Your family favourite retrospective film experience, eh? A Christmas classic, is it? THINK AGAIN! GOF guest writer Rebecca Sander invites you to meditate on why, as a woman, and despite his famous ‘feminine vulnerability’, Jez-we-moist-certainly-can’t.
As the resident feminist of my family and friends no one is surprised when I express an objection to Jerry Maguire. The conversation is met with an eye-roll and a response along the lines of “of course you would think that, because you hate the white man”. First, let’s get one thing clear: I do not hate the white man, I fear the white man, and if you were as invested in true crime as I was, you would too. But to get back to the film at hand, the reason that this film makes me snore is because it is a tale of emotional labour where the actual labour is completely minimal. This isn’t to condemn Jerry alone in the canon of repressed male characters, but symptomatic of the lack of emotionally complex roles in Hollywood.
The contrast between the treatment of emotional women and men could not be more obvious than in Jerry Maguire. A support group of divorced women is portrayed as a sewing circle of bitterness, we are supposed to laugh at these sad spinsters who couldn’t keep their husbands, or got used and abused and left to watch their remaining eggs wither and die, because of course, being a single woman over the age of thirty is every woman’s nightmare. The bachelor/spinster dynamic is barely addressed by Jerry having a vague epiphany about needing people in his life because a toddler decided that he was fun to be around. The lesson in this movie seems to be let your infants choose your husband. Oh, and of course, when a man comes back into your life and demands that you come back to him without offering anything in the realm of a compromise on his part, do it unquestioningly, because he just has so much potential. Jerry has gone on a pseudo-emotional-journey, but really, by the end of the film, his company has succeeded, he is back on top, and he is back in his comfort zone, his place of power. He is back where he started, so now he can have time for his wife. Whereas Renée Zellweger’s character puts everything into their relationship, shares her child with him, and in reality provides all of the emotional support. She is the shoulder he cries on (not actually cries though obviously because, man) she is the person encouraging him as well as raising a child?! In terms of childcare all Jerry does is ruin the child’s sleep schedule and make a vague promise to take him to the zoo, because he is so busy discovering that the work he does is cynical and manipulative and working out who he is within that. Women do that every day and they also manage to get kids to bed on time.
The point is Jerry’s journey is the same that the divorced women are going through, when you reach a point where for whatever reason you have to take stock of your life and re-evaluate your priorities. Jerry Maguire is worried about his eggs dying, in a manner of speaking, but he is ultimately a hero and has autonomy over his crisis. He thrives as an underdog in a space where women are to be pitied. And while some people found it revolutionary for a male character to have such a physical reaction to his life being turned upside down, I mean, not to downplay mental health problems but it’s a panic attack, it happens to a lot of people, men and women. It’s so frustrating that this was so exciting to see in cinema but so commonplace in life, and also such an easy narrative device. If we’re going to be cynical about it (and if you haven’t noticed, we are) if panic attacks are such great physical manifestation of trauma, why aren’t they being thrown out left and right as a plot point?
So to conclude… here are my key takeaways from this movie:
- Children are better at choosing romantic partners than women.
- If these were real people Jerry would definitely be doing a lot more cocaine.
- If a man lets himself into your house and commands you to be his wife, you do it.
- I bet he had a great severance package anyway.
- Don’t get involved in Scientology.
- Let’s leave Jerry in the 90’s along with landline phones in bathrooms.
Guest post and artwork by writer and illustrator Rebecca Sander @bandasaur