Movies and television have a big impact on our culture and on the way we see ourselves and the way we'd like to be seen. I wonder how many people really watch and listen to what is being said and done.
While watching My Six Loves with Debbie Reynolds and Cliff Robertson, a movie I've seen a few times before, I was struck by the message that hit me, a message I don't think I realized before. Cliff Robertson, as the reverend, goes to Debbie's workplace to tell her she needs to get serious and be a woman, as if working and her career, a career she has put her heart and soul into since she was fourteen, had no validity or meaning, not like being a mother to the children for whom she agreed to guardianship. He orders her to get her coat and come with him to help find one of the missing children.
The movie ends on a happy note with Debbie giving up her career to be a mother to the six orphans and the reverend's wife, the lesson being that a woman isn't a woman unless she's married, hopefully with children.
Most of the old movies I've been watching carry the same message that a woman isn't a woman until she's a wife and mother, or at least a wife, and a career is something women do until they find the right man, or he finds them, whichever comes first.
Flash forward to modern times when women have careers and families and the message has changed. Hasn't it? Not according to Billy Thomas in Ally McBeal when Billy goes blond, gets a diamond earring and a hot secretary who tends to his personal needs, and tells his wife -- and everyone else who's listening -- that there is a new man in town and he is a male chauvinist. What? A man admitting he wants to be worshipped by his wife and expects his wife to be home raising children and ready to meet him at the door at the end of a hard day with a martini in one hand and her figure still toothsome and dressed to the nines, presumably with pearls at neck and ears and wearing an apron after having put the children to bed without the assistance of a nanny, cleaned house, done the shopping, and fixed a sumptuous meal to lay before her lord and master. What happened to sensitivity and respecting a woman's right to the partnership track?
I imagine that sensitivity is a learned response, as it was with Andrew Dice Clay in Casual Sex when he was learning how to get the woman of his dreams, a woman who had a career and no man of her own, and all about smoke and mirrors. It's like teaching chimps sign language and social behaviors, a veneer of civilization over the real animal inside, an animal that will revert to the wild at the first sign of a weak opponent.
Women aren't weak, you'd say, but we all know that, despite the idea that sexual harassment laws presume that a woman is weak and needs the protection provided by such laws, about as much as they need the PC policing their language, dress, and behavior. Women are decorations who are supposed to look good, bear children, keep their figures, and not embarrass their men at social functions or anywhere else in public. Balderdash!
We think we've come so far. Virginia Slim told us so. We really haven't because we cannot change biology no matter how far we've come from our nests in trees and caves and no longer dragging our knuckles on the ground to help speed us on our way, and movies and television show us just how much we haven't changed. We've just dressed up and put on airs, much like Mammy told Scarlet and Rhett that they were still mules in horse harness no matter how much money, property, and refinement they had.
I don't fault television or the movies because they are the media that show us our better -- or more chauvinistic -- selves. No matter how we embrace alternative lifestyles or sexual freedom, we are at our cores beholden to biology. Women have children and men protect and provide for them. Until men begin having children -- and wouldn't that be an interesting twist on losing one's figure -- it will always be the same. Most families need to incomes to buy all the gadgets and fashions and doodads available to be a functional part of society, but who among us wouldn't give up the workaday world to clean house, buy food, clothing, and the nicer things of life, do laundry, fix meals, and raise a family? Okay, maybe two.
The whole family thing is not for everyone, and yet even the gay community members want families and the whole traditional marriage and cocktails at seven kind of life with kids and nannies and the rest of the picture. It's biology even when the biology isn't strictly male and female pairings.Procreation keeps humans going and is at the heart of immortality, the immortality of the human species, homo erectus, or whatever homo level we've reached.
It's not a perfect world and the world we have created favors the female over the male. Sorry, guys, but that's the truth even in the lower echelons of the animal kingdom. Hormones in food and water, chemicals that trick the body into producing more estrogen than testosterone, and a million other additives that shrink testicles and penises and create a more feminine biology in even the strongest male. Is it any wonder fertility clinics are springing up all over the place?
All this tinkering is changing our biology, but the basic DNA still sends its messages down the gene line that we must procreate and protect. Some things never change no matter how hard we try. The veneer is paper thin and beginning to crack and men, afraid of losing their power, are clinging with a death grip to the dream of a wife who worships her protector and provider and meets him at the door with a cocktail, an apron, and a home cooked meal ready to rub his feet and tend to his needs while keeping her girlish figure. At least there science can help and any man worth his cocktail and dinner would be glad to spring for a little surgical spring cleaning to keep his child bride a child as long as possible -- until at least he can find a mistress he can afford to support without rocking the marital boat.
Some things never change.