Whiny Naggy Wife Stereotype

I’ve been too busy to write much the past few days, but here’s a little something to stew over for the weekend (holiday weekend for some of us).

I was just thinking the other day how, whenever I watch JFK, I’ve learned to just fast-forward through Sissy Spacek’s scenes. In the beginning, she’s not so bad, but as the movie progresses, she’s a rant made flesh: a whining, nagging, “what about me?” nightmare from hell. When you find yourself wanting to smack her and say, “He’s trying to figure out who knocked off the president, you twit”, it’s time to back slowly away.

It’s interesting, you know? I’ve seen women put their husbands through med school on what they made as a secretary (only to be left by him for a hot nurse as soon as the degree’s in hand). That’s a stereotype that really does happen. Doesn’t make it to the screen that often, though.

I’ve known men who consider it a personal affront if a woman ever puts anything ahead of them. These guys make Sissy Spacek’s character look supportive and generous. They don’t make it to the screen, either.

Nope, what makes it to the screen are those whiny wives who are too stupid to grasp that Hubby’s attempt to save the world from ravaging marauders might be a bit more important than whether she still feels sexy when he looks at her. I mean, what is this? Are the filmmakers really lame guys working out their own frustration via their scripts? Maybe the little lady doesn’t get that their hours on PlayStation really need to come ahead of her needs, so they filter all that into a story where the guy is doing something that maybe actually does matter and the fictional wife still throws a “get off the @#$% PlayStation” grade hissy fit.

Or maybe they’re concerned that if they present a decent female character, she might actually threaten to overshadow their shabbily constructed cardboard-cutout hero? Do I hear a ding-ding-ding?

Probably the wife just wants her turn on the PlayStation.


  1. rachael says

    I am disappointed in one dimensional women characters, but I think that in reality, women (girlfriends, wives) do nag men, as long as we clarify “nag”. I think there is a value judgment in calling it “nagging,” but I think women repeatedly verbally entreat men to do things more than men display the same behavior in the relationship. Perhaps they do it becuase this is what they saw growing up. But I think there are even more pernicious reasons.

    A man asking a woman to do something actually is meaningful, but men are allowed to ignore what their female partners ask, or they can make the executive decision not to take the request seriously, or (even better) they say yes and then their behavior does not follow through, which is crazy-making in addition to disrespectful. Of course both men and women can and do respond in these ways to requests, in close relationships and other contexts (when I worked retail, I told my supervisor I would do things all the time that I never got around to; it was easier than arguing). But I think these behaviors elicit “nagging.” I am curious about the dynamic between partners, and which parts get the attention and value judgments.

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