That Scene in 'The Big Sick' That Embarrassed a Whole Lot of Dudes
The very first feature I ever wrote for this site was a “Guide to Third-Date Flicks” (which I have since unpublished because, let’s just say, I’ve matured a lot in the last 12 years). I don’t think the “Third-Date Flick” is what it once was, but I still imagine that it’s an important part of the courting process for some. For the unfamiliar, the Third Date Movie is that movie that you introduce to the person you are dating (usually on the third or fourth date) that says a lot about you as a person.
If, for instance, the first movie the person you are dating introduces you to is, say, The Waterboy or Transformers 2, then I suspect for most of you, it’s probably not going to be a long-term match. In other words, The Third Date Movie is reflective of your personality, a passive way to relay to your date the kind of person you are. I believe my Third Date Movie was The Apartment, although it could have been His Girl Friday. If your Third Date Movie is Lord of the Rings, then we’re probably not a great match (my wife’s Third Date Movie was definitely Harold and Maude, which I think meshes well with The Apartment).
ANYWAY, I bring this up because there’s a scene in Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick in which he introduces to his girlfriend his Third Date Movie (and unless my brain heard wrong, I think he actually called it a Third Date Movie, and I am pretty sure I was the first person to ever write about that in 2005, but my brain is narcissistic and often listens to things selectively).
Now, in my experience with dating, this is going to be a BIG moment for Kumail’s character, Kumail. He breaks out some old-school Vincent Price movie, and Kumail starts to tell her all about the film, and this is where Emily (Zoe Kazan) is going to fall madly in love with him, right? She’s going to gaze deeply into his eyes and see him for the man he is. He’s opening himself up! He’s sharing a part of his personality with her! For nerdy film people, the Third Date Movie is an actual form of intimacy.
But that’s not what happens. I mean, it’s still a really cute scene, and it may have been an important moment in Kumail and Emily’s relationship (at least inasmuch as it made it into their movie), but it doesn’t play out like I had expected.
What happens is this: While Kumail is explaining the movie, Emily gives him the “aww, you’re adorable” look, shows no interest in the film, and unless I’m completely projecting, a wave of embarrassment rolls over Kumail’s face. A look that says, “I’m revealing myself to you, and you’re patronizing me.” Emily’s look was basically the equivalent of patting him on the head and saying, “you’re cute,” and walking away to get something out of the refrigerator.
Why is this embarrassing for me? And presumably a whole host of other dudes? Because I think through Emily, I finally saw what I assume so many other women have secretly thought about my third-date movies. For me, it’s a huge show of intimacy; for my dates, it was kind of a mainsplain-y thing. Cute, perhaps, but not something that carries much significance. I mean, whatever movie you choose, it’s probably not going to impress your date. It’s the third date, for God’s sake: They’re not that interested in watching your movie. They’re more interested in talking, or making out, or fucking on that mattress on your floor.
In other words, the Third Date Movie is meaningless, and it’s embarrassing how much thought I — and many other dudes and probably quite a few women — put into it in their 20s. Honestly, it’s the most embarrassing realization I’ve had since this post, which is too humiliating to even talk about.
So, thanks for that, Emily Gordon. You’ve sufficiently man-shamed me.
The Big Sick is in theaters now. Go see it. It’s terrific.
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