“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is one of my favorite comedy movies of today. It has the audience laughing the entire time, which is one of the most important aspects of a comedy, but it has an underlying theme, as well as being beneficial to the feminist movement. If a movie challenges, or even changes the ways a person thinks then it’s doing a good job; it is more than mere entertainment.
It may sound absurd to think this movie has feminist themes. The protagonist, Peter Bretter, is a man, and his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Marshall, is demonized through the entire movie. Even Rachel, Mila Kunis’ character, who brings Peter to love, isn’t that well developed of a character. It certainly doesn’t take the typical approaches feminist art would. People tend to target the works with strong, female protagonists, and well-rounded female characters as the works that spur change in how we view the genders, but this approach is getting tiring. People forget that there are two sides to approaching gender roles: exploring the woman’s and the man’s.
We’re so focused on empowering women that we neglect the fact that men have pressures from society to be a certain way too. Men are pressured to be tough, strong, and unemotional. This can be just as detrimental as women being taught to be subservient, insecure, and self-conscious. Sure, these things affect us in different ways, but we need to work on them both to obtain a balance of equality.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” challenges the male stereotype of our culture. In the scene where she breaks up with him, he drops his towel, and his flaccid penis is out there for the audience to see, he is showing how men can be vulnerable too. It’s commonplace to see women vulnerable and naked in movies, but not so much with men. Throughout the movie, he struggles, not with manhood; he seemed to have abandoned any stereotypical notion of that when he was “crying like a woman” in his hotel room; but with coping with his broken heart and finding love. There are not many romantic comedies where the man is on pursuit of love in this way. They are becoming more common, especially in sitcoms, but this one addresses it in a very sweet way. His most “manly” moment is when he faces the large, intimidating bartender to retrieve a naked picture of Rachel from the men’s bathroom, which she didn’t like, but felt like she could do nothing about. Yes, this action was tough and brave, but it was also allowing himself to be vulnerable, vulnerable to getting punched and vulnerable in the way that he shows Rachel he cares that much about her, even though at that point the love was unrequited.
Peter Bretter should be a role model for men, because he achieves love through being vulnerable, not by proving his manhood in some power-hungry way. And women should seek love in the Peter Bretters of the world.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/zi1217/2995226366/”>perry_marco</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>