Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday Gender Hi-Jinks with a Delicious Bill Pullman

Now that it's officially Christmas season, I've been indulging in all my favorite holiday movies. One of my guilty pleasures is the 1995 romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. I have a weird thing for 90's era Bill Pullman, with his denim shirts and perfectly tousled hair.  .  .

If you've never watched this movie 1) that's a minor tragedy and 2) let me tell you what it entails: it stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy, a lonely young woman who falls for the handsome Peter (coincidentally played by Peter Gallagher). The problem is that she's never actually spoken to him. When tragedy befalls him, she rescues him and accompanies him to the hospital. A misunderstanding occurs and she's assumed to be his fiance. After some innocent flirting she ends up falling for the guy's little brother.

Originally, this story was going to feature a young man who loves a woman from afar, and subsequently ends up with her sister, but this idea was viewed to be too predatory. I guess it's not a stretch, for a man to pine after a woman he's never met before, but if she were unconscious and he let people believe he was her significant other it would carry date rape implications.

That scene in the hospital when Lucy talks to comatose Peter, spilling her secrets, wouldn't really tug at your heart strings if the woman was in the hospital bed, unaware and unconscious of the lonely stranger who shares his life with only a cat, who enters her room under false pretenses.

"I always feel like- somebody's watchin' me.  .  ."

I bring up this alternate narrative because gender, with all its stereotypes and expectations, is always worth examining, even in innocuous holiday movies. 

I remember one of my grad school professors once said that she doesn't like the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Of course the entire class exclaimed our protests: how can anyone not love a book which captures the essence of maternal devotion? But when she asked us to imagine the book with alternate gender roles, instead of a mother creeping into her son's room it'd be a father creeping into his daughter's room (even as she ages into a teen and young woman) we began to see what she meant. A mother can cradle her teenage son, or drive across town and sneak into his room, and it makes a comic picture centering on a  nostalgic mother bonding with her son in a way that a typical teenager or mature man would prohibit if he were awake. 

Nobody would be laughing if the father was creeping into his daughter's room, taking her out of bed in her nightie and holding her as she lies unaware in his arms.

For the record, I still like the book, but that exchange definitely made me reconsider what my own preconceptions about gender are, and how they've been informed.

So now that I've planted this little seed for discussion, maybe enough people will realize how uncomfortable the song "Baby It's Cold Outside" makes them, and it won't be PC to play it on the radio anymore. Please spare me from having to listen to yet another cover of the song in which the female sings "The answer is no" and "What's in this drink?" while the male singer worries about his pride. The latest cover features Idina Menzel, the famous voice behind Frozen's Queen Elsa. 

It gives this picture of Olaf, drink in hand, new meaning.

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