You’ll Never See a Movie Called ‘Him’

Every Man Needs One

Every Man Needs One

I know it’s cranky to have an opinion on a film I haven’t seen, but I have a fundamental problem with ‘Her’. Not the film– maybe it’s wonderful– but the concept.

Heartwarming family dramas like Lars and the Real Girl just don’t tempt me to the cinema.

I grew up watching the 1957 series ‘I Love Lucy’ and winced when Lucy cried like a baby, played dumb, got punished like a backwards child. The real Lucille Ball was smart, innovative and ruthless. She sneaked an interracial marriage past the censors. I like her much better than the shucking and jiving Lucy she played on TV.

In 1964, Julie Newmar starred in My Living Doll. Newmar, who was way bodacious and later played Catwoman, got the role of a blank slate waiting for a man to tell her what to do.

I got hooked on pulp science fiction, and it was still a very male game. Ursula Le Guin had to sign her stories U.K.Le Guin so she could get published. Lester del Rey’s 1938 story
Helen O’Loy
was typical of the golden age take on relationships. Man builds robot, man falls in love with robot, robot has nothing to live for when man dies so she pulls the plug.

Since the myth Pygmalion, men have been building new and improved women.

I just read David Mitchell’s science fiction novel, Cloud Atlas, and watched the DVD. One of the characters, Sonmi 451 is a ‘fabricant’, manufactured to serve in a fast-food restaurant, naive to the outside world. Though the actress Doona Bae makes Sonmi very affecting and sympathetic in the film, there’s a change of perspective in that medium. In the book Sonmi’s story is told in the first person–you see her world through her eyes and think her thoughts. You become her. In the film you’re on the outside watching a woman in peril at the mercy of real men.

I can’t think of a movie where a woman creates her perfect man and teaches him everything there is to know about the world. I don’t think it’s a particularly female fantasy.

In the paperback young adult novel, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee, a lonely teenage girl falls in love with a perfect cyborg man. But Silver is not a naive plaything. He’s kind of a combination of Google, GPS, bodyguard and psychologist.

In the novel He, She and It by Marge Piercy, the cyborg, Yod is created to be a weapon and fulfills his destiny in a suicide bombing. He’s not someone you can make a playmate of.

There is definitely a gender thing here. Maybe women spend more time answering questions like, ‘why is the sky blue? why can’t I feed the dog peanut butter? where did I leave my keys?’–it’s all too real. I’m not a gender studies major, just a regular woman who thinks that there’s a lot of this going around and something ain’t right here.

In related news, this woman put the world’s worst dating profile on Craigslist and still got a ton of messages from guys. I think the combination of attractive picture and deranged answers to the questions gave the impression of an impaired woman who could be easily persuaded. Kind of the blank slate fantasy?

Image from Sitcoms Online

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7 Responses to You’ll Never See a Movie Called ‘Him’

  1. ToneHead says:

    Whoa, gotta completely disagree with your characterization of Lucille Ball’s Lucy character. Lucille Ball was a great genius, and the Lucy character brilliantly lampoons gender stereotypes of the time. You have to remember it was made in the 1950s, not in our time. Calling Lucille Ball’s brilliant comedic acting “shucking and jiving” is so wrong that I stopped reading right there and jumped to the comment box. That said, it’s not something I’d want to watch much of now, as 60 year old comedy always looks dated.

    The whole point of the Lucy character is her incompetence at fitting into female gender stereotypes of the time (e.g. the poorly applied lipstick that intentionally verges into clown makeup territory). The character is the opposite side of the coin of Lucille Ball’s defiance of gender stereotypes in real life. Lucy was attempting to fit into gender stereotypes, poorly, whereas Lucille Ball refused to be limited in that way. But given the gender stereotypes of the time, she could not have played a character like her real self, which is the tragedy. She failed in her 1930s movie career as a romantic lead actor because audiences found her deeply intimidating. (I find what snippets of those performances I’ve seen to be utterly compelling, but it’s no longer 1935.) But I can’t think of a highly popular artist of that time whose work more brilliantly lampooned 1950s gender roles.

    • Ninjanurse says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful and well-informed comment. I never thought of it that way. Lucille Ball was a very smart woman, maybe too subtle for me to get when I watched her back then.

  2. Joe B. says:

    I think it would actually be really interesting to see a well written story in which a woman tries to create her ideal man. I am almost certain it would explore far different territory than the reverse trope. The trick i to come up with a way to make it believable, because (as you say) I don’t think it’s a prevalent female fantasy.
    Maybe the only way it would work is if the ability to “create” the ideal man was not something that the female character pursued, but sort of fell into by accident as the male lead in HER seems to do. It still might not come across as truthful but I’d be interested to explore the differing expectations men and women have in relationships

  3. Melissa says:

    “I can’t think of a movie where a woman creates her perfect man and teaches him everything there is to know about the world. I don’t think it’s a particularly female fantasy.” In fact there was one:

  4. Max Nanasy says:

    What about the Dresden Dolls song “Coin-Operated Boy”?

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