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The gender-equality hit and miss of modern Romantic Comedy - "Trainwreck"

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Judd Apatow is releasing another movie featuring a lead that is not-exactly-a-glamour-model-but-still-a-pretty-quirky-thirty-something-woman in a movie about - you guessed it - the challenges of love, dating and being a woman in the modern age.

I had a gripe a little while ago that the only time that women get a shot as a lead in movies is either in A) Romantic Comedy or B) Equal-opportunity-isms.  I should add to that particular statement, that I still like many of the dating/romantic comedy movies because I have man-gina I actually really like watching and reading about how relationships develop.

I've only seen the Trailer for Trainwreck (written by and starring Amy Schumer), but it got me thinking about the Romantic Comedy genre and how this movie is a good example of a shift in thinking around how we present women in modern cinema... with the complete failure to do the same for men.

First off, the positives.

One of the things the movie clearly does right, is casting.  Neither the male or female love interest desperately outweigh the other on the hotness scale.  Most romantic comedies  focus on a person who is a "five" on the hotness scale trying to win the affections of a "ten" (typical of romantic comedy aimed at men). Combine this with the fact that in almost all instances onscreen women only come in one shape - tall, leggy and lithe, but with boobs for days and you have a recipe for telling women the only hope they have for love is to be an amazonian goddess.

Trainwreck's lead Amy Schumar breaks this paradigm.  She isn't unattractive, but she doesn't fit the romantic comedy stereotype female lead either and while there are people who are critical of this, saying "but she isn't exactly unattractive is she", I find those comments ridiculous.

Each genre has obvious and specific casting requirements. If I watch an action movie I don't want to see a man or woman who has never hit the gym as the lead - romance has similar requirements.  If you want to see a romantic comedy featuring terribly 'ordinary' or 'unattractive' people, go to the mall.  Romantic cinema is often about seeing the best humanity has to offer (in all it's awkwardness), and quite frankly, some physical appeal is a necessary part of that.

Similarly, Bill Hader who plays the male lead isn't exactly a Hugh Grant kind of attractive (typical of romantic comedy aimed at women).  Looking at these two on-screen, you feel like they are made for each other.

That's where my praise runs out for the movie.

I find it interesting that we live in a world where we're sensitive to the fact that movie's have traditionally sold women the idea that they can't find love unless they look like a model, however we're quite comfortable to sell to men the concept that they must be wealthy or at least have a successful career in order to win the affections of their potential true-love.

From Pretty Woman to 50 Shades of Grey we've kept a consistent message that the only time a women aspires to attain the love of a man is if that man is a "success object".  Obviously Richard Gere and Jamie Dornan are incredibly attractive men, but where Romantic Comedy pitches to women they must be attractive to find true love, those same movies all promote the idea that if you are a man looking for love, being an adonis is not enough.  For a man to be loved, to be pursued, you must be handsome, successful and wealthy - "The handsome prince."

In this movie, Bill Hader plays a successful sports doctor, which is the "success object" equivalent of maybe about an eight.  He's not exactly a billionaire CEO, but theoretically his character had to sell at least seven years of his life in pursuit of meeting his male gender-role obligations of 'provider' and after meeting those obligations... he became successful enough to be in the running to be 'considered' as a potential partner.

Which leaves me with the distasteful thought.... How is it that we've become open to the idea that women don't belong in the kitchen, but we're quite happy to push home the idea that a man's worth is attached to whether he succeeds in the boardroom?

Personally I would have been more impressed if Bill's character was a starving artist and Amy was choosing whether or not to date a man who elected to pursue emotional fulfillment as success, rather than dollars and adherence to male gender-norms.

But that's just my oh!-pinion, what's yours?


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