“Marry me!” TV/Film Myth #3 about Women

All women want to get married, and will eventually pressure their poor boyfriends about it.

You’ve seen it before, right? Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny knows more about cars than any of the guys, and saves the day in the end. And yet her biggest struggle – the one she whines about throughout the movie – is that her “biological clock is ticking” and she hasn’t roped her longterm beau into marriage so she can have babies. By the end, she succeeds, and the movie seems to think it’s cute. I think it’s horribly selfish: what if he doesn’t rally to the duties of fatherhood, which he’s so strongly resisting? How will the kids feel about that? Evidently Mommie Dearest doesn’t care.

Or maybe you’ve seen the soap opera queen who connives to her boyfriend into marriage by getting pregnant.

There are a few different models, but the bottom line is this: TV and film push the impression that all women want to get married, and men would prefer not to, but at some point realize it’s a societal duty – a cross they must bear. Poor men! They’re getting the services of a hooker, a maid and a nanny along with love, support and affection! How tragic!

In reality, men are as likely to obsess on getting married as women are. I’ve known guys who seem to propose to any girl they score a third date with, and I’ve known girls who panic if the proposal doesn’t come that quickly. It’s really a matter of individual taste, not gender. Any reason a woman might have for marrying is also a reason a man might have. Yes, traditionally, the issue of financial support from a spouse was more of a benefit for wives than husbands, but that’s changed dramatically in recent years (even if salaries still lag for women). And even when it was far from practical for a woman to earn a living, there was a term for a man who was too lazy to work and let his wife do all the earning: layabout.

So why push the idea that marriage is a joy for women and a trap for men? Isn’t it a little of both for everybody? It imposes limitations on both genders – moreso on women. It offers joy to both genders, but only if they get it right – and again, a man’s options if the marriage isn’t working are still a bit broader than the woman’s. If anything, you’d expect men to want marriage more than women.

But on TV and in film, the vast majority of female characters want to get married, and only a small minority of male ones do. And the males always tend to be more level-headed about it (which flies in the face of real life observations, where both genders can get positively weird about that little piece of paper).

My only guess is that TV and film think this is how men want to see it. Maybe they think that because men are still measured by their sexual prowess with women, marriage is seen as the final race before being put out to pasture. Marrying a woman is finally and forever admitting, “She’s the best I could get.” But if they create female character after female character who’s so desperate to marry, they’re giving their precious male demographic an out: he can get married because it’s required, without admitting it’s what he wanted. There’s no risk of being seen as weak if he can say, Oh, I could’ve gone another 50 years trolling the bars for chicks, but you know, she just had to get married.

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