Archivo de la etiqueta: (500) Days Of Summer

The nice guy and the entitlement to date him in movies

You all know the story, a nice boy meets the wild girl and falls in love with her, along comes a serious relationship and she turns to be nothing he picture she would be. Boy feels betrayed by girl. Boy calls her a bitch. Boy asks himself why does these things always happen to him.

If it sounds familiar to you is because more than a handful of movies and TV shows have depicted this precise story more than enough, I must stay in their rom-coms. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, these stories tend to represent the nice guy  like nothing more than a victim of the thoughtless and rude girl, that used him ruthlessly, without thinking about this hopeless individual that devoted his whole world to woo her and love her inconditionally.

The nice guy trope in fiction is usually portrayed as that one dude who thinks he is entitled to date someone only because he’s treating the person he’s in love with with kindness and respect. This guy is that person who always thinks is being missunderstood, but that’s also lovable and totally deserves to be in a relationship only because he’s nice.

Lately, three films in particular, (500) Days of Summer, Ruby Sparks and Comet, have drew upon this specific formula in order to revert the trope of the nice guy and instead tried to depict something more real: relationships are, first and foremost, something bilateral. When it comes to love, everyone involved are the ones to blame.

If you haven’t watched these movies, let me break them down for you. Boy meets girl (fictional girl in Ruby Sparks’ case). Boy and girl begin a relationship (casual relationship in (500) Days Of Summer’s case). Girl tells boy how she feels about love. Boy doesn’t actually hears girl. Boy sky-rockets to stalker mode and wants girl to change for him. Girl breaks up with boy. Boy is devastated. Boy hates girl for putting him in that ugly position and blames her for everything that was wrong in their relationship.

What makes these movies different from the others is the way the narrative treats the relationship. Instead of begging the audience to side with the nice guy, it asks us to go further and look behind the curtain, that place where fiction collides with reality and where the cracks of their telationship begin to show. These films actual purpose is to look beyond the nice guy facade in order to really focus on the human beings involved in the relationships and the things they struggle with.

(500) Days of Summer’ Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the ultimate nice guy cliche. He’s kind, considerate and thoughtful, and on the first minute he mets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) immediately gets infatuated by her. She, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in love and hasn’t actually met someone who’s proven her wrong. Summer doesn’t want to get involved in a relationship and just wants to be friends with Tom.

If you have read carefuly, you will probably imagine what will happen next: Tom decides to have a casual relationship with her anyway to prove her he is worthy of her love; then, things go wrong. Summer ends up being the bad one, the one who is rejecting this nice guy who only wants to be in love. The one who crushes his heart .

Tom later learns that Summer is getting married and, of course, he feels betrayed. What he doesn’t know is that she is an actual person who is capable of making her own decisions. She wasn’t in love with Tom and she always told him that. He, on the other hand, decided to hear what he wanted to hear and not what she was actually saying.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is the nice guy on Ruby Sparks. A dude who’s been trying to forget his ex-girlfriend (the crazy bitch of this tale), but when his fictional character, Ruby (Zoe Kazan), appears in his life as her real girlfriend, everything changes. He is thrilled to have (literally) the woman of his dreams in front of him, the one woman who has everything that he’s been looking for and certainly won’t be cruel to him.

Later in the film, reality kicks in and Calvin learns that, even though Ruby was created by him, she also is an actual human being sounds familiar?,  a person who has feelings and ideas and someone who is not just part of a fantasy. He could try all he wants to change her and expect her to love him back because he’s nice, but, in the end, she is a woman capable of making her own decisions, not someone who Calvin can tamper with.

In Comet, Dell (Justin Long) falls instantly in love with Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) and immediately makes everything he can to woo her. At first, she is not convinced at all and tells him she’s not ready to date, she’s not someone who sees herself spending the rest of her life with someone else.

Eventually they start to date and we see how their story develops in multiple timelines. We also get to see how this relationship was doomed from the very beginning and how it crashes and burn in each and every one of the timelines.

Dell tries to convince Kimberly he is the man of his life, the man who will prove her wrong, the man who will always be nice to her. He tells her that in each and every universe and story they share together. The real problem, though, resides on his stubborness and unwillingness to hear her, to acknowledge Kimberly and her decisions. Once again, the woman is not a an actual person on the nice guy’s eyes, she’s just the idea of what he wants her to be.

As we can see, the nice guy usually lives in a delusional world where his fantasies are attached to the reality he’s part of. He really is a product of the films he lives in. I could perfectly see Tom, Calvin and Dell watching rom-coms and living their life by those depictions of the nice guy.

What’s really interesting is the way these three films use different narrative devices to explain the world their nice guys live in, (500) Days of Summer uses a narrator that gives us instant access to Tom’s mind, Ruby Sparks brings Calvin’s fantasy to life with Ruby, and Comet exploits multiple timelines to evoke Dell’s confusing grappling of reality.

Thus, the real problem with the nice guy as a character is his representation as someone who has null interest in knowing more about the person he has a crush on. He is in love, yes, but he bases his infatuation on the idea he has of the woman, and how she should be, not on the actual individual.

To reproduce this type of depiction is to keep acknowledging that women must date someone just because they are nice and not because they should try to make an effort to know them really. Someone who is willing to see them as  fully formed human beings with an own voice, and not a deranged fantasy that lives only in the nice guy’s head.

‘Love’ and gender politics: deconstructing the Nice Guy and the Crazy Bitch.

As I’ve thoroughly explained in old posts, TV shows have become an interesting, and substantial, platform to debate, and create, topics of interest within the young, and millennial, audiences nowadays, and gender politics hasn’t been the exception.

For those of us that grew on the nineties watching sitcoms (and, as in my case, telenovelas too) the stories we were used to see depicted most of the men and women like this immovable sexist stereotype, where woman can be called a ‘Crazy Bitch’ without any remorse whilst the typical ‘Nice Guy’ will often ended stuck in a relationship with this kind of person, hoping  that all her quirks and bits would save him from himself one day.

Same stereotypes that certain movies from the early millennium loved to strengthen in their stories. Films like (500) Days Of Summer, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 10 Things I Hate About You and Elizabethtown that conveniently converted the Crazy Bitch into the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ and left the Nice Guy to indulge himself with her savior-ish complex.

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Thus, following this idea, for every Tom there’s a Summer waiting to break his heart over and over again, until Autumn arrives. For every Joel there’s a Clementine hoping to meet him again to re-enter the obsessive cycle they’re in. For every Patrick there’s a Kat wiling to enlist everything she loves about him in spite of her beliefs. For every Drew there’s a Claire awaiting to save him from suicide with the magic of an intricate map and a red hat.

You see, these stories told million of persons, for a long time, that a Nice Guy will always be that anxious, shy, type of person that, by the simple fact of being nice, is entitled to every girl he has crossed upon his life, and that the Crazy Bitch (A.K.A The Manic Pixie Dream Girl) will ever be that odd, tempered, quirky, lost soul that somehow, sometime, will eventually end up dating a Nice Guy. Yikes.

In recent years, this well-crafted and static ideas have changed. Some films, like Ruby Sparks, have engaged interesting debates around gender politics by making overhauling deconstructions of sexist stereotypes within creative tropes and vivid narratives. Ruby Sparks (the character) is written by Calvin (the Nice Guy)  to be (literally and metaphorically) the Crazy Bitch that’s gonna save him from himself. As we all know, things don’t end quite well.

Some TV Shows like Love, the  new Judd Apatow Netflix dramedy, really managed to put the finger right on the gender politics debate by developing a story, full of cliches and tropes found on traditional rom-coms, that falls right into an elaborate and well-thought deconstruction of their protagonists, who happen to be a Nice Guy and a Crazy Bitch.

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Gus is  an anxious, insecure geek guy whose major trait, which he can be proud of, is his niceness that he gawkily shows off to everyone he can. Mickey, on the other hand, is a self-absorbed, tactless addict who has no interest in anything on particular. They both meet thanks to a twist of fate and, immediately, embark  on a new adventure together. The typical boy-meets-girl story.

When they are together, or with any other people for that matter, they’re perfect showing their best facade: he is nice, she is blunt. He goes around rubbing into people’s faces that he is rather solicitous whilst she is indifferent to anything and anyone; the perfect sexist stereotypes.

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Thanks to the fabulous narrative tool of portraying each others lives individually (they spend more time by themselves than together) the creators allow themselves to deconstruct, and reconstruct, this stereotypes to their core to help us understand the true meaning of both ideas.

As it turns out, Gus’ niceness is not that nice at all, and his kindness quickly transforms into hostility. He’s so convinced that he is such a good person that he thinks he deserves a great life, with the perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl to go with it. He sees that life with Mickey and immediately idealizes her as that free-spirited girl who came into his life to give it some meaning, but when Mickey doesn’t give him that in return, all hell breaks loose.

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Yes, Mickey is a troubled person, with her own complicated stuff to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that her only goal in life is to look for someone who can solve her problems and instantly make them go away, even if a Nice Guy might seem the perfect choice to do so. She’s also an addict, and she needs to be with someone that fulfills her needs whilst helping her to recognize them. She is not a trophy or an ideal of a woman. She is who she is, nothing more, nothing less.

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He can call her crazy as many times he wants to and still she will not be the Crazy Bitch he imagines she is. She can look for that Nice Guy who can be the wonderful exception on her love life and still feel empty and undesired. Relationships are hard, and people can get lost between the idea they have of a person and the actual person that’s in front of them.

That’s what stereotypes do. They erase every trait, feature and bit that makes a person unique and, somehow, manages to put everyone that shares something (anything, really) inside a box with blurry limits and a bunch of heavy prejudices to live by.

The Nice Guy and the Crazy Bitch exists only inside our minds. In the real world people are much more complex than that. We are not our gender, and our gender does not defines us. We can be nice, crazy, depressive, manic, happy and sad and still not want to be a part of any stereotype. We should, and we must, deconstruct the stereotypes that surround us in order to understand the way paradigms in gender politics  affect us and how do they work.