Monday, February 16, 2009


Several years ago, I picked up the book He's Just Not That into You with disdain and embarrassment. I thought for sure that it was going to be really stupid and I didn't want anyone to see me reading it! I was wrong on both counts.

First, He's Just Not That into You is an extremely funny book, which is one large step up for the writers of Sex and the City based on their last movie. Not into You was born in the office when Greg Behrendt noticed that all kinds of foxy, sophisticated, and otherwise intelligent women that he worked with were trapped in relationships that were going nowhere -- or worse, they were pursuing men who were treating them badly. Not into You was a phrase that Greg coined to kindly break it to these misguided women that the men they were panting for were never going to come through. If he's not calling you, if he's not sleeping with you, if he's not marrying you, guess what? He's just not into you! Married Greg teamed up with fellow colleague, and single woman, Liz Tuccillo, to impart the message to the masses.

But is this really true? The book took a very black and white position in terms of gender roles. What about the guy who is really shy? Afraid of commitment? Just too broke to take you to dinner at the moment? "Not into you" seemed to be a trite and dismissive way of looking at complex issues, despite the kernels of truth at the core of its message.

And it was clearly geared towards women, and biased in their favor. Women were foxes -- awesome creatures just waiting to be discovered -- and men were insensitive brutes, but the reality is more complex. We've all known women who are greedy, domineering, overly possessive, unfaithful and just plain nasty.

The movie seemed to recognize many more subtleties than the book, perhaps because of all of the criticism that the book received for being one-dimensional; the movie was nothing of the sort. It's humor was absolutely stellar and I laughed out loud pretty much throughout the whole thing, except for the sad and dramatic parts, which were well developed. We saw so many different types of people in relationships -- the wide-eyed young girl who meets a married man and thinks that he's going to leave his wife for her; the equally naïve female who goes on a date and gets the message all wrong, thinking that it went well when in fact the guy never plans to call her again; and a couple in a serious long-term relationship that is satisfying to both of them except that he doesn't want to get married and she does.

I won't offer any spoilers here in terms of who hooks up and stays together and who doesn't, but I will say that the ending has a strong positive message that it's okay to be by yourself if your relationship isn't working out, and it's okay to make compromises within relationships -- in fact it's essential, as long as you're not compromising something that is critical to your own well-being. But as much as I thoroughly enjoyed this lighthearted flick, I was left with a lingering question as to whether or not it was sexist and portrayed men badly. It also seemed as though gay guys were just thrown in as a token, politically correct measure, but their relationships weren't examined at all, which was too bad because everybody, gay or straight, encounters signals that they can't quite compute in relationships, and He's Just Not That into You offers an interesting road map.