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Friday, 22 February 2013

Up in the Air: Dissent


In the absence of a comment section, I promised I’d do dissent posts a lot more, because god knows not everyone agrees with me.

My “Up in the Air” piece resulted in a lot of interesting feedback. One of my followers on twitter, @girliest_gooner, asked:

“Your post about confronting your sexism was very honest and i'm glad you are trying to change. [but] are you really trying to change though?”

To be fair to Girliest (great name), that is an interesting question and I genuinely don’t know the answer. How do you change? As I said in previous posts, I grew up listening to gangster rap music, which isn’t the most progressive art form in the world. So what do I do, stop listening to Dr Dre?

Fortunately, Roro80 has an answer to my problem:

"Really interesting article — brave, I think. Catching yourself is the first step. The next step: consciously replacing the thought with a different thought. Then it becomes natural to think the new thought. It’s like when someone points out some annoying turn of phrase you’ve made a habit of that you didn’t realize you were even saying — first you have to notice it, then you consciously replace it, and eventually it’s gone."

Sounds like a plan.

Anyway, another reader, Dean Esmay, flat out disagreed with my reading of Up in the Air:

“The usual term for a man who’s cheating with another man’s wife is a “kept man” or “man on the side.” “Consort” and “boytoy” and “paramour” are also often used. They are frequently used in a positive and encouraging sense, especially “boytoy” and “paramour,:
The usual reaction to the man who’s cheated on is to be mocked; that’s the historical term anyway; he’s been cuckolded, poor sap, poor loser, couldn’t keep his woman happy so she had to stray.
A problem I had with this analysis is that in Up in the Air, we had no reason at all to believe that Clooney was in the habit of sleeping with other men’s wives. It’s not even hinted at. Why make any such assumption? Furthermore, there’s a much more straightforward reason to feel for him and not for the young woman who fires people for a living: he’s an old pro, he’s been at this a long long time, and at first he seems utterly ruthless but you can see hints of pain and sympathy in him from the beginning, and further, you see how utterly empty his life seems to be, and how lonely he seems to be, and how he seems to be on a path to redemption, to finding a happiness he’s never had… whereas the younger woman character is just starting out, is far more cast iron… but then she also redeems herself and quits this horrible game and goes on to something better, whereas an apparently disappointed and crushed Clooney appears to be resolving himself to a life of bitter isolation: he thought he’d found love only to be lied to, and continues this terrible life of his because he appears to have no options (or lets himself think so anyway).
A further problem is the notion that we never have movies that celebrate women who cheat? Then why do we not feel hatred for Ilsa in Casablanca, even though she very clearly wants to leave her husband for Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick? We just feel sorry for them both that she stays with her husband. In fact almost no one seems to remember: this whole story is about how we want her to leave her husband for Rick, and Rick feels bad about that. She’s a cheat, but do we hate her? No, we just feel sorry for her.
Did people hate the character of Katharine Clifton in The English Patient, even though she was unambiguously an adulteress? I don’t recall much talk of that, or feeling that way. In “Unfaithful” we’re supposed to be relieved when the wife gets back together with her husband after her adulterous affair.
And nobody hated Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” until it became obvious that she was actually being manipulative and destructive; we don’t hate her for cheating on her husband, we hate her for what she’s doing to Dustin Hoffman’s character and life. We don’t even give a damn about her husband.
As we already know, women cheat on their husbands as often as men cheat on their wives these days, although most of the time men don’t even know it (up to 95% of the time according to some sources). In fact part of the more common sexism of today’s society is the whole notion that men are more prone to cheat (they aren’t) or that men who cheat are “celebrated” when in fact any look at popular music and movies and TV shows most frequently shows cheating men as villains, with only rare exception; indeed, in our popular culture, castrating or outright killing a man who cheats is considered high entertainment; if you want to talk about real sexism, there it is for you.”

When George Clooney’s character, Ryan, goes back to his flat, his very attractive neighbour makes an appearance. Now, for me, its strongly hinted that they had a fling or two in the past and it was likely that he ended it. That’s what makes me believe that he has been a womaniser in the past. As for the rest of the comment? I have nothing to say. Everyone reacts differently to movies. That’s the beauty of them.

Anyway, thank you for your support. Look out for three new posts next week.

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