Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)
Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also a Little Embarrassing
Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real
WHEN I WAS a kid, Christmas vacation meant renting VHS copies of romantic comedies from Blockbuster and watching them with my parents at home. Sleepless in Seattle was big, and so was When Harry Met Sally. I laughed along with everyone else at the scene where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm at the restaurant without even knowing what an orgasm was. In my mind, she was just being kind of loud and silly at a diner, and that was hilarious enough for me.
I love romantic comedies. I feel almost sheepish writing that, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years or so that admitting you like these movies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity. But that has not stopped me from watching them.
I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies. I have come to enjoy the moment when the normal lead guy, say, slips and falls right on top of the hideously expensive wedding cake. I actually feel robbed when the female lead’s dress doesn’t get torn open at a baseball game while the JumboTron is on her. I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world. Then I just lap it up. There is no difference between Ripley from Alien and any Katherine Heigl character. They’re all participating in the same level of made-up awesomeness, and I enjoy every second of it.
So it makes sense that in this world there are many specimens of women who I do not think exist in real life, like Vulcans or UFO people or whatever. They are:
When a beautiful actress is in a movie, executives wrack their brains to find some kind of flaw in her that still allows her to be palatable. She can’t be overweight or not perfect-looking, because who would want to see that? A not 100-percent-perfect-looking-in-every-way female? You might as well film a dead squid decaying on a beach somewhere for two hours.
So they make her a Klutz.
The 100-percent-perfect-looking female is perfect in every way, except that she constantly falls down. She bonks her head on things. She trips and falls and spills soup on her affable date. (Josh Lucas. Is that his name? I know it’s two first names. Josh George? Brad Mike? Fred Tom? Yes, it’s Fred Tom.) Our Klutz clangs into Stop signs while riding a bike, and knocks over giant displays of expensive fine china. Despite being five foot nine and weighing 110 pounds, she is basically like a drunk buffalo who has never been a part of human society. But Fred Tom loves her anyway.
THE ETHEREAL WEIRDO
The smart and funny writer Nathan Rabin coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl to describe a version of this archetype after seeing Kirsten Dunst in the movie Elizabethtown. This girl can’t be pinned down and may or may not show up when you make concrete plans. She wears gauzy blouses and braids. She decides to dance in the rain and weeps uncontrollably if she sees a sign for a missing dog or cat. She spins a globe, places her finger on a random spot, and decides to move there. This ethereal weirdo abounds in movies, but nowhere else. If she were from real life, people would think she was a homeless woman and would cross the street to avoid her, but she is essential to the male fantasy that even if a guy is boring, he deserves a woman who will find him fascinating and pull him out of himself by forcing him to go skinny-dipping in a stranger’s pool.
THE WOMAN WHO IS OBSESSED WITH HER CAREER AND IS NO FUN AT ALL
I, Mindy Kaling, basically have two full-time jobs. I regularly work sixteen hours a day. But like most of the other people I know who are similarly busy, I think I’m a pleasant, pretty normal person. I am slightly offended by the way busy working women my age are presented in film. I’m not, like, always barking orders into my hands-free phone device and telling people constantly, “I have no time for this!” I didn’t completely forget how to be nice or feminine because I have a career. Also, since when does having a job necessitate women having their hair pulled back in a severe, tight bun? Often this uptight woman has to “re-learn” how to seduce a man because her estrogen leaked out of her from leading so many board meetings, and she has to do all sorts of crazy, unnecessary crap, like eat a hot dog in a libidinous way or something. Having a challenging job in movies means the compassionate, warm, or sexy side of your brain has fallen out.
THE FORTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD MOTHER OF THE THIRTY-YEAR-OLD MALE LEAD
I am so accustomed to the young mom phenomenon, that when I saw the poster for The Proposal I wondered for a second if the proposal in the movie was Ryan Reynolds suggesting he send his mother, Sandra Bullock, to an old-age home.
However, given the popularity of teen moms right now, this could actually be the wave of the future.
THE SASSY BEST FRIEND
You know that really horny and hilarious best friend who is always asking about your relationship and has nothing really going on in her own life? She always wants to meet you in coffee shops or wants to go to Bloomingdale’s to sample perfumes? She runs a chic dildo store in the West Village? Nope? Okay, that’s this person.
THE SKINNY WOMAN WHO IS BEAUTIFUL AND TONED BUT ALSO GLUTTONOUS AND DISGUSTING
Again, I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief during a romantic comedy for good set decoration alone. One pristine kitchen from a Nancy Meyers movie like in It’s Complicated is worth five Diane Keatons being caught half-clad in a topiary or whatever situation her character has found herself in.
But sometimes even my suspended disbelief isn’t enough. I am speaking of the gorgeous and skinny heroine who is also a disgusting pig when it comes to food. And everyone in the movie—her parents, her friends, her boss—are all complicit in this huge lie. They are constantly telling her to stop eating and being such a glutton. And this actress, this poor skinny actress who so clearly lost weight to play the likable lead, has to say things like “Shut up you guys! I love cheesecake! If I want to eat an entire cheesecake, I will!” If you look closely, you can see this woman’s ribs through the dress she’s wearing—that’s how skinny she is, this cheesecake-loving cow.
You wonder, as you sit and watch this movie, what the characters would do if they were confronted by an actual average American woman. They would all kill themselves, which would actually be kind of an interesting movie.
THE WOMAN WHO WORKS IN AN ART GALLERY
How many freakin’ art galleries are out there? Are people constantly buying visual art or something? This posh-smart-classy job is a favorite in movies. It’s in the same realm as kindergarten teacher in terms of accessibility: guys don’t really get it, but the trappings of it are likable and nonthreatening.
ART GALLERY WOMAN: Dust off the Rothko. We have an important buyer coming into town and this is a really big deal for my career. I have no time for this!
This is one of the rare clichés that actually has a male counterpart. Whenever you meet a handsome, charming, successful man in a romantic comedy, the heroine’s friend always says the same thing. “He’s really successful—he’s an…
(say it with me)
There are like nine people in the entire world who are architects, and one of them is my dad. None of them looks like Patrick Dempsey.