A Movie Review Eight Years After the Fact: What Women Want

Don’t worry, the War on Terr’r is still in progress, but I saw something last night that nearly blew my fucking mind, and I had to comment on it, hence this interruption in the forward march of freedom in the War on Terr’r. What, you’re asking, could possibly be important enough to supersede war coverage? Mel Gibson.

Last night, I actually watched all 127 minutes of the Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt shitfest What Women Want. I’m still sort of in shock and not sure how to process this film. I mean, I almost think that the team (yes, it was a group affair) that wrote this movie are satirical geniuses on the order of Stephen Colbert, but I’m just bewildered. If it isn’t satire, everyone involved in it ought to start lying and saying it was, or else commit seppuku right away.

When I finished watching this thing, I wasn’t sure who should be most offended by it. It’s a toss-up between women, straight men, gay men, movie-goers, Asians, African Americans, and people with eyes.

I’m sure none of you plan to watch this film, but in case some Sixpence None the Richer fan has accidentally found herself on my page, I’ll warn you, I’m about to give the whole of this fucker away.

The story is that a “lovable” misogynistic tool/absentee father (winky winky) who works as an ad man and has no trouble getting women into bed — despite being Mel Gibson — finds himself working for a female boss who wants to corner the market in advertising to women.

Mel, being that he only knows enough about women to get them to take their pants off, is having trouble coming up with ideas for how to pitch products to women (but he can still somehow get them to get naked, natch), so he decides to use a bunch of “women’s products” himself in order to “get inside the female mind.” He proceeds to put on nail polish, lipstick, and pantyhose, then ends up taking a dive into the bathtub with a running hairdryer in his hand when he slips on some bath beads that he has spilled on the bathroom floor (I know, right? Bath beads aren’t fucking marbles, guys. They’re soft. Gah!). He wakes up in the morning and finds that, because he was nearly electrocuted to death or something while wearing pantyhose, he can hear women’s thoughts. Jesus Christ. They didn’t even try. They could have come up with something. Like maybe a crystal skull? Haven’t these people seen Vice Versa or Like Father, Like Son?

Anyway, he heads to work and finds out all the women he works with think he’s an asshole (surprise!). He then also discovers that he can read the mind of his new boss, Helen Hunt, and steal all of her ideas in order to undermine her position and steal her job. But — and I know this will come as a shock — he accidentally falls in love with her, despite the fact that by this time he has figured out that he can use his gift for hearing women’s thoughts to manipulate them into bed. Because, you see, this misogynistic asshole really has a heart of gold. Hooo!

He also uses his gift to bond with his teenage daughter, with whom he has heretofore maintained no relationship, and wipe away years of neglect and resentment. His newfound insight into the female mind is so impressive, in fact, that he becomes the go-to girl around the office for women who need relationship advice, and from these women he really learns what it feels like to be a woman. We’re supposed to know this because there’s a scene in which Mel is shown eating a rice cake and crying while watching a woman tell her weight loss story on TV. Because that’s what being a woman is all about: eating and crying at the same time.

In the end, Mel learns how to be a human being (and we’re to excuse him for not having been one up until this point) and comes clean to his powerful lady-boss, who, despite being a powerful lady-boss, is dumb enough to forgive him, and they live happily ever after.

I think I’ll go through the groups that ought to be offended by this movie one-by-one, and give the reasons for each. First, since I am one, I’ll tell you why this movie ought to offend women even more than the fact that Axl Rose calls his new band Guns ‘n’ Roses offends me. This movie makes a LOT of weird assumptions about women, chief among which is that we’re supposed to find Mel Gibson irresistible. Seriously. He’s a fucking simian. I won’t bother to go into the hundreds of stupid stereotypes that make up the bulk of this film because I don’t have to. Let it be enough to say that the writers of this movie must have had one hell of a brainstorming session to come up with so many and to find a way to fit them all into 127 minutes.

This movie ought to irritate men as well, because Mel Gibson’s character is the biggest asshole/idiot to hit the screen since Biodome. Men, according to these writers, are stupid, ego-maniacal psychopaths who think of nothing other than how to bang as many women as possible and avoid talking to them after the fact. Well, I guess that’s sort of true for most men, but I’m sure there are a few dudes who should be offended by that. Right?

Movie-goers are likely the group who should find themselves most insulted once this movie’s credits roll. I mean, who wants to spend 127 minutes of their time being told they’re stupid? That is most definitely the message in this film, because the writers couldn’t be bothered to insert a single original idea, plot element, sentence of dialog, or even an interesting camera angle into this parade of bullshit.

I suppose the writers did manage one novel achievement: they left almost no group of people un-insulted.

On the first day Mel can hear women’s thoughts, he hears the black woman who works as a doorwoman at his building have the following thought about him: “Mmm- MMMM! Look atchyo fine-ass self! Rawr!” No, I’m not kidding. Unbelievable. But that’s not all…

When Marisa Tomei’s character confronts Mel about why he hasn’t called her for six days after they had sex, he reads her thoughts, hearing, “He had better be gay. I can’t take rejection again!” So Mel proceeds to do the most embarrassing gay impression I’ve ever seen, which is not all that strange in hindsight, knowing what we now know about Mel’s love for the Bible and right-wing politics. But that’s still not all…

Mel’s character has to go seek out the home of a girl who works at the office who he believes to be considering suicide so he can save her by offering her her dream job at the ad agency (I know), and for some fucking reason that I can’t fathom, she lives in Chinatown, despite being a bairen. He can’t find the girl’s house, so he turns to an ancient Chinese lady on the street who, somehow, knows where everyone in Chinatown lives. She’s completely mute but takes Mel by the hand and leads him through a labyrinth of alleys to the girl’s house, then ducks out. (I was pretty shocked to see that the ancient woman didn’t do a little half-bow with her hands in the prayer position to the tune of that stupid bit of “Oriental” music at the beginning of “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors.) Now, there was no fucking reason this girl had to live in Chinatown. I strongly suspect that the writers included that element so that they could offend just one more group of people before the movie ended. The only way they could have made that intent more obvious would be if they had had the woman say, “Me Chinese, me play joke, me go pee-pee in your Coke.”

I give it a 9. After writing this and thinking about it, I’m convinced that the writers have put one over on everyone but a select few people, and that only we can see the genius of their satire of the romantic comedy genre.

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Fair is fair!

When was the last time you watched The Legend of Billie Jean? You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a pretty huge fan of 80s movies, and The Legend is one of the best ones ever made. Producers in the 80s weren’t afraid of far-fetched plots and silly concepts and, accordingly, they normally didn’t take themselves as seriously as the embarrassingly pretentious wankers who write most of the movies we see these days do. Even in their moments of seriousness, 80s movies manage to avoid seeming pretentious and still come off as silly entertainment for the most part. That’s why I watch movies, to be entertained. I don’t have time to sit around watching melodramatic nonsense written by some asshole in Silver Lake who thinks he’s had some emotion that’s so unique and important that he has to try to drag me down into his maudlin little world. If I’m getting on board with a screenwriter’s feelings, they have to be feelings I want to have, like righteous rebelliousness, mirth, or the general silliness produced by being involved in hijinks of some kind or another.

The Legend (I’m so into it I’ve given it a shortened title) does all of that for me. The movie starts out when some swaggering dickfore trashes Binx’s (played by Christian Slater) moped (!), and his sister Billie Jean goes to see the dude’s father, Pyatt, in hopes of getting him to pay for the damages, which would only be fair. Pyatt, played by the villainously mustachioed Richard Bradford, opts to forgo paying Billie Jean and instead decides to try to rape her. Billie Jean and Binx ain’t having none of that, though, and Binx shoots the old man in the arm and the pair tear off, amassing a gang of youthful pals and heading off into the sunset with them to live as outlaws until this iniquitous motherfucker decides to fork over the dough for Binx’s moped (!), which would only be fair. The rest of the movie revolves around the gang’s attempts to live on the lam without breaking the law, Billie Jean’s transformation into an idol for maltreated youngsters across the nation, and the judicious pairing of scenes of rebellious youths not taking any shit from authority figures with snippets of Pat Benatar’s “Invincible.”

Billie Jean starts off the movie a sweet young blond girl with a sense of right and wrong, but by the end she’s become a freedom fighter, as evidenced by her donning what looks like a wetsuit top, an angry haircut, and one ridiculously long earring. She has let go of her innocence and naivety and adopted a harder stance with regard to the injustices perpetrated against the impuissant by the likes of Pyatt and his dastardly son. Accordingly, she makes a video for distribution to media outlets in which she rails against the arrogance of men like Pyatt and pumps her fist in the air, yelling, “Fair is fair!” It’s almost impossible to watch because it’s so ridiculous and embarrassing, but that’s what makes it entertaining.

But it’s not just the awesomely awkward over-the-top depiction of 1985 teen angst that attracts me to The Legend; it’s also the feminist undertones in the story. Billie Jean doesn’t let herself become a victim, but instead takes charge of a situation in which the authorities have left her with no protection. She also doesn’t step back and allow some male character to defend her honor, but instead takes Pyatt on herself, all while also acting as the leader and protector of her entire gang of young brigands. It’s an awesome tale of female strength and resourcefulness. The entire movie revolves around badass women and thus offered young girls in the 1980s role models that differed wildly from Barbie. The movie even touched on the subject of menstruation, when one of Billie Jean’s gang, Putter (Yeardly Smith, who now does Lisa Simpson’s voice), has her first period while the gang is on the run. Binx makes fun of her and Billie Jean shuts him right up, telling him that menstruation is wondrous and beautiful. With a cast of characters who nearly all defy traditional gender roles and with a soundtrack dominated by Pat Benatar and Wendy O. Williams, The Legend of Billie Jean may just be one of the top feminist movies of the 80s. I say you watch it, think about how it compares to the depictions of teen girls in today’s movies, and ask yourself whether we’ve moved forward or backward.

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