Our internet dropped out last night, so my wife and I resorted to watching one of the myriad unwatched dvd’s with which I’m wallpapering my house, to wit ‘The Night Manager‘ (2016) starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Coleman and others, including an actor I have never seen before, Aure Atika as Sophie (Samira) Alekan. Minutes into the first episode, and I’m jolted out of the requisite willing suspension of disbelief by a hoary old trope. Nothing against the actor herself, but would you take on an international arms dealer and his horde of thugs because Aure Atika, or any woman for that matter, made bedroom eyes at you for the best part of three minutes?
It makes us fellas seem a bit piss weak, doesn’t it, the presumption that a man’s little brain will immediately overrule his big brain every time an attractive woman bats her eyelids. Really? In 2020?? Nah. Make-up, the push-up bra, Photoshop — we’re well-versed in the rules of engagement. Men recognise marketing forces at work even when a jingle is replaced by a jiggle. We know when we’re being played. The question “Why is she flirting with me?” segues faster than the speed of thought to the most-likely conclusion, “Oh, she doesn’t want me, she wants something from me.” I’m not leaping into the gender-political swamp, just suggesting this trope needs to be killed off.
Hereweith, the rider: That’s not to say it doesn’t work IRL. If you grew up without sisters, without a mother, then maybe you’ve never seen womanly wiles at work. To massively oversimplify the transaction, women are persuasive, men are forceful — the men/Mars, women/Venus dichotomy with which we’re been so thoroughly inculcated ha a seed of truth to it, like most myths. There is a set of customary guidelines by which we navigate the shoals of human love relationships. You’d hate to have to reinvent the lingua romantica each time, but why fall for the oldest trick? Get her to buy you a drink.
So, how about something different? Give us run ‘n’ gun that also complies with the Bechdel Test, not just a film that swaps awful, violent men for awfully violent women. I’ve already seen that one 109 times. If a film in 2020 can’t include two women who talk to each other about something other than a man (which is, like, so 1985) then can we at least have male characters who aren’t leveraged into action by the mere hint of cleavage? In summary, if I’d been Tom Hiddleston, I would have made Samira mix her own damn martini. Plus, he’s only just laid eyes on Elizabeth Debicki.