Hiii. Welcome to Her Me Out the podcast, where we talk about why we are the way we are based on the effed up media we used to watch and love. As usual, I’m Charlie Brook.
Normally I’d want to start the episode with a brief rant related to some event in the media, but it’s been a few crazy weeks, I was just traveling to Istanbul for the wedding of two dear friends, congrats Hayal and Halil! But I didn’t want to miss the chance of bringing you some fun feminist analysis anyways, so we’re just gonna jump right into our movie!
Today, we’re talking about a movie that basically gave young women of my generation a guidebook for understanding that no matter who you are or what relationship drama you’re going through, you’ll always just end up being that crazy bitch. And somehow it convinced us that we should be okay with that.
That’s right, we’re talking about He’s Just Not That Into You!
And we’re already killing it with the title.
Want to live in a world where all women are manipulative shrews who fall in love with any man who happens to look at them without even a thought of if the feeling is mutual? Then this is the perfect movie for you!
For those of you who don’t remember or haven’t seen it, He’s Just Not That Into You is a 2009 film, based on a book which I’ve admittedly not read, starring literally everybody - namely Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connlley, Kevin Connolley, Scarlett Johansen, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, etc etc etc - and it’s about, well, I guess it’s about how women scare men away? Or perhaps how men have all the power in deciding if a woman is into them or not? Or maybe it’s about how women are too much and so men don’t want to be with them, generally except when they’re forced or like tricked into it...you know it’s truly not clear. But one thing we know for sure - it’s not great.
But really, this movie is one of those movies where they’re like let’s put a bunch of storylines together that are vaguely connected by a common theme and in this case that common theme is that women are the worst.
This episode is gonna be a bit different from the others I’ve done so far, as there isn’t as much rape culture persea to talk about. But as you’re probably learning, I kinda think that it’s a all connected culture, and so basically the concept of rape culture still plays a role in the negative sterotyping that is happening here. I’ll illuminate the path, just bare with me.
So for some actual plot: as it’s in this style of watching different stories and learning along the way how they intertwine, it’s a bit chaotic. Plus, they’re all named Jennifer in real life so that complicates things. But I’ll describe a few of the little groupings, please note the only person I’ll actually refer to as Jennifer is Jennifer Anniston, the one true Jen in my mind.
So Jennifer and Ben Affleck have been together for 7 years, they say it all the time to make the point that they “should” air quotes be getting married soon, but Ben never wants to get married and Jen has spent the past few years pretending that she doesn’t mind.
She’s work friends with GiGi (played by Jen#2 Ginnifer Goodwin), kind of the protagonist if there were to be one, and Janine (Jen#3 Jennifer Connlley) both of them have their own kinda things going on.
GiGi has a habit of falling for literally any guy who shows remote interest in her with no thought to her own feelings on that. And Justin Long, yes he’s back, comes in as this like a voice of the male species explaining to her how men work.
And Janine, a very unlikeable, intense character is married to Bradley Cooper who is also having an affair with Scarlett Johansen. So that’s what’s happening there.
Then there’s a few other side stories sprinkled in like Drew Barrymoore who is struggling to find love in the digital age. And Kevin Connolley who thinks he’s also in a relationship with Scarlett but is struggling to connect with her on a p in v level. His words not mine.
Okay he didn’t actually say in p in v - but he does complain that they don’t sleep together anymore.
So those are our basic storylines, and I’m gonna build from there. Let’s get into it!
We’re gonna go ahead and start with our main gal, Gigi and her caretaker, Justin Long.
Chapter 1: Wait, was this meant to be feminist?
So I remember watching this movie for the first time probably at age 16, and thinking: wow it’s so realistic.
It felt like they were reflecting real problems that women deal with in an interesting way, with a new, provocative approach to understanding heteronormative relationships. He’s just not that into you.
Now the idea makes me want to barf a lung out.
Especially because, at the start of the movie, it almost seems like we’re going to get some really interesting insights into how our culture works.
This is absolutely true. We have been conditioned to think as young kids, that when boys are mean to us that this is because they like us. Amy Shumer actually does a great bit about this in her comedy special Growing, I suggest you check it out. But the idea is that we think it’s normal if a guy is shitty to us because we’ve been taught that that is a normal way to behave. That when he says mean things, it’s his way of showing that he likes us.
And conversely some men pick up that women are more likely to want them if they treat them poorly so the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle of men being mean to women and women thinking that’s a good, or at least a normal thing.
So basically it’s no surprise that so many women end up in relationships with turd balls, because for most of their lives they’ve been learning that it’s not only acceptable - but rewardable behavior.
But in any case, what this movie is not capturing is the next part of this discussion. From here, we should be talking about how to stop choosing guys that treat you horribly! And how to value yourself more while devaluing men that are simply not cool.
But no, this movie takes it in another direction. Instead it says oh yeah he’s an asshole BUT ALSO he’s actually just not that into you and that’s why. So instead the message is women spend too much time telling each other that he’s gonna call back when really we should realize that they don’t like us.
And from there they kind of turn the whole dynamic into something laughable, rather than something toxic.
Somewhere we see this in those little vignettes that happen throughout the movie, showing women talking about what happens when men don’t call or what happens when they’re cheating on you. These are really fun moments, which kind of align women on our shared experience of dating horrible men, but they don’t really help us to see past that and they don’t all portray us in the best light.
But where we really learn all about this idea that men really aren’t that into you is through Justin Long’s sort of lessons with Gigi.
Really they should change the name of this movie to ‘He’s just not that nice of a person.’ Because a nice person could be mature and express in a respectful way that they’re not interested. That is a completely fair way to feel, you don’t have to be interested in someone.
But what’s not very fair, is not expressing that when someone is expecting you to. And not even always because they’ve made it up in their heads, but because you’ve lead them to believe that it was true or at least didn’t negate it.
This whole movie, and especially all the parts with Gigi and Justin Long, we just hear about how insane she is for reacting to guys who won’t call her back or who are trying to blow her off because apparently women just be crazy like that.
But let’s be real, men do this too. When they like a girl or think they felt a connection, they call too many times or become over-eager. And some women are assholes just the same for not being upfront and telling them they’re actually not interested. In my experience, people are just looking for an answer. It’s called mutual respect, learn about it.
And the title! He’s just not that into you! As if we’re supposed to care! This is actually a major issue in the movie, the fact that throughout most of the women are never actually given a chance to decide how they feel about the guy. All of the attention is on whether or not he likes her. The exception of course being Scarlett and her relationship with Kevin, who she kind of uses as an emotional prop. So that’s not great. But my point still stands. If you look at the character of Gigi, every single guy that she meets in the movie, she’s automatically into them, no questions asked. It’s like the only thing she’s looking for is any guy who is remotely interested in her.
It gets even worse when she starts to think that Justin Long likes her. Once she decides to herself that he is, there isn’t even a hestitiave moment or question of, wait but how do I feel? No, she was just like oh he likes me? Great. That’s all that matters, now this is a thing. Apparently women are expected to like any guy that could possibly like them.
And the worst part is, they kind of confused us into believing that all of this could actually be quite a feminist interpretation of what’s going on here. Specifically through this moment.
After she hits on Justin because she believes he’s into her, and he tells her that she’s insane, she says this…
And it feels like this is meant to be our big feminist reveal. Like wahooo women be crazy but they do it for love and emotional connection. Which I guess is an admirable explanation, but it doesn’t help to resolve this pattern of women being labeled as crazy, and then falling into the trap of being that because they don’t know how to escape it.
Tbh, most often when I hear a man call a woman crazy, usually like a friend talking about how his ex was crazyyy, I’m usually thinking to myself, “Was she or was she just being emotionally vulnerable and you didn’t know how to deal with that? So you called her crazy and then she lost even more control because she didn’t know how to explain to you what you refuse to understand.”
And that’s not me saying that all men are not in touch with their feelings or other gendered bullshit but just that based on the way the male and female genders have been explained and narrativized to us there is an expected difference in communication. And that expected difference becomes how we believe men and women should behave - ultimately meaning that we behave that way. So when men are told, through movies like this for example, that they should be emotionally distant and women are taught their whole lives to express their emotions - and we’re all taught that there’s really no way for both genders to get on the same page - then these kinds of conflicts arise within heteronormative relationships. The important part is that we recognize patterns like this and talk about how to resolve them. Because blanket labelling women as crazy for attempting to express their emotions in a way that some men are not comfortable with (yet) is really not helping women advance in this world in other arenas as well, not just in relationships. And the same could be said in the reverse about men who want to express their emotions and be sensitive.
What kind of patterns am I specifically talking about? Well in this movie, we see such negative, deeply ingrained gender stereotyping. The kind that leads to much larger issues, like gaslighting; i.e. when a person makes it seem like you’re the one being crazy when really they’re not telling you something or are misleading you. This fucking sucks! Obviously it isn’t gender specific, but it is a tactic long used to suppress women in relationships, as well as in professional roles due to a gender bias that has been passed on throughout history and has held on because of mainstream movies like this.
And the most toxic part of that stereotype is that women are inherently crazy. If you don’t see it or you don’t know how that manifests, then let’s talk about chapter 2.
So chapter 2: Why do all the women have to be psychotic, scheming bitches and men get to be adorable
Okay, this is a big thing. It is something that women have been talking about since feminism was invented and were probably experiencing long, long, long before that. And that is the accusation that women’s emotions make them crazy, irrational, and unreasonable. You may have heard about female hysteria, which was actually considered a medical disorder by the American Psychiatric Association until 1952. Many women were diagnosed with hysteria for exhibiting what would now be considered normal female sexual behavior or sometimes just common anxiety - which could also just mean expressing normal emotions.
Basically, it was a way of keeping women as a whole weak, which sounds dramatic but we still see this today. People love, for example, to question whether or not a woman’s period would make her too emotional to be president.
If you call a woman crazy then people believe you. It’s much easier to break her credibility with that term, and it simply wouldn’t have the same effect on a man because there isn’t a large scale history of undermining the male gender’s credibility with it. And how do we know???
Ah, yes it all comes back to the movie.
We’ve already mentioned how Gigi is portrayed as a psycho stalker by the way she behaves in her pursuit of a partner. But it’s how Justin is portrayed in comparison when he’s into a girl that makes it so depressing…
So, let’s get this straight: she is insane for chasing men, but when he calls a girl 50 times it’s cute?? And again with the whole thing where it’s all about whether or not the guy is into it or not. We’re not talking about whether or not that Lauren Bell had any interest in seeing him because based on this movie we can only assume she did.
Even Jen is so concerned about receiving this label that she didn’t tell Ben for 7 years that she actually wants to get married.
How horrible of you to want to plan your life out! You manipulative bitch! Though I do believe their relationship is kind of a different case, we’ll come to that in the next chapter.
But you get what I mean. It’s so easy for people to use the crazy label on women because it’s a common narrative that we see, I mean I myself fear it.
Women are constantly labeled as dramatic or too much, even by each other. You’ll often hear, from both men and women, that it’s easier to be around men because they’re more laid back or that women bring drama along with them. But I have to believe that if women are acting this way, it’s because they’re falling into some cultural blueprint that’s been laid out in front of them. Our culture tells us to value men above all else, then calls us crazy for trying to find one.
Beyonce even admits to being afraid of this term: what’s worse, being jealous or crazy? Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately I’D RATHER BE CRAZY
She’d rather be crazy! She’s such a badass bitch.
Even small moments, like Jen’s sister at her wedding nagging her new husband for hesitating at the alter…
I know it’s a small moment. But it matters! Why is literally every woman shown nagging men into a commitment in this movie?
So women have been constantly trying to escape this label that has followed us around for generations. And, fyi, it’s used all the time as a rape myth in court to undermine women’s testimonies. So this is a real thing. But it’s really hard to rebut because of how the label is used, like we see in this movie with Janine and Bradley.
So, keeping in line with the rest of the movie, Bradly’s character is portrayed as a fun, charismatic guy who’s doing his best not to cheat on his wife. Which he fails miserably at by the way.
But while he gets to be loveable, poor Janine is literally portrayed as the most horrible and controlling character possible. I mean we are all are meant to hate her. There are so many moments in the film where she’s controlling or just really intense.
So when Janine accuses Bradley of smoking cigarettes, something she hates because her father died of lung cancer, he repeatedly denies it. Even when she asks him not to lie to her…
He even admits that he’s sleeping with someone else, and he still continues to use the cigarette accusation as a guilt trip to drive Janine even more over the edge.
This is gaslighting. He is making her feel bad that she would accuse him of that, even though he’s well aware that he is doing it (something we learn later on in the movie). She even starts to think she’s getting carried away by her own accusations - making her feel crazy.
And at the end, when she discovers that he has been smoking, and she enters a rage where she destroys a mirror, I just feel like she was still being portrayed as a crazy lady. It didn’t seem like they worked to make it seem like she deserved to be this upset about it. I left feeling like she was insane, even though she’s the one who’s been cheated on. They even have a moment where she kind of blames herself for him cheating on her…
While I can imagine that this is a feeling that people experience all the time, I feel like a lot of people watching this are agreeing with her. Of course no matter how unlikeable of a character you are, that does not mean you deserve to be cheated on. But then why is the movie not giving her more of the credit or at least giving us a chance to fall in love with her like we do Bradley. It’s like they want us to be on his side, even though we know what he’s done is the worst.
Luckily, she does not stay with him. That is very positive.
And if you’ll remember, there’s this scene where he and Scarlett are at his office and are literally about to get it on, when his wife comes to try and rekindle their relationship. He ends up pushing Scarlett in the closet, and having sex with his wife because he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a very unfortunate moment because it’s true if he was to deny his wife sex she would be even more broken. But also it’s not super fair because we equate that to him being a horndog. But also he is cheating on his wife with another person is forced to sit there and listen to it happen. Luckily, Scarlett is also very upset about this and stops seeing him after that.
While we’re talking about cheating, let’s move on to our last chapter.
Chapter 3: Use your words
Okay, so this like less of a feminist thing and more of a thing that I believe we should all be trying to do, which is using communication to have fuller and happier relationships.
If Bradley was interested in sleeping with someone else because he and his wife weren’t having sex, he should have gone to Janine and spoke to her about it. This could be either to say that he wants to have more sex with her or maybe even to say that he’s interested in being in an open relationship, either way.
I mean he doesn’t know, Janine could be a very understanding wife who gets that he has his needs. And maybe she won’t say, yes let’s be in an open relationship, but maybe she’ll say, let’s invite someone new in who we can enjoy together and we can spice up our sex life as a team.
Basically, cheating really doesn’t have to be a thing. Just talk to your partner. It’s just so unfair, because if you do cheat on them you’re kind of taking that opportunity away from them without even giving them the chance to step up. For all you know, they also want to be sleeping with someone else, and the fact that you’re just doing it without consulting them and having them wait around for you like an idiot, ahh it’s upsetting.
Of course there’s the possibility that they won’t respond well to you bringing it up, but do you think they’re going to respond better to you cheating on them? If you’re in a positive relationship, and you want to be with that person, but you have sexual desires that aren’t being fulfilled, then USE YOUR WORDS. Discuss it, nicely, I mean you’re still asking for a very being thing from them. But this is a mature and adult way to handle it, rather than just making a fool out of your partner because you couldn’t control yourself or felt negative in the state of your relationship.
If you’re cheating because you actually don’t want to be in that relationship, then I think you also know the answer to that. USE YOUR WORDS.
Okay, so we can also this mantra when talking about the whole marriage situation that is happening in this movie. Bradley’s character is like very on the platform that marriage is the worst thing that could happen to a man, here’s a little taste of that…
I do not like how gendered his statements are because it just plays into the idea that a woman’s job is to manipulate her partner into committing to them, but we’ll get to it. Anyway, we actually learn from a conversation between Bradley and Scarlett why he and Janine got together in the first place…
She gave him an ultimatum. Sigh. I don’t think ultimatums are a very positive practice. Maybe the only way is if you’re like moving for a job, and you say I don’t want to be long distance so either come or we’ll break up. That one seems to make sense to me, but just personal preference.
Basically I believe that if someone has a different vision of how they want the big things in their life to go, I think you have to learn to let the other person be free and make their own choices without the pressure of your ideas on top of that.
And if they don’t align, then that sucks. But that’s more of a reason to break up then the little stuff like why does he keep leaving his shit on my floor.
And while most of what Bradley says is just annoying gendered women love commitment men hate it bullshit, I do agree that you shouldn’t force people to commit to something before they’re ready. We live in a world where we value the idea of marriage so much, and it always feels like this ultimate objective that we’re trying to reach as soon as possible.
And most times, as this movie demonstrates, we’re shown that the ones pushing that train along are the women. Which is then super annoying because then you can never escape that stereotype meaning that men always think that as a woman you’re trying to trick them into marrying you or move in with you or etc. And you know what the remedy is...USE YOUR WORDS.
But anyway this brings to Jen and Ben, who are clearly the best couple in the whole movie. But, at the beginning of the movie, Jen is not being truthful with herself about how much she cares about getting married and maybe thinks she can change him or I don’t know, which isn’t fair. Again, if your goals don’t align, then it sucks but in the words of Celine Dion, that’s the way it is.
And I think that Ben has every right to be someone who doesn’t believe in the structure of marriage, but perhaps he should find someone who feels the same way rather than making her feel bad for being someone who wants those things.
Which is why it isn’t great in the end that he ends up changing his mind and proposes to her anyway. I guess we could call it a sacrifice to make the one you love happy. I don’t know. But I also can’t lie, I love that part so much. It’s like there’s his pants that she hates and she’s going to throw them away but the ring is there and he’s on one knee and yah know tears.
Before I close up this one, I’d just like to mention that, if you don’t know I live in Barcelona, and so was watching this movie on the Spanish netflix. And in Spanish the title is: Que les pasa a los hombres. Which translated is: What happens to men. Just wanted to leave you with that.
And that’s how He’s just not that into you perpeturaped us!
I would recommend this movie actually, I was a really big one for a lot of us I think. And it is fun to go back and watch it, if even just to see how scary it is that they convinced us this was feminist.
I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you did please let me know by subscribing, rating or reviewing! And as always, get in contact with me about anything that you feel has perpeturaped you! I would absolutely love to hear about it, contact me through Instagram @charlooobrook or via email which you can find on my website HerMeOut.com.
Hope you’re having a fab summer but are always keeping in mind that it’s a culture, people!