Considering "Funny People" and other indicators, there seems to be a cultural re-norming for Marriage. One in which female infidelity at least, is not only "OK" but empowering and liberating. An infidelity, that does not threaten the integrity of the family because of "sharing" according to status of lovers and husbands. So far, audiences don't seem to be buying this message, but it certainly seems to be the message cultural elites are intent on forcing upon the larger audience until they surrender.
At least one male reviewer seemed not to understand why the "everyman" character, Ira (Seth Rogen) is irate when a girl he was interested in slept with one of his room-mates. Most reviewers found the ex-girlfriend, played by Leslie Mann, to "enchanting" including The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern and none really took issue with either the appropriateness of the main character (Sandler) romancing his ex, or the ex giddily falling into bed with him despite the fact that she's married and has two kids.
As Ferdinand Bardamu posts, the film "Funny People" centers around former male-oriented comedy star Adam Sandler, playing George Simmons, who hires an out-of-work joke writer Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to write jokes for him after he learns he's dying of a rare form of leukemia, in between acting like a jerk and having casual sex with groupies. After Simmons is cured, he attempts to romance the girl he cheated on, Laura (Leslie Mann) even though she is indeed married (though she suspects her husband once cheated) and has two small children. Laura responds eagerly and prepares to divorce her husband Clarke (Eric Bana) when he discovers her infidelity, and prepares to do so without shame. This is presented as "romantic." Laura only finally realizes George will make a lousy husband and father when he laughs at her young daughter's singing and checks his cell phone. Unrealistically, she later tries to rekindle her marriage with her husband whom she earlier dismissed casually.
Audiences, by and large found this movie un-funny and as noted by the 72% drop from its opening weekend, however the message, that men can "share" women in marriage, according to social hierarchy, (and in relationships, see Ira with the girl he liked who promptly slept with one of his friends) is clearly on the agenda.
The same message was present in an earlier Sandler movie, "Spanglish," which centers on a family man, John, who runs a swanky restaurant, and has to stay with his cheating wife (Tea Leoni) for the sake of his kids. Similar themes have shown up in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (a cheating fiancee is "OK" with the dominant Alpha), "the Unit" (where one of the wives has a long-term "hot" affair with her husband's commander and has him ordered on missions so they can continue the affair), and "A Walk on the Moon." In all instances, female infidelity is presented as "no big deal" but rather "empowering" and also, justified, since the men are either hot studs or higher in the social hiearchy.
This is clearly, a message that will NOT not resonate with men. It's pushed by the culture of Hollywood, strongly influenced by so many gay writers and producers and executives, and feminists, who while not wielding direct influence can have enormous impact on Hollywood, ground zero for political correctness. This message is also as one might expect, popular with women. Recently, Mercy, the new NBC nurse-drama show depicted in the promotional trailers the lead character unabashedly cheating on her doofus, good guy loyal husband, because he's well, loyal and the wife's "friend" and the ex-lover is "hot" and Alpha and of much higher status. The "cheating wife" storyline was quite popular among female fans of "the Unit" (check Television Without Pity to see) and keeps showing up in "serious dramatic movies" that cover family life. Blogger Novaseeker has commented that in the modern, post 1980's era, women seek the balance between "cads and dads" and often fantasize about having both. This is certainly the case in the Sandra Tsing Loh article and the various writings of Barbara Ehrenreich urging legalized polyamory and indeed, advocating a "dad" housekeeper and various "cad" boyfriends on the side for women. Or, in the CNN article Happily Married, Dreaming of Divorce, nice everyday guys are "boring" and women have enough money and status to live on their own with various "exciting" guys around.
Clearly we have a perfect cultural storm: a very over-represented Gay faction in Hollywood, pushing Gay norms of relationships (affairs are no big thing they are both men), with feminists pushing aggressively to redefine marriage and family as a hot woman, her boyfriend(s) of hot, exciting status, and housekeeper husband, and the need now that men have fled scripted entertainment to appeal to a mostly female audience. The more of course, this message is pushed, the more men flee.
Male followers of Sandler, to judge by the reaction to "Punch Drunk Love" and "Spanglish" and "Funny People" were not happy with his turn to the dramatic, instead of the flippant, anti-authority comedies he is known for. None of these films exactly set the box office records on fire, compared to say "Big Daddy" which made $163 million domestically against a production cost of $34 million. "Bedtime Stories" earned $110 domestically against a production cost of $80 million. Yet Sandler like other formerly male favored stars (Clint Eastwood, for example) craves acceptance as a dramatic actor. Like the many women with security, he craves excitement and applause from his peers, he already has success.
Which means we can expect more of this, Hollywood as an institution pushes even male-appealing stars to abandon their core audience for approval. Which requires, well themes like "Funny People" or "Spanglish." This is true for Judd Apatow as well, who made money off of fantasies of nerdy, nebbishy guys getting the girl ("40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," and "Super-bad.")
In some ways of course, as blogger Ferdinand Bardamu notes, Hollywood has done their male audience a favor. He notes the lessons contained within "Funny People" (which parallel those of "Spanglish" and other films, television shows such as "Mercy" and many other tv series) which are:
- Women will cheat while married if the guy is more Alpha than her husband.
- Guys who follow "the rules" of being "nice," backing off girls with boyfriends, husbands, are losers while those who pursue women 24/7 regardless of marital status, etc. are winners.
- Wives and girlfriends, and potential for both, have complex and lengthy sexual pasts, with deep feelings for Alphas who are largely jerks.
- Sex with an Alpha means more than family responsibilities, even to children.
- Past boyfriends of women can show up at any time and take away wives or girlfriends if they have superior Alpha status.
- Being a good father or supportive is un-important, being Alpha is all to women.
- Women don't love "friends" or find it sexy, they relegate boyfriends and husbands to "honorary gay status" and seek men who are dominant socially (Alpha).
- Women don't seek security, they have their own, they NEED for constant excitement and stimulation.
- When women cheat in marriage they seek to replace not supplement their husbands/boyfriends
- Non-Alpha men should expect to "share" women with Alphas, while Alphas need not share women at all.
These, then, are the "lessons" of "Funny People" and while based on Hollywood exaggeration, are at least partly descriptive of some of female and Alpha behavior, and describe the distorting effect of security no longer being a basic need upon society in the relationship and mating market. Note the emphasis in the "rules" on female need for stimulation and excitement, and lack of loyalty and dependence on male emotional support. These are red flags that women assume they are either not needed or easily substituted for (i.e. supportive husbands/boyfriends). Some of the lessons (sharing of women by Betas with Alphas vs. replacement of husband by Alpha) are contradictory, but what is most useful is the core lesson that female infidelity is never criticized. It is revealing that while male infidelity (rightly so) is criticized, it is only BETA male infidelity and promiscuous behavior that is criticized (the movie does not take George to task for having one night stands with groupies) and not Alpha male infidelity/promiscuity, and female infidelity is never criticized.
The one red line that cannot be crossed is criticizing this behavior.
Obviously, the caste system for men, Alpha, Beta, and Omega are near and dear to the hearts of Hollywood. Most of the stars, executives, producers, writers, and directors have a complex caste system that encourages Alpha-Beta struggles, and Alphas simply taking (then throwing back) women. This is "normal" for Hollywood, which is a severely dysfunctional place. The situation is similar to a rock band, with groupies being passed around from musician to musician according to status and power within the group. This message is modified by the need to appeal to women audiences, who don't want to feel "disposable" to either Alphas or Betas. When in fact, they are. The record of women in Hollywood, as actresses, writers, and directors, is not a happy one, despite most of Hollywood being oriented directly towards the female audience, certainly in TV, and arguably for most movies outside Summer (male oriented) Blockbusters. In addition, the publicity of angering feminist groups is the one type of publicity Hollywood avoids whenever possible.
The Apex of Hollywood's caste system is powerful indeed. Most of the men there generally don't abuse their power in creating de-facto harems. Even mid-life crises like Harrison Ford confines himself to a single (much younger) actress. They know, either overtly or instinctively, the danger of doing so (creating powerful enemies intent on bringing them down through scandal). Taking a studio executive's, or producer's, or less powerful actor's wife or girlfriend is a recipe for life-time enmity and a bet that said victim will never be in a position to offer payback.
However, the lower levels are rife with such actions, and moreover the supply of women who generally, if they divorce a powerful man, won't be seeking alimony (they have their own money) is relatively slim. Thus, Kelly Preston, John Travolta's wife, was once the girlfriend of Charlie Sheen (and famously shot by him). For powerful but not Apex men such as these, swapping women around, is "normal." Not the least of which is there is generally, again, minimal investment in the women and lots of hookers and groupies on the side, as a general rule, for those who want such things. Lots of money makes many things possible.
This re-norming is of course a Hollywood construction. It might reflect the desires of some women, but it has not gotten wide acceptance in practice. But that was true for Gay Marriage, viewed as a fantasy twenty years ago. Can and will men accept this re-norming?
No. Women might adopt such a norm, particularly as women become larger parts of the workforce, due to the mancession and attempts to increase female employment at the expense of, particularly, White males (see Robert Reich), making even the provider role fairly difficult for most men to achieve. Notably, in the movie "Funny People," the Eric Bana character is a good provider and supportive father, with plenty of money, but he can't match the fame and fortune of Hollywood winner George (Sandler).
Particularly in the Obama-driven "pick the winners" government run economy, a few connected male insiders will make out with even more money than before. Becoming even more wealthy, powerful, and Alpha. Including of course, fame
This means that women, as principal breadwinners, will want to re-norm marriage to support "sharing" themselves with Alpha men. It certainly has many advantages for them, and as we will see later, falls in line with gay norms of marriage as Gay Marriage becomes a nationwide reality.
But for most men, the prospect of having to "share" their wife or girlfriend with another man, Alpha or not, is repugnant. It will simply cause men to forgo marriage, unless they are powerful and Alpha enough to be utterly secure in keeping their wife to themselves. Men in the West have historically fought to avoid sharing their women with other men, and there is no reason to think that will change. Hollywood might be successful in persuading a goodly number (it's likely that not even a majority of women would be required to re-norm and redefine marriage) of women that marriage means a house-husband, a "Kitchen Bitch" (in Loh's terms) who takes care of the kids and family, and various exciting Alphas for whom they will drop everything.
This is a deal not even Adam Sandler can sell.