The Awful Truth | The Nation


The Awful Truth

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Special thanks to Alison Mann.


About the Author

Manohla Dargis
Manohla Dargis is the film critic for Harper's Bazaar and film editor for the LA Weekly.

, performer.

The scene in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice in which they're all ready to have their supposed tryst and they all just lose it. The guys can't get their hard-ons and the women all feel completely shut down. I think that probably sums up the relationship between men and women--the bravado, the come-ons, the possibilities, the fantasies and then, when it comes down to it, for a lot of people, this empty experience.



, comedian.

The relationship between Brandon and Lana in Boys Don't Cry was so what I want from young love, the love scenes were so beautiful. In a lot of love scenes today there's really a focus on people's bodies, you don't really see people's faces. The camera lingered on Lana's face in such a lovely way; it was so intimate, and, to me, that's what sex between men and women is about. It's so strange because the biological reality was that it was a woman and a woman, though not really. It was a wonderful way to express gender as being not biological but about your soul and who you are and who you feel you are. I cried from beginning to end because I wanted a boyfriend like Brandon Teena. I feel like a jaded viewer a lot of times, and when I can be really moved by something onscreen in that way it's really important, and I do think it has a lot to do with the fact that the film was directed by a woman. We do have a different perspective when it comes to sexuality, things are felt differently by the body and therefore expressed differently in our artwork.



, cartoonist for The New Yorker and illustrator for The Mink Was Already Dead: And Other Rationalizations (Workman).

There are so many great things in Annie Hall about the nature of falling in love, how at the beginning you're so totally in love and then what happens when it starts to turn. Part of the reason the lobster scene works so well is that Allen does the scene again at the end after he's broken up with Diane Keaton. He goes out with another girl and it's a repeat of the same thing. The lobster has somehow gotten away and he's having a panic fit, swinging around the broom. With Keaton it was so horrible yet so hilarious and wonderful. Here's the scene again with a woman who just says, Why are you making such a big deal about it? I was thinking about what movies take on the subject of male-female relationships best, and I was also thinking about Alien. The thing with Alien--and this has been said a million times--but the central horror in it is the idea of the thing growing inside you, which of course is pregnancy. In a way, it's the horror that a man must feel. Even though I have had two children, sometimes when I think about pregnancy, it does seem very alienlike to me. It didn't seem so at the time, but now when I think about it, I think EEW!



, actor and director.

The scene that came into my head was from The Bridges of Madison County. I was moved deeply by this one moment when the husband tells the wife that he knows she had other dreams, other wishes, and that he's sorry he couldn't give those to her. The husband is a tiny character, you don't even remember his face, but when he says that, you almost want to know his side of the story. He knew there were yearnings, one year or two years or a few years where she wasn't part of the family, where she was somewhere else. But he allowed it. She, of course, sacrifices the so-called greatest love because she doesn't want her husband to be ridiculed. The things we are willing to give up for this very mysterious, age-old union between a man and a woman--that moved me.



, theorist; author, with Del LaGrace Volcano, of The Drag King Book (Serpent's Tail).

I like the penis-enlarger scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery between Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley because it's this amazing moment where the guy is shown to be phallically insufficient and the scene proceeds anyway. In fact, the comedy and the romance purls from his being phallically insufficient, which I think is a new moment in heterosexual comedy. My theory is that Austin Powers is actually a drag king. He has fake hair, fake teeth, and the scene is all about the fact that he isn't a phallic male. He doesn't just come fully formed from Casino Royale, the James Bond films, the "carry-on" comedies. The reason you get an Austin Powers in the nineties is because of all of the alternative forms of male parody. In this age of male crises, when Susan Faludi is writing a tragic tome about the betrayal of the American male, it was refreshing to see that sort of betrayal turned into comedy, where the woman's desire is actually activated by the male's insufficiency. Critics bemoan the crisis in masculinity, but those same critics aren't aware of the rise in alternative masculinities in places like lesbian nightclubs, where there are these amazing drag-king performances that prove it's very, very easy to imitate masculinity. You have to tie the exhaustion of heteronormativity to the rise of alternative ways of being. It didn't just happen on its own. Austin Powers is the ur-text of the millennium.

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