With the female-led Ghostbusters coming out this weekend, a female-led Ocean’s 11 remake in the pipeline, and a female Expendables in development, Hollywood has jumped in to a great new trend, as long as the female-led reboots continue to be as good as Ghostbusters purportedly is.
Part of the fun, however, has actually been in watching the veins bursts on the foreheads of MRA assholes. Sure, they are sexist butthairs who spew hateful bullshit, but most of us have stopped taking them seriously at this point. In some ways, it’s just fun to see how bent out of shape they get every time another positive review of Ghosbusters is published. I mean, how goddamn petty do you have to be to tank a movie’s IMDB rating because it features women in the leads?
There is one movie that desperately needs to be remade with female leads, if only because it would result in the literal head explosions of thousands of Men’s Rights Activist. The movie is called In the Company of Men. It wasn’t a particularly popular movie when it was released in 2007 (it only made $2.8 million), but it did launch the careers of its director and writer, Neil LaBute, and its star, Aaron Eckhart.
In 1997, In the Company of Men was heralded by most critics as this great dark black comedy, a satire about insecure, misogynistic men. It was a vile, misanthropic little movie that was thoroughly unpleasant to watch, but most critics fawned over it. For me, it was hard to make the distinction between a satire of misogyny and actual misogyny. To be honest, Neil LaBute’s filmmaking career since hasn’t really helped to settle the question. There’s a consistent theme of misogyny in most of his work that starts to feel uncomfortable after a while. They are malevolent cynical movies about cruel, callous people.
In the Company of Men, his debut film, is the worst of the bunch. It starred Aaron Eckhart who played a character who had been screwed over by his girlfriend and who decided to get his revenge on womankind, so to speak. He recruited a co-worker and the two men decided, in a bar one night, to romance a deaf woman who wasn’t accustomed to being romanced. They wanted to make this deaf woman feel great about herself, get her wondering why two men were pursuing her at once.
“Suddenly she’s got two men, she’s calling her mom, she’s wearing make-up again,” Eckhart’s character says. “And on and on we play, until one day, out goes the rug with us pulling it hard. Out she goes tumbling … trust me, within a week, she’ll be reaching for the sleeping pills without knowing what happened and we will laugh about this until we are very old men.”
Now why would he do such a thing? “Because we get a little payback on all this messy relationship shit we’re dealing with.” Because it would be “therapeutic.”
Watch this clip, about the deaf woman they pursue. It is so cruel as to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
Now, imagine flipping the genders on this movie. Imagine, say, Jessica Chastain and Charlize Theron playing corporate business women who decide one day to take all their aggression with men out on one unsuspecting Men’s Rights Activist, a bitter dude who holds women responsible for all of his failures. But here, two attractive, smart women start pursuing him at the same time. Suddenly, his faith in women is restored. He’s calling his mom to talk about the women he’s fallen in love with. He’s going to the gym again. He’s completely smitten, and he’s never felt better about himself in his entire life. He quits his MRA group. He gets a promotion. He moves into a better apartment. He gives up Internet porn.
Then, suddenly: Blam! They pull the rug out from under him. They confess it was all a joke, and then they laugh at his pain. Like that Charlize Theron wicked step-mother laugh.
The man spirals once again. Within a week, he’s looking down the barrel of a bottle of sleeping pills.
Does that feel like a satire on misandry? A black comedy?
I’d love to see how the same mostly male critics who elevated In the Company of Men to an 88 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating would feel about that movie with the genders reversed today.