My Super Ex-Girlfriend, by Beatriz Oria

Written by Beatriz Oria. Posted in CCSBlog

 

My super-neurotic ex-girlfriend (or how powerful women may destroy the world).

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (Ivan Reitman, 2006)

Beatriz Oria 

My Super Ex-Girlfriend did not look too good in the theatrical trailer. Nice idea, I thought, but I will rather wait to see it on DVD. Maybe because my expectations were so low, My Super Ex-Girlfriend has turned out to be quite a nice surprise in the sense that it is pleasant to watch, the jokes are better than I expected and it is short enough not to bore the spectator to death. However, despite its interesting initial premise and the presence of an experienced blockbuster director (Ivan Reitman) and a remarkable casting, the film never manages to catch fire, although it does raise some interesting issues.

Firstly, Reitman’s film constitutes quite an unusual mixture of genres: romantic comedy and sci-fi (more specifically, the superheroes subgenre). Following the traditional plot of romantic comedy, boy (Luke Wilson) meets girl (Uma Thurman), but she turns out to be G-Girl, whose super-powers are only matched by her codependence, neediness and jealousy regarding men. When Matt realises how mentally disturbed she is he tries to leave in order to be with his “true love”, Hannah (Anna Faris). As is to be expected, G-Girl does not take this too well, and starts using her super-powers to make Matt’s life hell. In this way, the film’s plot introduces a surprising twist in the genre when we learn that the protagonist of the film (and its best-known actress) is not Matt’s “right partner” as we could expect, but his worst enemy. Rather, it is Hannah, a secondary character at the beginning, that turns out to be (although in a rather unjustified way) Matt’s perfect match.

The mixture of genres works remarkably well, as the film turns the traditional war between hero and villain into an actual war of the sexes: the only reason why the film’s villain (Eddie Izzard) wanted to deprive G-Girl of her powers was to be at the same level as her and be able to win her heart. Isn’t it a nice way to justify patriarchal oppression? Anyway, this is not the most disturbing message provided by the film on the issues of masculinity, femininity and the relationships between the sexes. The mixture of genres finds in the reversal of gender roles its main source of comedy: the “superheroes” genre is parodied through the display of feminised male characters and masculinised females: Matt is presented as weak and rather pathetic at times, completely at the mercy of his powerful ex-girlfriend. This is fine by me, yet I cannot help feeling bothered by the message which the film is transmitting here. My Super Ex-Girlfriend attempts to be a spoof of traditional examples of the genre like Superman (1978) or Spiderman (2002), which looks like an interesting premise taking into account the proliferation of this kind of films nowadays, but it fails to achieve its purpose, basically because most of the situations are not even funny. Setting comedy aside, in traditional “superhero” movies, the male protagonists are not only all-powerful, but also balanced, fair, reasonable, loving, protective and they all tend to have a great sense of responsibility towards others (just think of the recent Spiderman, in which Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) turns down the love of his life in order to serve mankind). In these films, the superhero’s gift is also his burden, which he bears courageously because, as it is said in the final lines of Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”). It is striking how different G-Girl’s portrayal is: she embodies precisely the opposite qualities of his male counterparts: insecure, neurotic, possessive and vengeful, she even refuses to save the city of New York from an imminent disaster in order to keep an eye on her boyfriend. True, this is a comedy, and it is not meant to be taken seriously, but an inoffensive appearance tends to be Hollywood’s favourite vehicle for the delivery of ideological messages. Through the apparently comic characterisation of G-Girl the film is telling its audience, firstly, that powerful women are ridiculous and, secondly, that they are dangerous. Empowered women represent a threat because they are not fit enough to handle their power. The film ridicules its protagonist, making her look like a lunatic and forcing us to align with the victimised Matt, who, in spite of his dullness, displays much more good sense than the severely disturbed G-Girl.

By ridiculing Uma Thurman’s character the film tries to soothe male anxieties about female empowerment, an empowerment which is articulated by the film mainly in sexual terms. G-Girl’s “aggressive” sexuality does not need to be inferred from her suggestive name and exuberant physical appearance (when dressed as superheroine she becomes blonde), since it is openly displayed in the scene in which she literally breaks the bed when making love with Matt. This attitude is initially taken as an asset by the male protagonist, but it soon proves to be “too much” for him. As I said before, male anxiety at the sight of such a formidable woman is quickly relieved when the film starts to show G-Girl’s maniac personality. Moreover, the film seems to be telling its male audience: “don’t worry boys, even if you are as unattractive and pathetic as this guy, you still can have not only one incredible female at your feet, but two! And, what is more, they are going to fight one another to be with you”. This is the disturbing discourse that Hollywood delivers nowadays beautifully wrapped up in the guise of two apparently inoffensive genres: romantic comedy and sci-fi. With films like this (and audiences all around the world enjoying them), it is no wonder that patriarchy is still in place.

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