I’m quite fond of Fran Kranz, who’s had extraordinarily bad luck in terms of being in projects that are critically acclaimed but canceled or vanish from the box office before anyone notices they’re there, so I was intrigued to hear that he’s part of a new movie project that’s seeking Kickstarter support. But the description of the movie itself, “Lust for Love is the story of an innocent guy (Fran Kranz) who wins the love of his childhood sweetheart (TBA), but since he’s been holding out for her his whole life, he’s so embarrassing that he’s quickly dumped. Convinced he needs more experience with women to win her back, he convinces the sweetheart’s girlfriend (Dichen Lachman) to teach him how to woo women,” has me feeling kind of exhausted. Maybe because Girls With Slingshots recently plumbed similar emotional territory, when Clarice found herself helping Tucker, a creepy guy she met in the library, learn how to talk to women.
What’s tiresome about these premises is that one of two assumptions is behind them. First, that men are too silly to know what to do with women, and need the instruction and hand-holding of a good woman so that another woman will benefit. Growing up isn’t easy, but there’s something odd about the boy-man trope that focuses on protagonists who need extensive instruction in social norms in order to interact properly. I understand that this is the source of drama for makeover comedies for both genders, but there’s a difference between narratives that convince women that they don’t actually need to reject stylish clothes and makeup to retain their inner selves and stories about men who haven’t rejected social conventions — they’re just totally unfamiliar with them.
And if it’s not that, then the assumption is that women, with their feminism and their romantic comedies and the contradictions between the two have made it too damn hard for reasonably intelligent men to figure out how they ought to go about courtship. There’s a resentful streak there, as if trading formal rituals for a bit more honesty and flexibility, and a bit more gender equality in relationships wasn’t actually a good trade. Having to do a bit more work to get to clarity and keep romance alive isn’t oppressive, nor is it a burden that’s unevenly divided. And sexual and romantic relationships aren’t that wildly different from other social interactions — we’re just a bit funny about the stakes.