How to Make Money off the Male Gaze

In going through old posts for Retro Roundup today, I came across a point I made about the movie Loser a year ago:

Something jumped out at me with this viewing. While the boy on a scholarship struggles to find a cheap place to live, the girl (Dora) has lost her job as a cocktail waitress. She can’t get financial aid without an apartment, and she can’t get an apartment without substantial income, so she goes looking for other jobs that capitalize on her looks and sexuality, because those types of jobs pay better. She eventually plans to sell her eggs, but is rescued from this mildly dangerous procedure by the boy; and the epilog assures us the boy now enjoys “first dibs” on said eggs.

This is part of the same message Coyote Ugly sends: “You can do what you want, gals, but your best option is always to rely on appealing to men – as wives, cocktail mistresses, porn stars or whatever.” Cinderella got her redress (pun intended) in Ever After, but the message is as alive and well today as ever before. It’s just sneaking around in tighter clothes.

There’s something I left out of the earlier review on Losers: that before Dora meets the Mr. Nice Guy boy – the loser for whom the film is named, because it’s really all about him – she’s screwing her married professor, who is a winner. Of course, according to the film, Dora’s mistake is not that she’s letting a man use her for sex, it’s that she’s letting the wrong man use her. She should be servicing the Nice Guy, not the baddie.

Or, you know, she could be doing something she cares about, and a man could freakin’ admire her for that. Seriously. But feminists started making that point back in the 60’s or 70’s – fat lot of good it’s done so far.

I doubt I can add much to the infamous Majikthise post about Nice Guys, and it may seem somewhat irrelevant to the topic of women relying on their appeal to the male gaze. But:

I’m talking about guys who tell you how nice they are and go on to complain about how women (read: you and your friends) don’t appreciate nice guys (read: me). The subtext is that if women (you) weren’t so stupid and hypocritical you’d appreciate nice guys (beg to blow me).

This is the real message of Loser, and it’s coming via a female director (Amy Heckerling). Women are routinely presented in films like this as having precisely two options in life: screw the right guy, or screw the wrong guy. The “right guy” is defined by society as one who brings you flowers, remembers anniversaries, and doesn’t forget to call you. Which, of course, is stuff that total psychos can be bothered to do if it’ll get you into their car for that romantic drive to the shack where they will shackle and dismember you to see if your insides are as pretty as the rest of you. It’s also exactly the stuff that makes it so hard to convince friends and authority figures that your apparently perfect boyfriend is actually an abusive lunatic and you are not just a “spoiled little princess” for complaining about his subtle emotional abuse.

At least in Coyote Ugly, the female lead gets her singing career started while making money by appealing to men.


  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oy. I read the screenplay to that before it was filmed, and had no desire to see the movie. *barf*

  2. scarlett says

    Heh, that reminds me to write that Ever After article at somepoint – I loved that she’d rescued herself by thetime the prince got there :p

  3. SunlessNick says

    The only version of Cinderella I like at the moment (not seen Ever After) is the one from the Fables comic, who is a Modesty Blaise-esque secret agent with no time at all for Prince Charming outside his part in the government she works for.

  4. scarlett says

    You should see Ever After then, Nick. Drew Barrymore brings a quirkiness and individuality to the Cinderella-esque roole.

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