I am WAY behind on writing about this, so I'm posting it today and then will move on to more recent issues in the near future. I try to avoid Valentine’s Day like the plague. I don’t like it’s cultural place as the heteronormative reinforcement of traditional conceptualizations of relationships AT ALL. That being said, I am also an utterly unapologetic romantic, so I love any excuse to express feelings that might not be kosher in a day to day kind of setting.
I mentioned to Sailor I might want to see this film, but only as a date kind of thing. He took this as a sign that, although he thought it would be terrible (he expressed this on at least three separate occasions), he should take me anyway. Thus, I was kidnapped from working on Valentine’s Day to go see this crappy, terrible film. And, here’s the thing. I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be like a Love Actually kind of thing that I could pull out every year and enjoy. But, in reality, it is not that kind of classic. Certainly entertaining for the short term, but longevity it does not have. And it was clear the writers KNEW that going into to it.
My big issues were the following – this kind of film works when you anchor it to a singular storyline with solid leads. Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner were NOT that. Their “we’re friends but more” storyline was so undercut by other lines that it didn’t even make sense. How did he encourage her to fly to San Francisco, from LA, after she gets done teaching classes (like 3 p.m. for most schools), stop her at the airport but she goes anyway, finds out her boyfriend is married and a cheating liar, to then show up in LA for dinner reservations he has at 6 p.m.? Is that even possible? Time-wise, that’s insane. Totally shot for the dramatic airport scene, followed by the dramatic restaurant scene (which really was the kind of scene any woman with a cheating partner dreams of enacting).
Then, the terrible, terrible role of George Lopez as the “Magical Latino.” I had a student several years back who was convinced that there was a “Magical Negro” role in film, where the African American character existed only to serve the white protagonist’s quest to become whatever…and I was skeptical at first, until he made me re-watch The Legend of Baggar Vance and I was like, okay, you’re on to something. Well, Hollywood totally recycled that stereotype and now we have the magical Latino who knows anything and everything about love – ironic given that we have a cultural conceptualization of the Latin Lover? I think not.
And here is my big sticking point – several critics got all in a twitter about the “de-gaying” of the film’s advertisements, saying Eric Dane’s character was denied equal promotion time in the posters and trailers. And normally, I’d be all over that saying “dude, you can’t do that!” but then I saw the film, and seriously, he’s in like 10 minutes of the film. The “gay” story line is only a brief suggestion. It’s not the purpose of the film, and omitting it from the advertising was not a misalignment of resources given the narrative of the film. If they had a serious storyline that wasn’t mentioned, yeah, but it was superfluous at best. As a media critic devoted to issues of sexuality, I would be the first to jump on this bandwagon if I felt this claim had any merit AT ALL. But really, it’s people getting their panties in a bunch over something that is not important. Sure, it’s a story line. But if you want to be incensed about it, why not be mad that the main story couldn’t be about a gay couple navigating Valentine’s Day? Seriously. It probably would have been a better plot!
Sappy Romantic, 0 – Culture Industry, 1