At first it just seems kinda cute, but the opening scene to the new rom com He's Just Not That Into You, opening Friday, February 6, is actually totally terrifying.
In it, a little 5 year-old girl is building sand castles on the beach and tells us, via voiceover, about the first guy she ever loved. Into the frame walks a little boy who pushes her back into the sand, sneering at her that she smells like dog poo.
When the girl complains to her mother, mummy just pats her head and says something along the lines of, "You know why treats you that way, honey? He likes you." See:
Holy crap. That's just what victims of wife assault say about their abusing husbands. He's jealous because he loves me, he gets angry because he loves me, these bruises all over my body are really love trophies, proving how much he loves me.
Fortunately, the movie - which is decent by the way - doesn't totally pursue that idea and, instead, is content to stick with the breezy content of the book on which it's based. In it, authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo beg women to take men at face value. If they're not calling, it's not that they're shy, busy, can't find your number or whatever other excuse you want to make for them - they're just not that into you.
As such, the film does try to deconstruct a mild variation on female masochism. We witness women who make huge emotional investments in guys who'll never follow through. Ginnifer Goodwin plays Gigi as someone who simply can't read the signals and keeps banging her head - metaphorically speaking - against her cell phone. Drew Barrymore delivers a sad but hilarious monologue about how she's managed to be rejected via seven different technologies, the point being that, she surely should have got the message from the first of the seven rejections.
Though the movie seems to say so, I'm not sure this kind of female masochism is at the top of the slippery slope sliding down to full-on abuse. Those guys not calling are not trying to hurt women the way men who push, shove, hit or kick women do. In fact, those non-callers are, most of them, completely self-absorbed and not even thinking about the women who feel so totally ignored. That's not exactly a definition of kindness but we degrade the word abuse if we call it that.
Which means that He's Just Not That Into You gets it wrong when it begins with that repulsive sandbox scene. If you think it's cute, you're messed up.
And if you're a mom giving your daughter the kind of advice the sandbox girl's mother gives to her, you're excusing violence against women. And that's abusive parenting, if you ask me.