Why so sad?

Recently I was subjected to two hours of pathetic drivel….

Otherwise known as a Nicholas Sparks movie.

Not just any Nicholas Sparks movie: “The Best of Me,” which given its’ lack of substance and abundance of stereotypes, is probably the worst of him.

It’s not in particular that I object to sad movies – I recognize the need for conflict in fiction, both written and visual, and I recognize that sometimes unfortunate things happen to characters to drive the plot forward. But there is a difference, in my mind, between watching a character deal with tragedy and watching a stereotype undergo endless sad shit.

I can almost hear the writer’s mind clicking away, like some sadness-measuring ticker tape. Thoughts whispered in a quiet, evil voice, almost reminiscent of Voldemort, in my mind, “His life isn’t quite pathetic or sad enough…. Let’s give the redneck father a shotgun and a mullet…”

Aside from the obvious, ridiculous stereotypes, the poorly-written dialogue, the non-existent plot…. Actually, scratch that – there is nothing aside from those.

What particularly bothers me about these kinds of movies…. These Lifetime-esque, one-of-them-always-dies-in-the-end overwrought tragedies, is that they are the lowest denizens of what are frequently labeled “Women’s Movies.” And quite frankly, when it comes to women’s movies, considering the dearth of movies made for women, there isn’t far to fall.

There are several things about this movie that I find blatantly offensive (aside from the obvious stereotypes, the poor writing and the inane characters – I feel I’ve already covered those sufficiently). And hopefully you’ll stay with me, dear reader, while I discuss them.

This movie’s existence does not bother me… If someone wants to watch sappy, romantic drivel, they have every right to. What bothers me is that this movie is a place holder…. Money and time and skill were invested in this film (someone had to cater craft services, right?).

And these are all things that could’ve gone to a much more deserving film. I’m sure that there are female screenwriters, directors, etc. with a much more valuable story to tell. And I wince when I think of the resources squandered on this piece of shit when the resources could’ve been used to tell an interesting, well-written (and dare I say… possibly beautiful?) story. Which begs the question…

Why aren’t we, as a society, investing in women who want to tell their stories?

And the absence of women’s voices in their own stories disturbs me. Why is Nicholas Sparks telling this story? If this is, in fact, a ‘woman’s’ movie, why isn’t a woman telling the story? What entitles a male voice over a female one, particularly in this sappy, female-centric genre? Is it because a woman would give the female protagonist more backbone? Maybe because a female writer would shudder at the cheesy dialogue he forces out of his characters’ mouths?

Possibly not… I suppose there are as many bad female writers as there are male writers. I just wish that a female writer had been given a chance.

It bothers me, not necessarily that this is a women’s movie, but that this is basically all there is to women’s movies – that when people think of a “Women’s movies” or “Chick Flicks” or….. (pick your term), that this sort of shallow, flimsy movie is what they think of.

Not that there aren’t good women’s movies…. I have a particular fondness for Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day and I thoroughly enjoyed Arranged. But good movies that represent women realistically are few and far between. And when you do find a good, enjoyable one, you feel as though you’ve stumbled on a diamond in a sea of garbage… as though you’ve finally found the needle in the haystack.

And I don’t think it should feel that way. I’m certain that there are female writers who are excited to tell their stories – to tell, realistic, believable (or even unbelievable), moving, beautiful stories. It bothers me that drivel like this gets a voice and that real women get short shrift.

I’ve heard, in the past, that there isn’t an audience for ‘women’s movies,’ or at least that is the current Hollywood mythos (slowly changing, but still in need of help). Very few movies are made for women, and even fewer big-budget movies.

And in large part, I think that’s because we need to redefine what a women’s movie is.

Yes, Nicholas Sparks’ movies are ‘women’s’ movies. But that’s only because, realistically speaking, we don’t have any better options. We watch the movies that are being made, because we don’t have a choice… And if stories worth telling aren’t being told, we’ll never see them.

If we could decide, as a society, that women’s stories are worth telling – that women’s narratives are worth listening to, without them being dismissed as ‘just for women’ or ‘just for girls’ …. If we could decide to listen to women’s narratives, as told by women, without dismissing them as ‘just’ or ‘less than’… then I think we’d all be a lot better off.

I know that all of this has already been said, in a more succinct and interesting way, by minds more eloquent and better educated than mine, but I guess this movie ‘sparked’ something in me. And I just wanted to put in my two cents.

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