“We have known for some time that male mammals are separated from female mammals by a difference in genetic material of about 0.5 percent. But we have learned only recently that men are separated from mice by a difference in genetic material of no more than about 1 percent. Which has led us to believe that once we finish mapping the human genome along with those of the higher primates there is a very real chance we will discover men share more genes with male gorillas than they do with women.”
-- from Nic Kelman’s novel, Girls
Well, that explains a lot, doesn’t it? It’s one more reason why many women turn to romance novels, to experience the fantastical fun that might be had with men who are less like apes than say, the kinds of blockheads they deal with on a daily basis (it’s often been posited that your average Harlequin is the female equivalent of men’s pornography).
But what, on the other hand, explains the prevalence of female protagonists in romantic comedy (generally perceived as a women’s genre) who are, as L.A. Times correspondent Carina Chocano shrewdly points out in a recent article, more like tranquilizers than characters? You’d think that women going to such so-called “chick flicks” would like to see women on the screen who behave more realistically and embody values closer to their own. Yet, as Chocano notes, your average rom-com heroine these days is constrained to be rigidly (i.e. stereotypically) perfect: likable, sympathetic, never emotionally excessive or self-destructive even when depressed, sexy but not too interested in sex, supermodel-like in physical attributes, and hopefully no older than 29.
One could chalk it up to the prevalence of male screenwriters and studios execs, except that practically every studio in town is presently run by… a woman: Universal (Stacy Snider), Sony (Amy Pascal), Disney/Buena Vista (Nina Jacobson), and other major production companies have strong, powerful females calling the shots (it’s a “New Old Girls’ Network,” according to NY Times journalist Nancy Hass). Add in the factor that in America, at least, women are supposedly the ones who pick what movie a couple will see on a given date night, and you’ve got a bit of a head-scratcher.
So what gives, folks? Any theories on why contemporary romantic comedy films are so bereft of “real life” women?