A Book by Its Cover, A Movie by Its Poster

February 14, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Whose Heart Is in the Right Place?

You know this movie without even seeing it, don’t you? And that may be the problem. The message in the poster is already raising hackles. The movie’s not scheduled for release until July, but Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, knows that it’s a bad film.
Katherine Heigel[’s] . . . talents are being wasted on this shit. . . .

But obviously, this poster just about beats all. It’s the classic modern attempt to mollify women about vicious gender stereotyping
Marcotte already knows who the characters are – their motivations and the assumptions that drive the plot. She even knows how the film ends. (Duh – it’s a romantic comedy.)

Marcotte agrees with the movie’s title that the stereotype is ugly. It’s the truth part where they disagree. Of course, even if the idea in the poster were generally true, Marcotte would still object to its “vicious gender stereotyping.” Other stereotyping is O.K. It’s only this particular stereotype that outrages her. She herself has no problem stereotyping the people who go to movies like this. (“The audience for those has been whittled down to women who buy into this sexist crap, probably because they live in communities where they really don’t get much respect.”)

Lisa at Sociological Images also blogs this poster in terms of stereotypes. The trouble with stereotypes is that even when they may be generally accurate, they do not apply to all people. This poster tells us to think in terms of stereotypes. It doesn’t give us people. It gives us those universal figures that are designed explicitly not to look like real people. They’re intended to be recognizable the world over for a single characteristic – gender – so that we don’t go into the wrong rest room at the airport.

For all I know, “The Ugly Truth” may turn out to be as bad as Marcotte says. But maybe not. It might wind up giving the characters a more realistic and complicated relationship to this conflict between lust and love. (Interestingly, two recent films that used simple, monochromatic, comic-book-like drawings – “Persepolis” and “Waltzing with Bashir” – were intellectually complex and challenging.) With any luck, the characters in the movie will seem more like people than like stick figures. And we’ll get a different poster.

Happy Valentine’s Day


maxliving said...

Waltz, not Waltzing, with Bashir

Jay Livingston said...

Thanks Max; correction made.