Monday, April 8, 2013

Heartwarming Misogyny?

Yesterday night, my wife was watching a movie called The Proposal. It is a romantic comedy with the standard formula, really. Innocuous, and, from what I can see, relatively funny. Last night I caught a scene I hadn't seen:

Sandra Bullock is in the woods; she meets Betty White (Bullock's love-interest's grandmother) who is dressed in pseudo Native American garb. White encourages Bullock to participate in a ceremonial dance and to chant. When Bullock says she doesn't know how, White encourages her to just say whatever comes to mind. Bullock goes nuts and starts doing a rap song.

I won't repeat the lyrics, because doing so would work contrary to the point I am about to make. Let it suffice to say that they were more disgusting than you could probably imagine. The question I ask myself is: Would the scene have been as funny with rap lyrics that were even remotely appropriate? I think it would have been. How is it that anyone responsible for the film decided it was a good artistic decision that cute Sandra Bullock ought to be rapping about sweaty male nether-regions (I kid you not -- and that isn't the worst of the full song, believe me) from a misogynistic lyric whose writers treat women like disposable sexual devices?

Thank goodness we have moved past
this sort of objectification. We are so much more
enlightened, now. (from Tex Avery)
Using the disgusting lyrics is just another example, to me, of adults acting like kids trying to get away with what they are able. We are becoming a society that is increasingly beginning to act as if it is made up exclusively of children -- children who don't really care much about the real kids and what they might see or hear. (But that might be another post...)

I'm not calling for outrage over this sort of thing. (Though, I can't see how women are not outraged by this sort of lyric -- or how Bullock didn't say: "Are you kidding me? I don't think so.") What I think is that, if we were a mature society, we would simply not give stuff like this lyric any attention. I am completely against censorship. I am for a sense of responsibility. You'd think people would hear this lyric and react the same way they do to, say, a boisterous drunk on the train -- just move to another car. (Or, throw him off at the next station.)

Stuff like this disrespectful drek just needs to be ignored, in the end.

A lyric like that is not cute. It's the work of immaturity and of an animalistic, retarded and misogynistic sense of sexuality. This thing popping up in a movie that is rated PG-13 is a symptom, not of total moral collapse (I'm no Chicken Little), but of a society that is, collectively, a naughty child who acts up when the teacher steps out -- that doesn't consider the collective consequences of a continuing series of bad (in this case, artistic) decisions.

If we were healthy thinkers, lyrics like this wouldn't sell. And they certainly would not make their way into the woodsmoke-scented, autumn-leaf covered glade in a formulaic and supposedly heartwarming Sandra Bullock film. "Misogyny" and "heartwarming" are not words that normally go together in my personal lexicon. But, then, I increasingly find that my vocabulary is becoming a dead language.


  1. Did your wife agree? I do hope so. I worry about you being a lone voice in the wilderness. My advice would be to avoid Sandra Bullock movies. I don't mind her, but I don't think there's anything she's been in that could be regarded as more than, at best, froth.

    1. Zoe -- She did agree, if I read her expressions throughout my rude, movie-interrupting tirade properly. And I'm good with Bullock's movies being froth, I suppose (I lazily watched fifteen minutes of CONAN THE DESTROYER yesterday, for instance...), but froth that seems, on any level, to cloak and validate such hateful stuff can be truly damaging. At that point it stops becoming a pure waste of time to a bit of an infectious disease. Though, I admit I did like SPEED.

  2. Mr. Mat,

    Is it possible that the makers of this movie were completely aware of everything you are concerned about and are using this scene as a device to show people how ridiculous society can actually be? I just want to play devil's advocate here for a moment...

    What if Sandra is meant to represent society? And White an outsider of society? Sandra starts to sing this song and White immediately realizes there's something wrong with it. You and I know there's something wrong with it and everyone watches it with a feeling of uncomfortableness. The message of this scene is supposed to be that there is something wrong with "society" (Sandra) for being alright with this music. I won't go buck-wild here and try to decipher why White tried to get into it (social pressure, peer pressure, acception, etc...). But at the scene's very core synopsis, it's satirizing how inappropriate some aspects of society can be. Anyone who watches that scene experiences a slight bit of discomfort. Not a discomfort from how badly Sandra is making a fool of herself, but a discomfort from knowing that some people is society act this way.

    As for your original question, I think the scene would have been just as funny no matter what she did, as long as they still cut to Betty White's face when it looks like she's watching the biggest fail of her life. They could've made Sandra rock out "Dude Looks Like A Lady", whilst wobbling across the stage and I probably would've still laughed. But I think the vulgarity is necessary, not only for comedic value but satirical as well. It makes you uncomfortable and sometimes that's a good thing.

    1. Joe -- I think that woudl be more than possible, but, to me, it looks like this film was just going for a laugh. The other missing link to your interpretation is that Betty White's character did not see Bullock's behavior as a "fail" at all -- she wound up dancing along and laughing. It's true, though, that one could use satire to make the rappers look bad, but I guess I just thing the best reaction to that sort of garbage woud lbe to ignore it. I think a "film appearence" like this gives it attention. But you could be right.

      In a way, one could argue that htis very post gives the lyric undue attention...even though my point is to ignore it.