Does this “no strings attached” present women in a positive light?

2 May

The media has been telling us for ages how to be a woman and how to be a man. We are given examples on what a normal man or woman acts like through television shows, series, and films. Commercials provide us with clear instructions on what we need or what we need to do in order to be a normal man or woman. Typically, I find that the media tells us that men are supposed to be independent, aggressive, dominant, and violent. Women, on the other hand should be gentle, dependent, affectionate, and emotional. Though we all know that there are varying degrees of all of these traits in people regardless of their gender, the media still attempts to make us believe certain attributes of men and women are innate, rather than learned.

After reading Laura Mulvey and Rosalind Gill, I was curious as to what their take would be on the film “No Strings Attached” with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. In ways, this film seems to go against the grain of the traditional “chick flick” because the woman tends to hold more emotional, sexual, and economic power over the man. But upon further consideration, this film is a comedy. In other words, a women having power while a man lacks power becomes humorous. Why is this funny? Is this funny for the right reasons?  Not only that, but what does this female sexual “no strings attached” theory do for women’s portrayal in the media? My paper will attempt to uncover some of these answers.

The two main characters in the film “No Strings Attached” are Emma and Adam. These two characters have been friends for a long time, but one morning spontaneously “hook up.” Afterwards, they worry about their friendship being ruined, but then decide to agree upon being causal sexual partners with “no strings attached.” Emma, a doctor, does not believe in love but rather that “monogamy goes against our natural biology.” She constantly pulls away from Adam who admits that he is falling in love with her. It seems as though the traditional ideas of mainstream media gender roles are reversed in this film. Emma comes off as an independent, dominant and unemotional being while Adam is more companionate, affectionate and emotional. In the end, it seems as though the characters need to reverse back to their traditional roles in order for a real relationship to occur.

Ultimately it takes Adam and Emma adhering to traditional stereotypical roles in order for the relationship to work. Emma ends up becoming neurotic about the relationship, emotional, and confused. This causes Adam to pull away, begin seeing other women, and ignore Emma all together. When Emma finally calls him to tell him that she is falling in love with him, he reprimands her and tells her that she needs to have this conversation in person. It seems as though Emma’s confident views on relationships eventually shooed Adam away, and until she became more submissive to his relationship needs, they were unable to have any type of friendship or relationship.

The main ideological assumptions that this text makes is that the modern woman is more confident and has more sexual freedom. We can also gather that this text depicts an untraditional take on gender roles, because this is the first time we see this type of relationship work out in a chick flick. This film challenges traditional gender roles and shows elements of post-feministic views. In my paper I want to further discuss these issues and attempt to understand whether this film has positive or negative repercussions on gender roles in the media.

Clare Boyer

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