A female friend of mine was asking for movie recommendations recently, and I suggested Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot of the legendary but flagging franchise. She promptly scoffed, “That’s boy stuff.”
Boy stuff? Now hold the mascara there, sugarlips, and don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I mean, I didn’t know we still lived in a society where science fiction was treated as strictly the domain of the penis-bearing half of our species. Why, then, did women watch Avatar or Back to the Future or Lost? Perhaps, then, it’s the “spaceships and lasers” subgenre of sci-fi that must toil under the perception of offering nothing to the female mind or heart.
Now, I am aware that boys and girls are different and have different sensibilities. I am aware that you give pink blankets to newborn girls and blue blankets to newborn boys. I am aware that said newborn boys are heralded by the sharing of cigars, whereas you greet the birth of a girl by distributing Virginia Slims. And I am aware that if you give your son Barbies to play with when he’s a toddler, then you should be locked up in Gitmo, and he will most assuredly grow up to become a headline to be ripped for a “very special episode” of Law and Order: SVU (preferably guest starring Henry Ian Cusick as the pedo). But even acknowledging all this, shouldn’t a good movie be accessible to both (all?) sexes, regardless of genre or content?
Granted, this “boy stuff” statement was uttered by one person, but I’ve known many women in my day (“known” in the normal sense of the word*), and by and large, they share a similarly dim view of space operas. You love Captain Jack Sparrow, but you don’t love Ferengi scoundrels or organ harvesters in space. What gives?
Frankly, my dears, you make me sad. Put me on the flip side of this scenario, and I would be more just. In fact, as much as space-blazing is calculated to appeal to young men, there is a genre that just as narrowly caters to young (and old?) women: the romantic comedy. And I can honestly say that I’ve seen good rom-coms and I’ve seen dreadful ones. But I don’t dismiss the genre outright, and, unless the example in question stars Jennifer Aniston, I’ve never said, “Oh, it’s a romantic comedy? I don’t want to watch that. That’s GIRL STUFF.” (Cue armpit farting and, I don’t know, real farting?)
Maybe the problem with much space sci-fi is that it’s too testosteronerous (and the romantic subplots that often get shoehorned into those movies seem too much like a pandering, calculated attempt to draw in a desirable but hardly necessary female audience). But by this reasoning, would women not enjoy Moby-Dick either, a book almost devoid of the fairer sex, and obscenely preoccupied by an epically, nay, Biblically(!) phallic whale?
But perhaps the problem with lesser romantic comedies is that they’re too lady-centric. They view the world through a heroine’s eyes, to pull exclusively on distaff heartstrings. I think any work of art that eschews general humanism in favor of baiting one sex or another with lazy bromides will find itself disagreeable to those of us, men and women, who are looking for something genuinely moving.
As for me, I prefer both science fiction and romantic comedies that represent the human face of hope, struggle, longing, joy. Maybe a dash of angst.
Oh, who am I kidding? Let’s get back to the grand old tradition of male charm, female coquetry, and romance from a man’s point of view.
*Drum roll, cymbal crash, and joke credit go to Professor Peter Dembowski of the University of Chicago.