It’s not that this, too, isn’t a story worth telling. (I assume.) It’s just that it’s already been told. I have been implored so many times to offer my heartstrings for the tugging on behalf of the privileged guy who can barely get laid what with all the daddying he has to do. Or all the depression he has to overcome. Or whatever.
Meanwhile, try to get a film made about a disabled mother who is raising children on her own while not making enough money at something way more mundane than trying to become a movie star, and see how that goes. BO-RING!
Over at “Feminist Critics,” Ballgame is unimpressed by Melissa’s unimpressed-ness. He praises The End of Love for being a positive depiction of a single dad, and accuses Melissa of
being a hypocrite having acted inconsistently because a post she wrote didn’t criticize sexist stereotypes in “Iron Man,” although that post was actually written by a different writer.1
Ballgame made a more interesting point in comments:
If the existing movie focuses on a relatively under-served segment of the market (such as single fathers), I don’t think it’s fair to say a different movie focusing on an even more under-served part of the market should have been made.
So here’s the conflict: Melissa thinks that we’ve seen lots of movies about how hard it is for single fathers, whereas Ballgame thinks it’s an underserved market.
Some relatively recent films where a lead or major character is a single father: Les Miserables, The Pursuit of Happyness, Finding Nemo,2 The Holiday, Definitely Maybe, Love Actually, Jersey Girl, Sleepless In Seattle, A Simple Twist of Fate, I Am Sam, The American President, Martian Child, We Bought A Zoo, Dan In Real Life, One Fine Day, Big Daddy, The Game Plan,
The Pacifier, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Mall Cop, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Jack the Bear, and Four Single Fathers.
Is that a lot or not enough? Heck if I know. It does show that Melissa is right to say that The End Of Love isn’t breaking new ground with a single dad protagonist.
That said, I want to see single male dads on screen, and I don’t care if it’s already been done.3 There remains a cultural narrative that says that only moms can nurture, and therefore movies that push back against that narrative remain valuable.
On the other hand, what about single mothers? I want to see more of them on film, too. In the USA, there are over 5 single mother households for every single father household, yet I don’t think there are over five times as many single mom films as single dad films. And we need pushback in this area also – it feels like there are an endless supply of social conservatives ready to blame single moms for most of society’s problems.
In movies overall, women and girls are slighted. According to media scholar Stacey Smith:
Examining over 5,000 characters, a recent study of 122 G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2009 showed that less than 30% of all speaking characters are girls or women. Put differently, the ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.42 to 1. While on screen portrayals are skewed, the percentage of females working behind-the-scenes is even more abysmal. Across 1,565 behind-the-scenes employees from the same 122 films, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers and 20% of producers were female. This translates into a ratio of 4.88 males to every 1 female.
I think this is the heart of Melissa’s complaint: It remains a lot easier to get a movie financed and made if it’s about a man, especially a white man. There’s nothing wrong with Mark Webber, the white male writer, director and star of The End of Love, having decided to make a film starring himself. There is something wrong, however, in the fact that it’s a lot more likely that we’ll see such a film from Mark Webber than from Mary Webber.
As Melissa said, that doesn’t mean that The End of Love isn’t a terrific movie.4 It’s not about this one film; it’s about how women and girl characters, single mothers included, aren’t given equal treatment in films in general.
P.S. Full disclosure: Like Melissa and Ballgame, I haven’t actually seen The End of Love yet.
Hat tip to Fannie’s Room, who also criticizes Ballgame’s post.
- Even if Melissa had written both posts, Ballgame’s comparison would be more point-scoring “gotcha!” than intelligent criticism. Sometimes I feel like writing a careful analysis of a piece of media, and sometimes I just wanna say “the film was fun but the seats sucked.” That doesn’t makes me a hypocrite. [↩]
- In comments, Ballgame – who has never seen Finding Nemo – bizarrely dismissed it by saying “an animated movie like that wouldn’t merit too many points.” What the hell? [↩]
- [[George]] I’ve nothing to say [[Dot]] You have many things [[George]] Well, nothing that’s not been said [[Dot]] Said by you, though? –Stephen Sondheim lyrics from Sunday In The Park With George. [↩]
- The main character’s son is played by Mark Webber’s real-life adorable toddler, who was just reacting naturally to his dad. That sounds really neat to me, and a review I read claimed the very naturalistic parenting footage is the film’s best point. [↩]