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?