There was right, and there was wrong; and when the alien enemy was blown to Kingdom Come, we celebrated with 4th of July fireworks.

Fundamentally Independence Day was a celebration of war; of fighting; of winning - during a time when the United States was not at war -- but seemed to have a kind of misplaced, nostalgic yearning for it.

I think my biggest issue with 2012 is that thirteen years later, the template for the end of the world hasn’t changed much (and if I may interject a footnote here - I know I’m skipping over The Day After Tomorrow - and partially because as cheesy as it was, I thought it was a better film. It at least flirted with the idea of dealing with the very real issue of climate change, even if ever so comically. I could easily dissect it too but that’s not the point of this post. Besides, who can argue with the delicious irony that was the tongue-in-cheek in that film - Americans illegally crossing the border into Mexico? Well done). The only real change from the template in 2012 is that this one is bigger, louder, and faster (and frankly, more annoying). The earth gets destroyed on a much bigger scale. Time seems to run out more quickly for everyone (except for John Cusack and his family, who are excruciatingly always a half second ahead of certain death for the ENTIRE MOVIE - someone please explain to Roland Emmerich the concept of overkill), and the repercussions for the planet more dire (more people die in this film than in any other).

And aside from the mere cinematic point of view that thirteen years later, audiences deserve a plot with more sophisticated storytelling, dialogue, plot devices, character development, and so on (and I could go on - and I do think this is a valid point entirely on its own), I think I take much bigger issue with the fact that within the past thirteen years our social and political landscapes have irrevocably changed, and this film doesn’t even attempt to reflect that. This film is at best, a total joke, and at worst, offensive to our intelligence and sensibilities. We arguably live in apocalyptic times. We live with the threat of nuclear war at our doorstep; we are ever-so-slowly (or, increasingly, quickly) causing the decay of our planet, rendering it potentially uninhabitable for our own species. There are wars and famine; there is disease and overpopulation. Now is a time that is ripe for apocalyptic rhetoric - and maybe we’d all be looking in the wrong place if we looked to an Emmerich film to recite it, but still, I think I’m offended by the mockery of it.

And I don’t mean that I wanted to see a dark and depressing portrayal of a true end of the world; as pessimistic as I can be, I believe in hope and I believe in a future for humanity (and I like entertaining movies where things blow up just as much as the next person). I just think there’s a way to channel apocalyptic possibilities without making them look so false; so cartoonish. Comedy had a place in Independence Day -- people were rallying around a common enemy and that made everyone giddy. In 2012 there is nothing to rally around except for John Cusack’s stupid, unlikable family. Comedy is intermittent and misplaced in this film. One never knows when a moment is meant to be serious or whether it’s intentionally that flaky; then you see a character die and you sort of think “I guess I shouldn’t be laughing right now.” And here’s a question - when the generally nice step-dad dies at the end (sorry to spoil) for no reason other than to make room for John Cusack’s character to reclaim his throne as the family patriarch, is that supposed to be darkly funny? Or did Emmerich just really hate his own step-dad?

I think there’s a lot that could have been done with the concept of this supposed Mayan prophecy of the end of the world (though Mayans today think the whole thing is a lot of hogwash, but I guess that’s just another footnote). Emmerich seemed to skip over the intrigue of prophecy entirely to cut right to the CGI. There was no chance to build a plot; there was no chance to introduce characters that any human being would have recognized as one of their own. More importantly there was no chance to portray unity of human spirit. There was no chance to even portray fear, or the appreciation for life. Everything happened too fast, and in the end, everyone in the world died except for a few arks full of the wealthiest people on the planet who paid 1 billion Euros each to get a seat (with a few Chinese factory workers thrown in for good measure), oh, and also John Cusack and his family. Everyone else died and there was no remorse. And there was certainly no sense that the end of the world was in any way the responsibility of humankind (people died due to the shifting of the continents by way of crustal displacement, which flooded the Earth, except for Africa it seems - how nice, too, that since likely no Africans made it on to any of those arks, the wealthy people of the world got to go expropriate Africa and exploit its resources. Again. Handy, that Africa).

If this movie had been made in 1996, it would have been just as bad (albeit with better effects), but it wouldn’t have bothered me this much that it was this bad. And maybe I’m looking into it way more than anyone should, but I actually take offense to it. Does Emmerich really think we are this stupid? Wait, how much money did this movie make on opening weekend?

If it had been parody, I might have said Emmerich is a genius. Then again if Ann Coulter’s books were considered satire, the same could be said of her.

But we already know that Ann Coulter is just a crazy, inflammatory nutcase.

And as for Emmerich, it would seem that unfortunately, he’s just that terrible of a writer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bruno: Raunch, laughs - and a whole lotta oh-em-jee

I remember when Borat came to theatres, and the heightened sense of anticipation that came along with it - the anticipation that this movie might be like nothing we’d ever seen before within the realms of comedy.

And Borat delivered. Like gluttonous, joy-deprived little beings imprisoned by our own proprieties, we soaked up the in-your-face, line-crossing, taking-it-way-too-far satirical gongshow stylings of one Sacha Baron Cohen. He held a mirror up to society and we jumped all over each other to see what he had to show us - and it was us (or at least, Americans) in our least flattering state. Offended, shocked, disturbed - we laughed. And we wanted more.

This summer, we got it. Bruno is the next installment in this comedy-knows-no-boundaries style saga. Where Borat was ignorant, Bruno is fully up-to-speed on American culture, celebrity and fashion. As the former host of Funkyzeit, “ze biggest fashion TV program in the German-speaking world, not including Germany,” Austrian fashion-journalist Bruno is on the up-and-up, and instructs all on what is cool at the moment (autism) and not so cool (chlamydia), until a mishap at Milan fashion week in an all-velcro suit gets him fired from his job, dumped by his boyfriend, and shunned by the Austrian fashion industry. Learning an important lesson that the fashion world is “superficial,” Bruno packs his bags, takes his adoring assistant Lutz, and moves to Los Angeles to become a super star.

What follows is nothing short of jaw-dropping shock-value comedy at its raunchiest. The nudity, the sex (both real and suggested), the jokes and the acting all make the naked-man fight in Borat look like a G-rated Disney film -- seriously, if I may get preachy for just a moment, please do not take your children to see this film - though rated 18 A I saw numerous groups of young children at the theatre who weren’t even old enough to be in high school. Kids may have enjoyed the antics of Borat, but they won’t get the satire and more importantly, the sexuality is far and above anything they will understand - I’m an adult and I was disturbed!

But, disturbing is clearly the goal here. Bruno, who takes camp to the extreme, purposefully goes into some of the most homophobic communities in America (and elsewhere). He pushes buttons and provokes in ways that are so over the top gay, in places that are so over the top anti-gay, it’s almost too much of an easy target. Bruno does not know subtlety, and for the most part, the homophobic people he encounters do not know tolerance. He is like one big traveling Gay Pride Parade, moving into towns who don’t want it, and infiltrating the corners of the world where people would rather pretend homosexuality does not exist.

The gay innuendo, the visuals, the acts are meant to make us squirm - and we do - even the most progressive of us - because Cohen wants a visceral reaction. He wants us to face it full frontal, (no pun intended) and decide how we really feel about it. At the end of the day, homosexuality does not just occur behind closed doors - gay members of society walk the earth like everyone else - and they are just as vulnerable and victimized when their sexuality is understated as when it is on full, flaming display.

My only concern is whether Cohen really vindicates gays in this film or whether he makes a mockery of them. It’s just SO exaggerated - he does to gay sex what Tarantino did to violence in the Kill Bill franchise. The sex references are hilariously silly - gay people are seen to only enjoy leather, chains, bondage and exercise machines with dildos strapped on the end. But will straight people get the joke?

Beyond the shock, Cohen brings back the comedy in full swing, and when your jaw isn’t hanging open, you’ll be busy laughing your head off, or, fearing for Cohen’s life. A celebrity in his own right now, it is much more obvious that this time around interviews with unsuspecting American officials and celebrities are harder to obtain for Cohen. In a lot of places, the jig is up, and there are more questions now about what’s real, what’s staged, and who might be in on what joke. Still, he manages to get Republican Ron Paul to squeal out his homophobic feelings, insult Osama bin Laden while seated in a terrifying interview with a terrorist leader in Labanon, and get Paula Abdul to sit on “Mexican furniture.”

All in all, it’s shock and awe at its peak, and Cohen again needs to be commended on an explosive performance and the ability to never break character at some of the most tense moments. I only wish there could have been more interviews - some of the best moments, as in Borat, are when Cohen quiets down and the interviewee fully displays his own blatant discriminatory (or just stupid - see the scene with the LA PR firm girls) attitudes.

My suggestion - if you think you can stomach it, go see it. Or, go see it if you can’t stomach it. Maybe especially if you can’t.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where the boys are

It isn’t that I grew up alone in a world of boys and men. It isn’t that I didn’t have a mother – I did; a lovely, warm, home-made-cookies-on-a-rainy-day kind of mother. It isn’t that I didn’t have girlfriends – I did; the best girlfriends in the world, willing to write stories and have sleepovers and share my childhood cynicisms with me. It isn’t that I necessarily favoured sports over dress-up, or Tonka trucks over dolls, or Transformers over My Little Pony.

But, I was an odd kid.

Though I did have my girlfriends, they were long-distance confidantes, having moved away when I was very small. For the most part, on my street and in my school, I made friends with the boys. There were endless games of street hockey, baseball, Capture the Flag and Night-time Hide and Seek. There were summer-long bike rides to pizza places and baseball diamonds and air-conditioned drugstores where we could escape the heat to buy banana popsicles and ride home with sticky fingers. There were toy guns aplenty, GI Joes hanging from wires in various staged set-ups throughout our house and front yard, and various hockey nets, baseball mitts, skateboards and tennis balls thrust hastily on the front yard. There was always mischief to be had, tall tales to be told of what antics which boys had gotten into that day; and always, always the riveting cry of “CAR!” breezing along from the street to the tree-lined suburban backyards, beckoning any child who hadn’t yet made the trek over to that day’s street game.

And maybe I remember it all a little too nostalgically; in reality I know that I watched more of those street games than participated. And I know that the boys and I didn't quite share the same set of priorities. For instance, when I played with GI Joes I threw their weapons aside and made Scarlett and Snake Eyes get married. While my two brothers were choosing sides in games, one would always be the good guy, one would always be the bad, and I always elected to be “normal!" I never wanted to sink anyone's battleship, I made all my Lego and Fisher Price Little People go to church and school, and I had all my stuffed animals sit around in a semi-circle for story-time.

Still, I picked camouflage over pink; let my dog chew Barbie’s feet off so she’d be shorter than the other girls, and when my stuffed animals were done having stories read to them I would take my doll’s crib, flip it over and turn it into a prison so they could experience a lesson in survival.

While my girlfriends became doe-eyed for New Kids on the Block, I worshipped Ernie Whitt and crushed on Pat Borders. When the girls in my class were braiding each other’s hair, I was either watching them, baffled, or more likely, over at my friend Mikey’s house playing Excitebike on Nintendo. On separate occasions when I was pretty young, I asked my mom if I could get a boy’s hair cut (she said no), if I could try peeing standing up (again, no) and if I could wear swimming trunks instead of a girl’s one-piece (still, no). And it isn’t ever that I wanted to be a boy – I thought penises were bizarre and unattractive attachments – it’s just that very simply, I wanted to be treated the same as one. And even as a little girl, it felt like an eternal struggle.

For a while it had been okay. I was singled out but I was generally still included. And then an age hit and everyone seemed to notice I was a girl, and an imaginary line was drawn and I suddenly – and very quickly – had to learn how to make friendship bracelets, apply eye-shadow and figure out what purpose jewelry served. I was kicked out of the boys club. One of my best friends asked me to be his girlfriend, and in an instant I didn’t know how to act, or who to be. Confused by our swift change of roles, I chose to abandon him altogether, and felt for a long time that losing that friendship was one of my biggest regrets – and one of my biggest resentments.

And the girlfriends came and went; we got our periods and taught each other what we thought sex was and all realized that we wanted the boys to like us – that way. But I always couldn’t help but notice the crowd of boys in the corner, talking and laughing and sharing a secret camaraderie; a top-secret dialect that I no longer spoke.

The initial awkwardness of pubescent transitions led way to an adolescence that allowed young men and women to be friends again, but was punctuated by hormonal outbursts and angst, angst, angst. I liked being friends with boys again, but when they turned the tables on me, got dreamy-eyed in my presence and stumbled over their speech, I didn’t know how to react, and so I took offence. I knew the way that boys conversed with other boys. I had an idea of the vile, dirty jokes, and the crude comments that were made. I knew enough to know that they didn’t act this way around us – at least not the girls they liked. They changed. Became unrecognizable. It was kind of like we just appeared to them one day. They didn’t know who we were or where we’d come from; we just arrived from another planet, beautiful and interesting, but foreign and frightening. And it isn’t to say that I myself never liked boys who left me tongue-tied and nervous; it’s just that I had always known where the boys were; they on the other hand seemed to have forgotten I had ever existed previous to that very moment, or that I’d ever walked among them.

Eventually I got over my grievances and appreciated that it might be okay to have a man get nervous in my presence. I learned the tricks of the dating trade. I learned how to flirt, how to tease, what to say and when to say it. I learned that it wasn’t all that difficult. You play the game, you play your part, and then you go home to your respective teams and dish out the particulars. At the end of the day, your girlfriends are your home base, and though it’s not such a bad thing to have them there, if you’re someone like me, you can’t help but wonder what the boys are up to.

Eventually, dating becomes less of a sport and more of a pain in the arse, and you might even find yourself zeroing in on one person who makes you nervous – a single person to pair up with and share adulthood cynicisms with. And though it’s a wonderful, beautiful breath of fresh air – an incredible and fun new way of looking at male-female relating, I’m still learning that it comes with its own sets of challenges. Namely, boys sometimes still want to be boys.

What I’ve learned: there are times when a guy just wants to be with his guy friends. They may not be heading off to drink brandy, smoke cigars and discuss politics in the old boy’s parlours anymore, but they still want to get away. And maybe, to some women, it seems natural – it’s an opportunity for these ladies to retreat to their old home base; to go have umbrella-laden martinis with their former roommates and college girlfriends – their favourite people they gave up when they got involved with a boy. To me, it’s still a lesson in relating. Because I still want to talk sports, but my girlfriends aren’t always the most willing when it comes to discussing Zach Greinke’s sick slider or how the Yankees’ overindulgent new stadium may end up being their own curse (ok, maybe I’m not interested in all sports, just baseball). I grew up with brothers and little boy friends. On some days, guys still feel like my homebase - it’s just hard sometimes to recognize that they don’t see me the same way.

Some days, I forget that anything’s changed and I think I can follow them on their bikes into the sunset, wherever they’re headed. But I also know that some days, it’s just a guy thing, and I’m not invited. And I’ll admit that at times, I’ve let it get the best of me – an old familiar feeling recurs, and I feel like the door of my childhood has been slammed in my face, asking me to grow up and recognize my societal role (whatever that is).

But then I exhale, realize it’s not the 1950s, and know that we all need different things to make us happy. And I also need to realize that often, the lure is stronger than the reality – because I've also learned that sometimes all guys really do when they’re alone is tell dirty jokes, size up the waitress’s attributes and feel comfortable enough to pass gas, which, let’s face it, I can do without. Besides, it occurs to me that while I can hold my own in a group full of men anytime, sometimes I need to be alone with other women, too – there is another comaraderie there that is unique, and wonderful, and one that I now can't live without - and maybe it's time I spent less time worrying about what I’m excluded from, and more time delighting in those things I choose to include.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My junk box of shame

Call me sentimental, call me a packrat, or just call me weird, but growing up I rarely threw anything out. If I had written it, drawn it, molded it or built it – I kept it. I imagine it had to have either been my parents’ influence – my macaroni-glued-to-a-paper plate-and-then-enshrined-in-silver-paint masterpiece got hung on the wall every Christmas until I reached my twenties – or my grandfather’s tendency to hoard junk – at his place you were hard-pressed to find a space to set down your drink without disrupting his extensive collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys - that steered me in the direction of believing all creations were created equal – and all creations must be kept; forever.

There are many reasons why I am glad I, along with my parents, held on to a few gems. Since I was always writing, I have various awesome stories written at various stages of my development (it’s really fun to see how my writing progresses; although I’ve since discovered that most of my stories follow an eerily-similar story arc and either have the title of “The Three ___ (fill in your friendly barnyard animal here)” or else revolve around a camping trip where a few good and innocent people are maliciously attacked by some kind of roving, wild beast of an animal and barely make it away with their lives). Many of these are fun to hold on to and reflect on, because they invite a feeling of nostalgia; they represent a time when I was young enough to be cute.

But the fact of the matter is, if you hold on to everything – and I mean everything – eventually, you’re going to have to one day come face to face with a period of your life when you weren’t so adorable. Lucky me – I dealt with most of my teen angst through writing, and so every awkward and humiliating moment of those fun-filled high school years is captured with unbelievably fervent detail and forever recorded in the pages of my many journals (none of which I could possibly ever throw away – that would be worse than throwing away priceless macaroni art!) This, by the way, is how your box of creative masterpieces quickly transpires to become your box of shameful and horribly embarrassing secrets.

Case in point: a couple weeks ago, while rummaging through my parents’ basement for old photographs, I came across my own pink box of personal junk. Excited, I brought it upstairs and thought I would proudly toot my own horn of childhood genius by narcissistically riffling through my collection of personal goodies in front of all who was gathered. But before I could select an appropriate piece to share, my boyfriend snatched the first thing out of the box and started to read it aloud – as it turned out, it was titled “Mr. Right” and was more or less a laundry list of all the positive features I was looking for in the “perfect man.” And not a list that I made when I was like, seven, where the features might include such attributes as “he should have a cool bike” or “his mom should like me and give me milk and cookies when I come over.” No, this was a list I made in high school. Old enough to use phrases like “should always be intuitive to my feelings,” and, “ideally, medium to muscular build, with a tan,” and “dry and witty sense of humour, but not so funny that he overshadows my jokes. Also, he can not have more than 3 tattoos.” Perfectly embarrassing, and I snatched it right back out of his hands and placed it back in the box. Then I wrapped the box in many rolls of tape, put it in a corner out of view and told everyone not to speak of it. So much for my narcissistic nostalgia – there are some things better left unremembered.

Realistically, I know there is no point in getting embarrassed over such a lame list. So I was envisioning my dream man when I was 17. So what? I should probably be more embarrassed over the fact that I used to keep a list of all the boys I’d kissed, or the fact that I kept a pros/cons list I made in 3rd year university when I met four guys in one weekend and used a homemade spreadsheet to figure out which one was the most “dateable.” (Personal favourites from said list include a con for “Chris” that read, “he does not like the film Napoleon Dynamite” and a pro for “Curtis” that was listed as “he kept telling me how hot I was.” Something tells me by university I still hadn’t progressed much on my priorities when it came to finding Mr. Right).

I should also probably be more embarrassed about a letter I once wrote when I was 23 about how much I hated my boss at the time – which my boss later found and read, or the letter I wrote when I was 12 to Jonathan Taylor Thomas declaring my undying love – which my mother found and read, or my journal entry when I was 14 about my giant crush on my brother’s friend – which my brother found and read (or so I think… I never could prove that one).

The point is, when you’re somebody like me, there’s no such thing as real privacy (let’s be honest, all you ever really need to know from me you’ll probably find after you’ve fed me 2 shots of tequila with a side of bar lime anyway – I like to spill my own secrets when intoxicated (and yes, it only takes 2 shots)). But writing is therapeutic (for me, anyway). For some reason, I need to do it or I’ll probably spontaneously combust. But I know the risks involved; as soon as it is recorded, and documented, it’s out there for the taking. It’s the same reason Inspector Gadget’s memos always self-destructed after he got them; there’s always the potential that they’ll get into the wrong hands (although I’m not sure why Chief Quimby never learned to not be around when those memos exploded).

Still, there is the “controlled exposure” effect. I still think I’d prefer to voluntarily offer up selected information rather than have someone stumble upon my rantings in my private spaces. Which is possibly why I’ve turned to blogging a little bit more and have been writing in my journal a little bit less.

There is something to be said for keeping some things private; which is why for now I’ll keep the pink box sealed, duct taped, and stored in some dark, unassuming corner.

Unless, of course, it’s tequila night - and you’re buying. Then all bets are off. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I’m just not that into bullshit gimmicks – your 15 minutes are up

In 2004, you may remember that a thin little book written by a couple of no-namers shot to fame practically overnight when God herself (Oprah Winfrey) decided to showcase the book on the Oprah Winfrey show. The reason you’ll remember this is because 5 years later, 2 million copies sold and a February 2009 release for the film, we’re still talking about He’s Just Not That Into You.

Seriously. Still.

Before I say anything else, I have to admit that while I’ve read excerpts of the book, I haven’t read it cover to cover (mostly because about 3 pages in, I realized the size of Greg Behrendt’s ego was too big to voluntarily force down my own throat). So I don’t mean to come off as one of those lazy extremist pundits who criticize without doing their homework, but with 11 chapters all beginning with “He’s just not that into you if…” and all of 165 pages of passive-aggressively telling women over and over that while they’re “superfoxy” (all of them?) they are also, in fact, stupid and desperate, I think I can safely assume that I get the gist.

I also want to give credit where credit’s due – I saw the film this past weekend (with a group of girlfriends, of course – because this is what girls do?), and it wasn’t quite the sexist, offensive piece of tripe I’d expected; quite frankly I think the Hollywood screenwriters saw the writing on the wall and transformed the narrow-minded book into a (slightly) more honest portrayal of dating today – from both a male and female perspective – before Behrendt and Liz Tucillo had the chance to be exposed as what they essentially come across as in the book - 1950’s-style admen asking women to get back to the kitchen. As I read in one review, playing to women’s insecurities might work in the self-help aisle; you need a little more flair and little more depth to make it work on the big screen.

So, while writers Behrendt and Tucillo are busy rolling around in their giant pools of money, I couldn’t resist the urge to offer up my own 2 cents before this incredibly long spat of 15 minutes are finally, actually up (though I won’t hold my breath; in our originality-deprived market, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Nope…he’s STILL just not that into you” hits theatres next year (would you be shocked?).

All I really want to say is very simple (though what I have to say isn’t a six-word marketable catch-phrase, so it may not be as popular). Dating is a giant pool of grey; it isn’t black and white, and it isn’t a mash-up of right and wrong. It may be full of games but it isn’t full of rules – at least not ones anyone should feel pressured to live by. And most importantly, dating need not be the kind of gender-war Behrendt and Tucillo make it out to be. This book doesn’t empower women to find the right man; it divides men and women – making men out to be the machine, and the women the ones reading the manual on how-to-use. Are we really that out-of-touch with each other?

How is this not obvious to all those women who see this book as their dating Bible; the one single portal into men’s brains?

“The guy I went out with last week isn’t calling.”
“He’s just not that into you.”

Am I the only one responding with, “duh?”

So, because one guy was honest with a woman, told her the truth instead of sugar-coating the problem and dancing around it (which, admittedly, many women do with their girlfriends – and I don’t think it’s that women don’t get it, I think it’s that we’re afraid of being harsh), we think this guy is brilliant?

A simpleton guy made a simple observation, got a response, and capitalized on it. He took one example of women not reading men's signals, and exploited all relationships everywhere by saying his ONE rule applies to ALL situations. He took women’s insecurities, naivety, and anxiety and sold it back to them, with a big, fat, in-your-face “you are a loser” title on it. He’s not that into you. He’s into something better. And he, my dear, calls the shots.

Personally, I don’t think Behrendt was trying to be all that malicious; while I think he could have been laughing all the way to the bank, I don’t think he was. I don’t think he realized the fools he had taken women to be; I just don’t think he’s that bright. I think he was one guy with one experience; I think all the rules and all the stories come directly out of his dating life. Women read it and recognized it because we’ve all dated that certain type before. The commitment-phobic alpha male bad boy – or whatever you want to call him. Chances are we have wasted time on someone who “just wasn’t that into us.” And maybe he did want to pursue us, and maybe he did get turned off when we became the female aggressor. But where’s the part in the book that says, but if THAT kind of behaviour turns YOU off, maybe you don’t want an alpha male at all? Why this generalization that all men are the same? Aren’t men offended by this?

Look, there are some truths in the book, and some advice to heed – like, women far too often will make excuses for a terrible man and a terrible relationship, and those women do deserve better. What’s problematic is the book’s backwards logic that tells you “it’s just the way men are; learn to read the signs.” Bad behaviour is given a green light. Men will be men. Hearts will be broken and lives will be disrupted. And there’s nothing you can do about it. He won’t get in trouble, so you may as well accept it and move on to the next guy. “There there, little girl. Don’t look for us; we’ll find you when we’re ready to be good.” And we’re SURPRISED when SO many beautiful, intelligent, interesting women DO settle for bad behaviour from men? We’ve just argued that it’s a case of boys being boys! If we’ve accepted it, why would there be any recourse? And if ALL men are capable of this, as the writers seem to argue, then what’s the point in dumping Slum Guy A when Slum Guy B is a carbon copy?

At the beginning of the movie, I confessed to my girlfriends that I didn’t really want to see this movie, to which one of my friends responded “you don’t want to see this? What kind of girl are you?!”

However serious my dear friend was, what I find the most alarming in all of this, is the expectation that if you’re of a certain age, female, and straight, then you must sip Cosmo’s, quiz each other on whether you’re a Carrie or a Samantha, shop at Banana Republic together and never let the conversation topics get any heavier than relationships, beauty or clothes. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that – it’s just so limiting. It reminds me of being a little girl with my She-ra lunch box and my aversion to pink; when all the little girls in my class got together they wanted to make friendship bracelets and braid each other’s hair. I didn’t get it. And maybe it comes down to my childhood anxieties about never being a girly-girl and therefore never really fitting in, but I think that grown women have a bit more to them than this.

Truthfully, I’d like to see women up in arms about this book, and by extension, the movie; instead it has been taken for pop-wisdom. And I think it comes back to the fact that men and women feel awfully confused about the opposite sex. Which is kind of funny, because I really don’t think we’re all that different. But there sure are lot of books, movies, articles and popular ideas out there that would tell us that we are. And there are a lot of people making a lot of money off of it, too.

One of the few diversions from the book in the movie is a male character obsessed with a girl who’s been leading him on, but who’s clearly “not that into him.” Chances are, if the average woman reflects on her dating history, she’ll find a guy or two (or more) who were into her when she wasn’t interested. And chances are, she didn’t treat each of them with the greatest respect, either. We all go through phases of growing up and learning how to treat people and how we want to be treated when it comes to relationships. It comes down to emotional maturity, and self-esteem. Some people are mature enough to tell you they’re just not into you; some aren’t. Some people have the self-esteem to not take it personally when they don’t get a second date, some turn to ___ (fill in your guilty vice here).

The point is, you don’t need to turn to a cheap gimmicky book to get the answers on love. And if you’re whole life’s happiness is wrapped up in the idea of finding your paramour, then you don’t need advice on dating, you need advice on living! Enjoy your life. The rest will come.