A man without a woman is like a fish without water

The assumption we generally make is that reducing female character to nothing but love interests objectifies women. But I’m going to tackle this issue from the other side, and ask what it says about men. If a man has an exciting fulfilling life, running around catching spies or diffusing bombs, or winning on Wall Street or in the courtroom, why does he require female adoration in order to be complete? Even if she’s just an accessory, like a necktie… why is not only she, but her worship of him, essential?

See? Turn the issue on its head, and suddenly we have writers showing their male characters to be shallow and weak, in their attempt to objectify the females.

Every answer that’s come into my head boils down to the same one: he’s so insecure, that he requires proof of his manhood, and the love of a good woman is one of those proofs. This statement is, in real life, so full of holes it makes doilies nervous. As most women know, real females are generally very good at making men feel loved even when they’re only interested in him for what they can get out of him. And most men don’t seem to clue into this little phenomenon until they’re too old to care. But in films and TV, she always really truly loves him, and this provides him with some kind of essential validation that makes me wonder: what did he have going for him without her?

As often as writers try to show that women are unfulfilled without a man and his spawn, no matter how much else they have in their lives, they are also inadvertently showing that a Real Man requires a stamp of approval from a Woman of Good Character, or else it’s all for naught. Can this worldview possibly come from anything other than biology? The affirmation of the genes through the success of the progeny? I can see a sperm thinking “I’m nothing unless I make it to an egg!” if it had a conscious mind, and that’s true. But are men thinking like giant sperms? Certainly, writers imagine women to be thinking like giant eggs: “I’m nothing unless a sperm reaches me!”

This leads me to wonder how many people ever spend five minutes of their lives examining their own thought processes. The agendae of those tiny little cells – neurotransmitters, hormones, etc. – will absolutely rule the brain unless you choose to overrule them consciously. Are we patterning our entire society after the great biological easter egg hunt? Is that really all we’ve managed to develop in the thousands of years since civilization began?


  1. says

    You mention that a man needs the worship of a “good woman,” and that a woman of “Good Character” is his mark of approval. Sure, it proves that men are insecure when they need to get the girl to be complete. What critics of women’s roles in movies mean to point out about this situation, however, is the problem with the portrayal of the “good woman.” Under pop culture’s male gaze, a “good woman” doesn’t need good character. She is merely an attractive woman that doesn’t get into trouble or fuck around on our protagonist. She also happens to be in complete and submissive awe of said man. Those are really the only requirements to play such a role.
    What nobody seems to take into account is that popular culture’s construction of the ideal relationship is ideal for neither the man nor the woman. These people base their search for the opposite sex on a need for validation or approval rather than on good company. This (a) isn’t realistic, and (b) kind of misses the whole point of a relationship, which is to enjoy someone’s company and be challenged and inspired (from what I hear).
    Relationships based on fulfilling need also kick off a flood of jealousy and possessiveness: insecurity is the key to a bad relationship, not only logically, but also from every personal experience I’ve ever heard about. When will movie makers wise up?

  2. says

    I think “critics of women’s roles in movies”, of which we all are here, can point out more than a few things wrong with this scenario. This particular article – which is soon to be 4 years old – was playing devil’s advocate to point out how the stereotyping of women isn’t even beneficial to the male characters, because they seem to be unable to function unless a “good woman” (I like your criteria list for her) is in awe of them, which is pathetic.

    The fact that such a woman character qualified to be Mr. Hero’s love interest is so under-explored that she could be a serial killer on the side and still qualify is another very good point, and one perhaps we haven’t touched on quite so directly (I’m trying to recall an article, and aside from our arguments against the depiction of mothers as always saintly and self-sacrificing, I’m not recalling anything offhand).

  3. Arrius says

    Interesting site. I havent quite figured out the nature of material here but seems to be writer oriented, with most members being female? Interesting perspectives if nothing else.

    I wanted to say on this topic that the ‘flaw’ of the person, to be understood as a personhood flaw and not a sexually related flaw, is external validation. The drive the pushes someone into the world to ‘prove’ themselves or gather trinkets that are shinny is the same drive that pushes someone to find a partner that dotes on them.

    Harnassing someones attentions, and gaining ground in their eyes, validates and fills the void that a balanced personality should fill.

    I would say if someone was wanting to depict a realistic character in a piece of fiction that the flaw should be shown to be a human flaw with manafestations in sexual identify and societal ‘penis gageing’

  4. says

    FYI, there’s an About link right up at the top that should help you figure out the nature of material here.

    Your point was pretty much what I was going for, in a leading sort of way. The thing is, in trying to diminish the female “love interests” of male characters, writers end up diminishing the male characters as well. The most interesting characters are those who can function alone, whether or not they choose to have partners.

  5. Arrius says

    The most intersting characters in life are those that function alone as well :)

    Thanks for the heads up and good welcome.

    The objectification of the love interest is fairly wide spread I’d venture. The current teeny love interest movie has the typical sullen misunderstood hunk that plays nice fodder for the crush oriented females they are targeting with their material.

  6. says

    The love interest is also included in movies targeting boys and young men, which is sort of interesting since they’re supposed to not like romance, and yet it’s always stuffed into movies they’d just as soon women and girls not even buy tickets for. 😉

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