From Fleabag to Always Be My Maybe, the new wave of great female characters are getting such terrible love interests. Why?
Theres a scene in the Netflix romcom Always Be My Maybe in which Sasha, Ali Wongs straight-talking, successful celebrity chef, watches her high school crush Marcus (Randall Park), a dope-smoking slacker who still lives with his dad in his mid-30s and plays in the same band he always did, bang out a song about tennis balls. Shes cheering wildly.
A decade ago, this type of romantic setup would have contained all the chemistry of a bloated ShamWow. But this is 2019, and here the disappointing, underachieving male is not simply in a supporting role on TV, hes a proper romantic lead. Sure, Marcus reminds Sasha of home and the things she left behind, but its hard not to watch the film and think really? The high-achieving go-getter prefers this guy to Keanu Reeves?
Its no secret that male characters have been going through something of a shift recently. Weve already witnessed the Hot But Horrible trend come back into force via the priest in Fleabag, a show utterly bereft of decent male characters. Earlier this year Vulture examined what it called the soft boys of Netflix, while The Hollywood Reporter ran a story last March on The Triumph of the Beta Male, featuring the openly nerdy stars of TVs Silicon Valley on the magazines widely panned cover.
Without bemoaning the disintegration of a terribly two-dimensional idea of strong masculinity, the new wave of tough, independent female characters does seem to be increasingly paired off with love interests who simply dont measure up.
Consider Sandra Ohs moustachioed husband in Killing Eve, who dresses almost exclusively in lounge wear and has passive-aggressive tantrums about his wife leaving home to hunt assassins.
Or Jeremy, Audreys husband in The Letdown, who, when he saw his own baby crying, had the temerity to ask, Do I pick her up?
Then theres Aidy Bryants love interest in Shrill, Ryan, who asks her to please exit from the back of the house so his friends dont see who he just slept with. The gesture is more likely to save her reputation than his, considering hes basically a bed-dwelling Hobbit with the refined charm of a leaf blower.
The disappointing male partner is also in full bloom on Netflix. In Dead To Me, Judys husband, Steve (James Marsden), is so used to gliding through life using only the power of his cheekbones, he seems blind to the needs of everyone around him. And then theres Dean (Matthew Lillard), Christina Hendricks husband in Good Girls, whose greatest betrayal is not his adultery (though thats also obviously not great) but his incompetence: as a businessman, an investor and, most crushing of all, as a dad.
Perhaps the trend is in part a backlash to the dark and brooding antihero who dominated our TV screens in the early 2000s Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, Omar Little. Flawed men who emoted dangerous, sometimes sexualised power with a squint, and a flare of the nostrils. If they sneezed, their female counterparts caught pneumonia.
But somewhere along the line, perhaps as more women took up space in writers rooms, the alpha male lead began to fade from view. As a consequence, its becoming clear just how dissatisfying the unbalanced power dynamic actually is.
Part of it is a function of the writing drama comes from conflict, and a story about a woman wielding power doesnt work as well with a supportive husband; wheres the conflict then?
Still. Why cant we have stories in which two equals battle it out and find meaningful compromise? What about a world in which neither partner has to sacrifice themselves or the things that are important to them? Especially when were talking about romcoms, which are essentially wish-fulfilment fantasies wouldnt that be a more progressive kind of wish-fulfilment than settling for the lazy and uninspiring?
But perhaps in 2019, womens wish-fulfilment is only partly focused on romance. The romcom has, for a while now, been as much about the ideal job, outfit and home as it is the ideal partner. Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Somethings Gotta Give are about aspirational lifestyles. Perhaps it is that right now, a womans greatest wish is her own success, and the man figures less in that equation, because hes no longer seen as the central measure of it.
Or perhaps, just for this moment, female wish-fulfilment is centred on dominance. Its not progressive, its not ideal, but as women get in touch with their general disappointment over men, perhaps it is for this short time in history an accurate reflection of what women want.
This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific
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