Why the "Horrible Bosses" adverts make me jaw-grindingly angry

Posted at 12:20 on 26 Jul 2011 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: consent, Female gaze, films and TV, Gender politics, other pictures, Politics, rant

I've seen these adverts on the Tube recently (or very similar ones: the London version has the word "nympho" instead of "maneater".) They're for a film which will be showing soon in the UK, and the marketing campaign is aggressive. I'm even seeing promoted tweets about it turn up in my Twitter feed. So far, every ad I've seen has made me angry. My anger is half at the film itself (which is perhaps not fair to judge before I've watched it), and half at the way it's being marketed.

Perhaps ranting about sexism in Hollywood is shooting at fish in a barrel. It is so endemic in the industry that scripts which don't follow the trend are rejected or edited based on questionable assumptions about what the "audience" wants. These biased, self-justifying expectations remind me of the trend in heterosexual porn not to focus on male bodies or personalities, or male/male eroticism. The "audience" doesn't want to see it. But if only low-budget, indie productions are taking the risk, how can we make a fair assessment? At the grassroots level, most people you meet aren't particularly bothered one way or the other. They accept whatever they are brought up to expect. If we make more options available, the next generation of viewers will probably accept that diversity. And that will have a knock-on effect on cultural expectations which can only be positive.

Which is why I feel it's important to call sexist films and marketing out where we see it. They are everywhere, they are normalised, and people tune them out. Which means they tune sexism out in real life, too. In order to promote a more equal and fair society, we need to get used to noticing it when we see it.

So why are the Horrible Bosses adverts so egregious? Well, off the top of my head...

1. 'Sex-crazed nympho'? This is still a valid category? I thought it went out of date with, you know, the advent of modern psychology and 'hysteria' as a common medical diagnosis. Female sexuality has historically been pathologised and punished. Women considered overly sexually active were institutionalised and tortured. These days, sexually active women are rarely presented as positive role-models. Double standards abound when comparing attitudes towards sexually active men and sexually active women. It is not considered acceptable for women to be sexually forward, sexually dominant or promiscuous. Using this stereotype as the base for a "horrible boss" monsters active female sexuality, presenting it as abnormal, unpleasant and dangerous.

Its assumed abnormality and ridiculousness is also demonstrated by the fact that this is a comedy. Women who actively enjoy and seek sex are HILARIOUS. Can you imagine a comedy which hangs on the image of a promiscuous straight man? No, because there's nothing unusual or strange about it. The comedy arises from the "weirdness", from the fact that this is not a behaviour which is normalised or accepted.

2. Okay, so sexual abuse is funny now, too? I mean, the above point notwithstanding, this isn't a film about a woman going out and getting some hot consensual action, it's about a boss persistently sexually abusing and assaulting their employee to the point of rape. LMAO! Wow, I can't think of anything funnier than having to go into work every day knowing your boss will grope you, sexually humiliate you, touch you inappropriately, constantly make sexually invasive comments, lock you in with them, expose themselves to you, and violate your physical boundaries long after you have told them "no". Funny funny funny!

Let's imagine that the genders are reversed. This wouldn't be a comedy. It would be a dark, distressing, violent story about someone trapped in a situation of ongoing abuse and seeking revenge.

3. It's not like the awfulness of Aniston's character's behaviour isn't acknowledged by the script. But in just the same way that mainstream discussions of sexual and abuse and domestic violence often invisible the experiences of male victims, in the same way that news media handle incidences of sexual abuse or rape by a female against a male very differently than when the perpetrator is male, representations of female sexual abusers in entertainment rarely take the idea seriously. Casting Jennifer Aniston, an actor who has made a career out of playing non-threatening, funny, sexually appealing characters, is perhaps the biggest clue here. The response isn't meant to be "Fuck, that's absolutely horrible, I can't imagine how distressing that must be", but "Phwoar! I wouldn't mind some of that!"

Just as the female boss's abusive behaviour is not taken seriously, neither is the victim's suffering. His constant unhappy faces and scrambling out of the way are framed as just as much a source of comedy as his boss's pushy "seductions". You're meant to laugh at his misery and helplessness, because male victims of sexual abuse are funny. After all, it's not like he's really being mistreated, is it? I mean, who wouldn't want to be locked in an office with Jennifer Aniston dressed like that? "Sexy lady boss" is an old a trope in porn as "sexy lady teacher". Not quite as old as "sexy schoolgirl" or "sexy secretary", perhaps, but still two of the original models for female tops or strong female characters in porn. The film is intended to amuse and titillate, because sexual abuse of men by women is still treated as amusing and titillating.

As TV Tropes puts it,

Rape Is OK When Its Female On Male: It's hard to say what the film's position on this isJulia's actions are clearly portrayed as bad, but they're also Played for Laughs, and nobody takes Dale's situation seriously.

The general audience's position on this seems to be a firm Rape Is Awesome When It's Jennifer Aniston.

4. Contrary to the impression given by the above adverts, the film is actually a story about three horrible bosses. Two of them are male - one a power-hungry psychopath, the other a racist, incompetent tool. If you google, you see plenty of posters giving each of the three storylines equal space. And yet, none of those posters seem to have been used in the UK campaign. I hadn't even realised that the film had three storylines until I started googling for the picture at the top of this post. None of the other two storylines appear in the above video trailer. Why?

Because the sexual assault/rape storyline is the sexiest, with a sexy lady, and as everyone knows, sex sells, regardless of whether it's consensual.

Comments

I understand your anger. I guess that one can find an equal amount of things to complain about in this film from a female point of view and from a male point of view.

It does confirm that sexual abuse of men by women is not taken seriously in our society. You can even make a Hollywood comedy about it, which indeed would be unthinkable these days if the roles were reversed. Sexual abuse and domestic violence perpetrated by women also barely figure in the mainstream news media, despite the fact that numerous cases exist.

(Reliable figures are of course hard to come by, but several estimates which I have seen being mentioned (from university studies, medical journals) indicate that cases of sexual abuse by female perpetrators are significant, especially in the area of child abuse where they are perhaps as high as 40% or 50%. Also, one study I saw claims that 40% of the male rapists it surveyed were sexually abused by a woman during their childhood or teen years, which is an interesting addition to the "abuse causes more abused" angle.)

When movies like "Horrible Bosses" are concerned, I must admit that I can rarely manage to rise to the level of being angry, though. Usually I only manage to become mildly annoyed.

The core of the issue for me is this:

"It is so endemic in the industry that scripts which don’t follow the trend are rejected or edited based on questionable assumptions about what the 'audience' wants. [...]"

In my view, the assumptions of studio executives about what "the audience" (more precisely, the mainstream audience) wants are not questionable, but often quite spot-on. Intelligent films, unusual films, art films have existed since the beginning of filmmaking, but never found as large an audience as the mainstream flicks. Is it because they are not being promoted enough? But they are being promoted quite a bit - there are funding programs by governments and universities, film festivals like Cannes and Sundance, and on TV there are culture channels like Arte. Still, art films only attract a niche audience, simply because no larger audience exists for them.

I see the hope in your writing of somehow re-educating the population so that they appreciate art and diversity more: "If we make more options available, the next generation of viewers will probably accept that diversity. And that will have a knock-on effect on cultural expectations which can only be positive."

Personally, I don't think that this is going to work. The point is, options are available and always have been, they are just not being used. As human beings, we tend to be lazy. We tend to be creatures of habit. We tend to want easy entertainment, not intellectual and emotional challenges. Which is why, throughout history, the majority of the people have always entertained themselves with "mass culture", while only a minority (usually privileged, with enough higher education and enough leisure time) develops an interest in "high culture".

Of course, there have always been those who argued that the masses would all appreciate high culture if they weren't being "dumbed down" by the mass media, but I think they are making the same mistake you are: confusing cause and effect.

I guess what I'm holding out for is for the 'norm' of acceptability improve enough that even if films don't stop being a lowest common denominator, over time that bar is raised so that things like this cease to be tolerated. Prefectdt below points out that it can be seen as a positive step that a work harassment story like this with the genders reversed would not be acceptable these days. So yeah, it's infuriating that male victims of abuse are not accorded the same respect, and that female characters in films - even rapists - have their sexual appeal emphasised above all else, and films trade on that sex appeal, but my hope is that as our society evolves those tropes will become a thing of the past.

I do think that it's possible for films to do better on gender without putting audiences off. Actual equality is still a way off, but I've seen a few movies lately which weren't art house/high brow but still managed to not fuck up quite as egregiously as this one. RED had two strong female characters including Helen Mirren with a machine gun swapping her heels for practical shoes in the big showdown; Salt had Angelina Jolie playing a lead role in which a male would definitely usually be cast; Scott Pilgrim had some interesting female characters whose primary purpose was not sexual and two LGBT characters. All of these films had some flaws in terms of gender politics but I definitely reject your implication that only films as sexist as Horrible Bosses in their concept and execution will be acceptable to "the masses".

I am not saying that films *have* to be sexist to have mass appeal. Horrible Bosses is just one example of how to make a commercially successful film, among others. My main point was that the assumptions Hollywood makes about what the mainstream audience wants are often quite correct, whether snobs like you and me like it or not. *grins* Horrible Bosses cost an estimated $35 million and made $93 million in its first month of release, so it is already a success.

I agree that, twenty years from now, society might be sensitised enough to the issue of the sexual abuse of men that a comedy like this would no longer be possible, just like it would not be possible today if the gender roles were reversed. At the same time, I don't believe that sexism is ever going to disappear from the cinema screen altogether. Sex sells, especially in a visual medium like film. So, sex appeal is always going to be a major factor in the industry. So, we will always get films that can be interpreted as sexist in one way or another. (Of course, our sensibilities about what constitutes sexism and where lines are being crossed will change over time, and the subjects of the debates will change accordingly.)

It's interesting that you mention R.E.D. and Salt as examples of films which you liked better. Personally, I am ambivalent about the action heroine thing. Yes, it's great that female roles are no longer confined to home and hearth. But is Helen Mirren wielding a machine gun really the best we can do with the newfound liberation? Is that our answer to how to create a gender equal society, that women are now simply doing the same stupid shit men have been doing for centuries, firing guns, blowing things up and boxing?

The irony is that, on one level, Horrible Bosses and Salt are doing the same thing: they cast a female in a stereotypically male role, one featuring a female CIA agent on the run, the other a female boss sexually harassing her employees. You approve of one and disapprove of the other, but essentially they are a product of the same trend.

Personally, I would like to see more female characters who are strong and independent and intelligent *without* doing stereotypically male things. I would rather watch Helen Mirren as the sorceress Morgana in Excalibur or as Elizabeth II. in The Queen, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that these are more tradtionally female characters, without being weak or inferior.

There is a bigger issue here, one that interests me a lot. I don't know if you are familiar with Katharina Rutschky (1941-2010), a German feminist (and sometimes anti-feminist). Rutschky criticised the (traditional) feminist movement for, in her view, having failed to create a positive vision of femininity and of what it means to be a woman in an equal rights society. The progress vision of traditional feminism, according to Rutschky, is that women should simply imitate the men and basically become like men: "Nothing new is being expected from female human beings, and certainly nothing different than what is expected from male human beings, whom we are supposed to take as role models in every aspect of life." Rutschky viewed this as an anti-female way of thinking, as a form of female self-hatred. She also viewed it as a futile utopian idea because she believed that gender differences are to a significant degree rooted in biology and not just created by society. So, instead of abolishing gender roles, she suggested "cultivating" them and creating a positive vision of femininity for a society that has equal rights.

Regardless of whether you agree with her whole philosophy, I think she raises some thought-provoking points. In any case, I am ambivalent about the "action heroine" thing seen in Salt for the above reasons. I love some of these movies and characters, but I think it is already becoming a cliché. Before long, it will probably be more daring to create a female character with stereotypically female attributes than it will be to create one who wields an AK-47.

I would also argue that Horrible Bosses is not just a result of old-fashioned stereotyping, as you say. To an at least equal degree, it is a result of the "Let's have women doing typically male stuff now! People will love it because it's progressive!" trend. It's a mix of both.

I sympathize, particularly with what you say about how women should be respected as women, without having to try and be like men.
Femininity in both men and women should be valued more. I love this Wiki article about the Tears for Fears song "Woman in Chains", where the singer talks how the song, rather than just being about the female sex, is about how femininity is "kept in chains". I love his attitude. I'm a little disappointed that I think the song itself comes off as a bit of a feeble, tearjerker. Not a solid, feminist anthem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_Chains

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Interesting - I don't have a TV so my exposure has all been tube ads, social media ads and linked videos on the internet. I don't know if that's cause or effect - are internet audiences more likely to re-link sex-themed stuff, or do internet marketers assume this and therefore focus exclusively on the sex-themed content?

I haven't seen What Women Want, but I don't think the existence of a het male promiscuous comedy negates most of the problems with the Horrible Bosses concept.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Yeah, I'm getting the distinct impression that being exclusively exposed to Julia's plot in the adverts was bad luck on my part - and wishing I hadn't mentioned it, as really I think the concept itself is pretty bad even as one third of a triumvirate of awful. But yeah, giving Julia's storyline equal weight alongside the other two definitely emphasises the "awful" aspects of the story rather than the "sexy and appealing", which makes it a little more palatable.

I get really stuck on how daft it seems that most people watching the movie agree that it's stupid/not as good as cinema classics, but the industry thrives anyway. But I can't seem to express my frustration with that without sounding like a creative snob, so maybe I am.

I sympathize, particularly with what you say about how women should be respected as women, without having to try and be like men.
Femininity in both men and women should be valued more. I love this Wiki article about the Tears for Fears song "Woman in Chains", where the singer talks how the song, rather than just being about the female sex, is about how femininity is "kept in chains". I love his attitude. I'm a little disappointed that I think the song itself comes off as a bit of a feeble, tearjerker. Not a solid, feminist anthem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_Chains

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Interesting - I don't have a TV so my exposure has all been tube ads, social media ads and linked videos on the internet. I don't know if that's cause or effect - are internet audiences more likely to re-link sex-themed stuff, or do internet marketers assume this and therefore focus exclusively on the sex-themed content?

I haven't seen What Women Want, but I don't think the existence of a het male promiscuous comedy negates most of the problems with the Horrible Bosses concept.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Hey, Pandora,

I lurk around here a little bit because I love your writing and your porn, and I thought I'd jump in b/c I saw Horrible Bosses last week (I'm from NY).

Over here, I think they called Jennifer Aniston a "bitch," not a "maneater" or a "nympho," but every promo I saw featured each of the three horrible bosses in quick succession. From the trailers, Colin Farrell's character ("I want you to fire the fat people") seemed like the most morally corrupt, and promised to be the funniest.

I totally agree with everything you just, and I'm really posting b/c I was really surprised the movie would be marketed so differently in England.

PS - The movie? Eh, I laughed a lot, but I was also pretty buzzed. I've always liked Aniston doing physical comedy (not that she gets to do much of that), so I enjoyed that, and Colin Farrell hasn't played a humorous character on the American screen before, so that was fun, too. The girl power come uppence, to me, was that no single part of the movie was a good as Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomlin in the original "Horrible Bosses," - "Nine to Five."

I am not saying that films *have* to be sexist to have mass appeal. Horrible Bosses is just one example of how to make a commercially successful film, among others. My main point was that the assumptions Hollywood makes about what the mainstream audience wants are often quite correct, whether snobs like you and me like it or not. *grins* Horrible Bosses cost an estimated $35 million and made $93 million in its first month of release, so it is already a success.

I agree that, twenty years from now, society might be sensitised enough to the issue of the sexual abuse of men that a comedy like this would no longer be possible, just like it would not be possible today if the gender roles were reversed. At the same time, I don't believe that sexism is ever going to disappear from the cinema screen altogether. Sex sells, especially in a visual medium like film. So, sex appeal is always going to be a major factor in the industry. So, we will always get films that can be interpreted as sexist in one way or another. (Of course, our sensibilities about what constitutes sexism and where lines are being crossed will change over time, and the subjects of the debates will change accordingly.)

It's interesting that you mention R.E.D. and Salt as examples of films which you liked better. Personally, I am ambivalent about the action heroine thing. Yes, it's great that female roles are no longer confined to home and hearth. But is Helen Mirren wielding a machine gun really the best we can do with the newfound liberation? Is that our answer to how to create a gender equal society, that women are now simply doing the same stupid shit men have been doing for centuries, firing guns, blowing things up and boxing?

The irony is that, on one level, Horrible Bosses and Salt are doing the same thing: they cast a female in a stereotypically male role, one featuring a female CIA agent on the run, the other a female boss sexually harassing her employees. You approve of one and disapprove of the other, but essentially they are a product of the same trend.

Personally, I would like to see more female characters who are strong and independent and intelligent *without* doing stereotypically male things. I would rather watch Helen Mirren as the sorceress Morgana in Excalibur or as Elizabeth II. in The Queen, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that these are more tradtionally female characters, without being weak or inferior.

There is a bigger issue here, one that interests me a lot. I don't know if you are familiar with Katharina Rutschky (1941-2010), a German feminist (and sometimes anti-feminist). Rutschky criticised the (traditional) feminist movement for, in her view, having failed to create a positive vision of femininity and of what it means to be a woman in an equal rights society. The progress vision of traditional feminism, according to Rutschky, is that women should simply imitate the men and basically become like men: "Nothing new is being expected from female human beings, and certainly nothing different than what is expected from male human beings, whom we are supposed to take as role models in every aspect of life." Rutschky viewed this as an anti-female way of thinking, as a form of female self-hatred. She also viewed it as a futile utopian idea because she believed that gender differences are to a significant degree rooted in biology and not just created by society. So, instead of abolishing gender roles, she suggested "cultivating" them and creating a positive vision of femininity for a society that has equal rights.

Regardless of whether you agree with her whole philosophy, I think she raises some thought-provoking points. In any case, I am ambivalent about the "action heroine" thing seen in Salt for the above reasons. I love some of these movies and characters, but I think it is already becoming a cliché. Before long, it will probably be more daring to create a female character with stereotypically female attributes than it will be to create one who wields an AK-47.

I would also argue that Horrible Bosses is not just a result of old-fashioned stereotyping, as you say. To an at least equal degree, it is a result of the "Let's have women doing typically male stuff now! People will love it because it's progressive!" trend. It's a mix of both.

I sympathize, particularly with what you say about how women should be respected as women, without having to try and be like men.
Femininity in both men and women should be valued more. I love this Wiki article about the Tears for Fears song "Woman in Chains", where the singer talks how the song, rather than just being about the female sex, is about how femininity is "kept in chains". I love his attitude. I'm a little disappointed that I think the song itself comes off as a bit of a feeble, tearjerker. Not a solid, feminist anthem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_Chains

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Interesting - I don't have a TV so my exposure has all been tube ads, social media ads and linked videos on the internet. I don't know if that's cause or effect - are internet audiences more likely to re-link sex-themed stuff, or do internet marketers assume this and therefore focus exclusively on the sex-themed content?

I haven't seen What Women Want, but I don't think the existence of a het male promiscuous comedy negates most of the problems with the Horrible Bosses concept.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Yeah, I'm getting the distinct impression that being exclusively exposed to Julia's plot in the adverts was bad luck on my part - and wishing I hadn't mentioned it, as really I think the concept itself is pretty bad even as one third of a triumvirate of awful. But yeah, giving Julia's storyline equal weight alongside the other two definitely emphasises the "awful" aspects of the story rather than the "sexy and appealing", which makes it a little more palatable.

I get really stuck on how daft it seems that most people watching the movie agree that it's stupid/not as good as cinema classics, but the industry thrives anyway. But I can't seem to express my frustration with that without sounding like a creative snob, so maybe I am.

I sympathize, particularly with what you say about how women should be respected as women, without having to try and be like men.
Femininity in both men and women should be valued more. I love this Wiki article about the Tears for Fears song "Woman in Chains", where the singer talks how the song, rather than just being about the female sex, is about how femininity is "kept in chains". I love his attitude. I'm a little disappointed that I think the song itself comes off as a bit of a feeble, tearjerker. Not a solid, feminist anthem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_Chains

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Interesting - I don't have a TV so my exposure has all been tube ads, social media ads and linked videos on the internet. I don't know if that's cause or effect - are internet audiences more likely to re-link sex-themed stuff, or do internet marketers assume this and therefore focus exclusively on the sex-themed content?

I haven't seen What Women Want, but I don't think the existence of a het male promiscuous comedy negates most of the problems with the Horrible Bosses concept.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

I do get the point you're making, but for what it's worth, I've only seen the tv trailer for this
Film and it's very clear that there are three bosses and why they are horrible.

Also, Just as a POI, the film "what Women Want" is a comedy that entirely relies on the image of Mel Gibsons character as a promiscuous straight male to work the story line.

I sympathize, particularly with what you say about how women should be respected as women, without having to try and be like men.
Femininity in both men and women should be valued more. I love this Wiki article about the Tears for Fears song "Woman in Chains", where the singer talks how the song, rather than just being about the female sex, is about how femininity is "kept in chains". I love his attitude. I'm a little disappointed that I think the song itself comes off as a bit of a feeble, tearjerker. Not a solid, feminist anthem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_Chains

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Interesting - I don't have a TV so my exposure has all been tube ads, social media ads and linked videos on the internet. I don't know if that's cause or effect - are internet audiences more likely to re-link sex-themed stuff, or do internet marketers assume this and therefore focus exclusively on the sex-themed content?

I haven't seen What Women Want, but I don't think the existence of a het male promiscuous comedy negates most of the problems with the Horrible Bosses concept.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Sorry but I think that I am going to be saying "I'm not saying" a lot in this comment. I tried to find a way round it but to no avail.

I'm not saying that I approve of this type of character in a film but I think that if this film had been made in the 1970s Jennifer Aniston's character would have been male and his victim would have been female. This being because in this era a male sexually harassing a female would find himself not in a comedy film but in court. So in a way this is a sign of progression that sexual harassment in the work place, that at least one group of employees can be taken seriously and not be made to feel that they are making a fuss over nothing.

I'm not saying that I approve of the sexual harassment of men by women in the workplace but this kind of scenario in a film does highlight the general attitude that we see in the western world today and does highlight a thing that needs to be recognized and changed.

What was a bit of a laugh, when it was done to Barbara Windsor, in old Carry On Films can now only be regarded as a laugh, by the masses, if the victim is male. To portray a woman in the same situation now would invite protests and condemnation, for the studio.

I'm not saying that this is a good thing but perhaps it is a sign that at least we are on the path to a more sexually equal society.

I am saying that I hope that in a few decades time people will be saying that "You couldn't make a comedy like that now.". It is right to be offended by this film but I think that it is indicative of societies attitudes at the moment.

Prefectdt

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You are correct that it's a sign of progress that the gender-swapped version of this film would be unpalatable (or would be a dark revenge narrative, or one of those dysfunctional sexual power relationship films where the female victim wants it despite herself, I guess).

I'm fully in agreement with the hope expressed in your last paragraph. Perhaps stupid Hollywood comedies are the last place we should expect to see social change reflected - the dregs of cultural ideology rather than an accurate representation of what most people think. Or am I being overly optimistic?

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

Whoa, careful there re point 4. The Jennifer Aniston poster is the last of the three I saw, and I think I've seen more of the other two overall.

Which does not in any way negate the fact that all three bosses have been given gender-stereotypical ways of being disliked. But, you know, factual accuracy is still a Thing.

I'm perfectly happy - and quite relieved! - to discover that my exposure to the ads was unusually weighted. I didn't mean to imply that the ads I'd seen was all there were. But it definitely affected my emotional response that the only public advertising I was exposed to focused exclusively on the storyline with the most problematic gender politics.

The film 'What Women Want' was mentioned earlier, whose sell is that Mel Gibson is a rich, entitled womanising asshole. This is of course absolutely true.

Does 'Horrible Bosses' involve a redemption plot? Because the *entire sell* in What Women Want was that Gibson gets telepathy and realises exactly how much of an asshole he's been, gets his head fucked with, and then loses it again and has to try and cope with having a real, emotionally vulnerable realtionship with an actual woman. His initial state is ridiculed, and explicitly problematised, and ultimately treated as a Heroic Flaw to be overcome before he can be a full adult.

I suspect this does not happen with Jennifer Anniston, or either of the male bosses.

NB: What Women Want is still a fairly poor film using fairly tired cinematic humour tropes. The 80s film 'Working Girl' arguably attacked the same issues and did it better, and without implausible super-powers.

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