Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Simone de Beauvoir and 'Jerry Maguire': Two Names I Never Thought I Would Put in the Same Sentence

Simone de Beauvoir is my girl.

I've always enjoyed her writing on "woman as other," but it always saddened me because, while women have certainly made progress, there is still so much that has yet to change. Let's take Jerry Maguire for instance.

Jerry Maguire, the title character of the 1996 Tom Cruise movie, has two love interests. The first being his fiance, Avery, portrayed by Kelly Preston. Both Jerry and Avery are career-oriented and hard working. The film constructs Avery as a tough-as-nails kind of woman, perhaps a little more rash than most "modern" women, she has some personality traits that are less than appealing regardless of gender, including narcissism and a lack of compassion. She is sexy and willing but won't be pushed around and has no sense of remorse.

The other woman in Jerry's life, the one he ultimately ends up with, is Renee Zellweger's Dorothy, Jerry's assistant with a pathetic longing for her employer. Dorothy is very passive and is at Jerry's beckoned call, even leaving her job to follow Jerry after he gets fired. Through movie magic, Jerry realizes that he is in love with the woman that... was invisible to him before he realized she was so malleable? Yep. That's what happens.

If the modern woman is comprised of both masculine and feminine qualities, then perhaps these characters are written by a man who is scared of this. Avery is monstrous compared to the docile Dorothy. They are each extremes of the personality type they are representing. de Beauvoir says that for women, "to decline to be the Other, to refuse to be a party to the deal- this would be for women to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with the superior caste." Jerry Maguire reaffirms this. Avery, the goal-oriented, independent woman ends up alone because she refuses to be a supplement to Jerry.While Dorothy, who waits on his hand and foot is rewarded because she sacrificed having a life of her own in order to get the attention of a man.

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, Woman as Other.1949. Print.

Maybe they're just mismatched? Some guys dig insensitive women.

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