Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are We Still Stuck in the '30s?

Last night, instead of studying for my upcoming GRE, I watched the most vapid film I have seen in a long time. Maybe in this whole year.

That movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic. To be fair, I had really low expectations for the film. I had heard that it had been well received because of its fantasy element.

The movie, which glamorizes shopping, consumerism, hell, even credit card debt, was released squarely in the depths of a recession. Like the musicals of the '30s, it was advertised as a fluff piece, a guilty pleasure that was made to take our minds off of reality and allow us to ride the American Dream train once again. It was hailed for its ability to cure the depressed masses, at least for the hour and a half spent in the theatre and maybe another half an hour of afterglow.

But this picture wasn't all sugar-spun dreamy. If anything, the connection I made to the '30s Technicolor musical masterpieces (the film industry's reaction to the Great Depression), was the rampant sexual stereotyping.

Apparently, the film is based on a best-selling book written by a woman. I haven't read it, so I can't speak to that text. But my god, I have not seen such one-dimensional portrayals of the sexes in a long time. Going back to the screwball comedies/romantic musicals from back in the day, the movie features the archetypal foolish-girl-who-needs-saving and the rational-minded-man-who-does-the-saving.

My number one comment during the movie: this girl is a HOTTTTTTT mess. Seriously, the ditsy, clumsy, completely lala girl is just not funny anymore. I could tell the parts during the movie where I as the audience member was supposed to laugh but, the character just wasn't funny. She was pathetic. She had a disorder, albeit an addiction to shopping, which I feel was never properly addressed. I know credit card debt is a plague on this country. Believe me, after working nearly a year at a bank, I KNOW. I realize people have made some bad choices. This movie wasn't about that. The main character Becky, was driven totally by the irrational. It wasn't even that she only thought about herself, I felt like this character just lacked the ability to think at all. I know that sounds harsh but I just could not care about this girl at all.

And it wasn't just her character. There was a clear gender line. The women in the movie were all loopy, all driven by their id. They behaved like animals in stores. All they cared about was the material, having things they had no need for. They best word to describe these women: frivolous. There was one shopaholic man that stood out but, as usual, he was played for gay.

The men of course, were needed to ground the women. To deliver advice, to save them for themselves. To fix their blunders in social situations because the girls were awkward or clumsy. To be the voice of reason. They knew how to manager their finances. Clearly, the movie was sending the message that men never mismanage their funds, that's something that women do. And that's just not true in real life; men might spend their money on different products but, they are just as guilty of overspending.

Honestly, the whole time I was watching the movie, I couldn't help but wonder, why doesn't she just sell the stuff she doesn't use on Ebay? But then, I guess there wouldn't have been a movie. Then again, what's the point of mindless entertainment if it doesn't actually entertain you?