Women so cool, Men so clumsy

Here’s a stereotype I’m just bored to death with. No, I don’t think it’s sending harmful misogynistic messages. No, I don’t think it’s that male writers hate women. I’m just really, really sick of seeing it.

I was exploring my 8 trillion new channels on my shiny new satellite TV the other night, and I came across some old Jimmy Stewart movie. He and this girl were into each other, but neither of them had made a move yet. So whenever they would talk, he’d be all stammery and bumbling, and she’d sound like a dialect coach with an advanced degree in conversational arts.

And then last night, I was watching Queen Latifah on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show”, and they played a clip from some animated movie where she voices a female mammoth – there are only two left on Earth, apparently: her and the guy mammoth. The guy mammoth mentioned that they were the last of their species, and she got defensive about him hitting on her. Then he backtracked and said he only meant they had a responsibility to procreate, and she got pissy because he dared suggest mating with her would be a “duty”. No matter what he said, she had a snotty comeback.

And I thought: oh, yeah, here we go again.

In reality, I’d guess that 90 times out of 100, both the man and the woman are bumbling and stammering and awkward, and it’s only their own self-consciousless that prevents them from noticing how awkward the other one is. They remember the other one as intimidatingly cool and collected because (a) they’re idealizing them due to a crush and (b) they’re oversensitive to perceived slights or indications of disinterest, due to the crush. So when they sit down to write a script, they naturally write their own gender as the awkward one and the opposite gender as the one who’s so smooth, because that’s how they honestly remember it. If I’m right about all that, it follows that because men have written the vast majority of filmed scripts in film and TV history, the view of the woman as this intimidating goddess who keeps cool and can shoot down any line you hand her is pretty severely overrepresented.

That’s all I’m saying. I think it would be hilarious to explore the idea that a man and woman who appear equally nervous around each other to any outside observer each perceive the other as totally together and their own behavior as laughable.


  1. says

    Hmm, this post made me think of The Philadelphia Story, which I was re-watching this weekend. It has Katharine Hepburn as the intimidating goddess (they refer to her as such frequently throughout the movie). Eventually, she goes to a party and has too much to drink, ending up committing an “indiscretion” with another man on the eve of her wedding. Thus toppled from her pedestal, she is finally the perfect match for her ex-husband, and marries him again instead of the stuffy fiance. I think the movie combines the worst of the stereotypes–the idea of a woman as smooth-talking, insulting and perfect, who is brought down and humbled in order to make her a good woman. I still like the movie, though.

  2. scarlett says

    That makes me think of The Incredibles, where the daughter has a crush on the cool guy and she’s all hair-over-eyes-and-looking-down-mumbling around him, and sees him as sauve and confident. Only we see at the end of the movie that he’s just as nervous about talking to her as she is him, and they were interpreting each other’s nervous aloofness as sophiticated aloofness. It illustrates that males and females, especially teenegers, see one another as perfectly poised and themselves as bumbling and inept, where they’re actually both bumbling and inept and very much equally into one another.

  3. sbg says

    Oh, man, if they only knew. Every single time I’m really attracted to a guy I turn into a complete, rambling fool who says stupid things. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking I’m calm, cool and collected when I’m spouting gibberish.

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