Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Y oh Y a chromosome

I am getting to love my WorldSpace satellite radio almost as much as I loved my late, lamented TiVo. While in a former time, I would have used my TiVo to record every rerun of Star Trek and Babylon 5 that I could, the reality was that I was mainly using it to record lots of news programs. For a news junkie, the WorldSpace delivers tons. What more could you want than National Public Radio, BBC World Service, World Radio Network and CNN International, all 24/7 and in digital quality sound? That doesn’t even include all the news stations in other languages. (Note: WorldSpace doesn’t broadcast in North America, but XM and Sirius do.)

For example, if not for my direct feed from outer space of NPR, I might have missed the report that researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge had uncovered all kinds of new information about the Y chromosome. In a typical bit of NPR analysis, two scientists were brought on, with differing views on what the new data mean. One argued that the Y chromosome deserved much more respect than it has previously gotten and that it was more complex and important than generally credited. For example, scientists learned that the Y chromosome is full of palindromes. The other scientist thought the Y chromosome was so much “genetic junk” and basically a waste of time.

Is any of us surprised that the first scientist was a man and that the second one was a woman?

A more telling NPR “report” was on the weekend’s broadcast of Car Talk. Nothing alleviates homesickness for an American ex-pat than being able to hear Ray and Tom guffaw their way through an hour of irreverent advice for stricken automobiles. It’s a show that appeals even to people who aren’t that interested in cars, since so much of the subject matter isn’t about cars at all. For example, Tom read a newspaper column (sorry, didn’t get the author’s name) about how a wife and husband had reviewed a movie they had seen together, which happened to be François Truffaut’s The Story of Adèle H. The wife described it (I’m paraphrasing as best my limited memory allows) as an insightful exploration of the emotions of young woman who determinedly follows a soldier in an effort to persuade him to do right by her. The husband summed it up more succinctly: a guy is stalked by a whacko.

There is obviously a lot more going on with that Y chromosome (which is the only genetic difference between a female and a male) than science has yet been able to tell us. Although we don’t always like to admit it, there is something very different about the way men and women see movies. (The case of the odious Lifetime movies has already been discussed in this space.)

A case in point: here is an email I got from my very good friend Dayle (who wanted to be referred to here as “Tallulah” or “Celeste,” but I shield no one… unless they have a really good attorney):

Sent: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 10:20:43 -0700
Subject: What!!??

“. . .I don’t know if Anger Management similarly divides the genders, . . .”

Well, it must, because I thought it was one of THE STUPIDEST movies I’ve ever seen. You know all those cameos you thought were well employed? I thought “How cheap, how STUPID!” Talk about using your checkbook instead of your brain.

I don’t know, Scott. . .I think you’d better get yourself to a film festival or two!

In a follow-up email, Dayle (who is definitely not a Three Stooges fan) noted that a female friend of hers also didn’t care for Anger Management and had heard from her brother that he thought it was hilarious and went back to see it a second time.

Clearly, some movies (often, but not always, comedies) divide people right along gender lines. I was surprised as anyone that I gave Anger Management three stars. I am not an Adam Sandler fan, although I found in The Wedding Singer than he can actually be appealing in the right role in the right movie. I am not even particularly a Jack Nicholson fan, although I have a healthy respect for his body of work. In the end, the film got its fourth star through my unwritten rule that a movie can get an extra star if I don’t stop laughing during practically its entire running time.

Why did I (and apparently a lot of other guys) laugh so much at this movie? Analyzing humor is usually about as futile as performing an autopsy on a golden-egg-laying goose, but I’ll give it a shot. A lot of it was the shock of recognition. While I never received a wedgie while about to get my first kiss from a girl and, um, endowment has never been an, ahem, issue for me, there was much I or any modern male could identify with in scenes where Sandler endures contemptuous and rude treatment from his boss, a flight attendant, a security officer, and a judge. My most appreciative chortles were for Nicholson’s portrayal of the psycho-babble-spouting psychiatrist. In the scene where he berated Sandler in a therapy group with lines like “Don’t tell us about your job, tell us who you are,” I felt released from all the episodes of Dr. Phil I’ve had to watch while visiting my mother.

Something in this movie’s humor must have touched male primal instincts that have long been suppressed by civilization. And let’s face it, to a large extent, “civilization” means “feminization.” Females have always seemed to be more civilized than males. Why else would they tend to vote in greater numbers for political candidates with “compassionate” positions on peace and social issues? Part of civilization is not hitting people who infuriate us (especially judges). Another part of civilization is “being in touch with our feelings.” And sometimes we less civilized males chafe against civilization/feminization. What guy has not shuddered when his significant other announces that she wants to talk about his or her “feelings”? This film takes on the male discomfort with feelings and gives it a healthy wedgie.

So, why should men be surprised that women don’t like this film? And why should women be surprised that men do?

All I know is that this seems to be a bad season for psychiatrists in movies. As skewered as the profession is in Anger Management, it’s still better than what happens to the shrink in Identity!

-S.L., 26 June 2003

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