When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against it — you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.
Women are under a lot of pressure to get married by a certain age. Women in movies, however, are under geothermal, tectonic plate-shifting pressure to get married by a certain age. The lead female character’s single status is usually revealed through friends, co-workers and family members who constantly bust her balls about it (which is not in any way a shitty thing to do.) Nobody can stanch their amazement that someone who is a dead ringer for Katherine Heigl would be as yet unattached. There has got to be a reason for the tragic crime of being Single While Beautiful, and that reason is this: she’s a very busy businesswoman with no time for love.
These women are perennially married to their work and therefore incapable of finding love (of having love find them via the McConaughey vessel.) Men in similar positions of corporate power, though, have no such troubles. When these male counterparts incur a barrage of crap from friends, co-workers, and family members, it’s because they won’t deign to stop smashing everything in sight for one moment in order to choose, from amongst the many willing bachelorettes, someone to foist their ring upon like a tiara in a pageant. “Surely a handsome young man like you must be tired of getting it on all the time with randoms — why don’t you think about settling down?”
The truth is that there are so very many reasons, both flattering and otherwise, why an attractive woman over the age of 22 might be single. She could be extremely picky, holding out for the man who can recite Eliot’s “The Wasteland” from memory and also design an architecturally sound dream house, for which he has the knowledge, tools, and rugged individualism to build. She could be the kind of person who is so vain she only looks at art to see her reflection in the glass frame. She could be a child of divorce. Burned by a bad breakup. Struggling to find a man who shares her fondness for bedtime knifeplay. Or maybe, like a lot of men, she simply cannot yet imagine being stuck with the same set of genitals forever.
Presenting an attractive woman as too busy for a man during the first half of a movie is already a patronizing pat on the back to the single women in the audience. The second half of the movie, though, stops glorifying the idea of being married to a career by showing the emptiness of such a lifestyle and conveying the message that one does need a man because work will not love you back, etc. How condescending and norm-reinforcing is that? While it’s true that work will not physically crawl into bed at night and ravage you, these cop-out endings devalue the intrinsic rewards that women might find in life pursuits of the non-romantic sort. Watching these movies, then, is ultimately kind of like being with an undermining, abusive boyfriend. And that, ladies, is a dealbreaker.
Here are some movies that featured attractive women who were only single because they were married to their jobs: The Proposal, Picture Perfect, Two Weeks Notice, Baby Mama, The Ugly Truth, 27 Dresses, Keeping the Faith, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, What Women Want, The Wedding Planner. Did I forget any examples? If so, leave them in the Comments.