Gender (and some other stuff) and “The Intern”

Kinda bad movie…but let’s see if we can get something out of it…

First of all, there is the fake notion that a woman can, and should, be able to “have it all.” Notice that Anne Hathaway’s husband gave up his high powered job to be the SAHD to their kid. But, somehow, the fact that he is the primary child care giving parent is never presented as meaning (even though it DOES, necessarily, mean), that Anne is NOT “the Mommy.” She is never seen as regretting that fact, nor even acknowledging it. Indeed, somehow, her and her young daughter are just as “close” as if she were not working 18 hours a day.

Secondly, when her husband has an affair, the hackneyed, clich├ęd notion that he must feel “inadequate” or unmanly because she is the bread winner and he the “Mr Mom” is trotted out. It can’t just be that, as a young man, he simply has a high (ie normal) sex drive, and his work-18-hours-a-day wife is basically doing nothing to meet that desire. Not to mention pretty much giving him zero emotional support either. No, of course not. Well, no man I ever knew would mind one bit having a rich, successful wife. Of course, they would like to see (and bed) her once in a while. Or, failing that, not have the inevitable affair seen as him being small minded and insecure.

Just switch it around. A husband, no matter what his career, no matter how noble it is (and we’ll get to that later), who works the way and the amount Anne works, would NEVER, EVER be presented in a good light. He would be seen as neglecting his wife (and kid), and not meeting her “needs.” Her extra marital affair would be seen as essentially his fault.

Of course, we get none of that here. Instead, the husband is a weak, sniveling cry baby, who begs her forgiveness, and never even mentions her total checking out on their sex and emotional life.

There IS one scene where Anne, getting drunk, hints at the plight of men in contemporary society. She calls her co workers “boys” but does have the decency to regret it. Still, her solutions are all terrible. For one thing, she thinks men should have to wear ties again! Women, of course, are to have complete freedom of dress…dress like a “lady,” if they like…wear jeans and t shirts, if they like…whatever. But men have to conform to some absurd dress code, and wear expensive and constricting garments that have no purpose, simply because some woman, as a whim, thinks that would be a good idea!

More broadly, men have to be X, Y and Z to really be men. An adult female human is a woman, per se, and regardless of what she does, doesn’t do, achieves, doesn’t achieve, her high moral standards, or the lack thereof, and so forth. But an adult male human is not a “man” unless he jumps through some series of hoops that are set for him by the Annes of the world.

De Niro gets in the act too, telling the “boys” to dress old school, to carry hankies for when the liberated, “you go girl,” women turn on the water works, and so on. And De Niro himself is kinda a mangina. Working for free, long hours, catering to this woman’s every whim, sucking up, acting the chauffer, committing crimes, even…for what? So that he won’t be bored in his comfortable retirement? I don’t think so.

Really, the writers seemed to have totally missed the boat viz the vis the the issue of whether Anne should allow a CEO to be appointed over her. Obviously, what the company (and Anne herself) needs, is for De Niro to be appointed her vice president, given a salary, and responsibility for some of the decision making, which would allow Anne to have a home life, while still keeping the company under her control. How this obvious solution to the problem of the potential CEO (not to mention Anne’s complete lack of free, let alone “me,” time), was missed is hard to fathom. De Niro is presented as being the model number two in command. He implements Anne’s desires and never oversteps his authority. He solves problems for her (like that of her assistant’s hurt feelings) that she doesn’t even know she has, as well as doing countless acts above and beyond the call of duty. And yet he is never, as far as I can tell, even given a paying job! At the beginning he is an intern and remains so at the end.

And thus, the issue of ageism, which is made pretty explicit at the start of the movie, is never actually addressed. Here we have a man, an excellent worker, beyond excellent, really, who, I guess, is supposed to feel lucky that, at his advanced age, he is allowed to work for free and be exploited in the modern, internet economy! Great!

Meanwhile, the problem of Anne having no time for anything but work is not resolved at all, with the whiny husband merely promising to do better presented as if it were some kind of resolution (which it is not).

Perhaps related to gender roles issues, but certainly problematic in any case from a progressive economic outlook, is the unthinking valorization of Anne’s company and her role in its creation and existence. Anne started and runs a retail, on-line, women’s clothing outfit. That’s it! That’s her big, god damn contribution to society! Leaving aside the fact that such firms are a dime a dozen, where is the benefit to the larger world in her heroic life’s work? One need not be a finite pie economist to believe that only X amount of women’s clothing is going to be sold, and so whatever amount of it is sold through Anne’s company is that much less sold by the rest of the companies. And the same goes for all the “jobs” that she supposedly “created” too. The concept that basically checking out on your marriage, and your kid, and all human relationships, is a good thing because you are doing the wonderful work of peddling schmatas over the internet is a strange one. Indeed, one can perhaps admire the priorities (even if one questions the accuracy of the claims made on their behalf) of allegedly visionary computer inventors (like Gates and Jobs and Zuckerman), but the founder of yet another on line retailer?

Notice too that Anne’s company doesn’t design or even make the dresses and so forth, but merely sells them. She’s a middleman (“middlewoman?” “middlewomyn?”), in other words. Big fucking deal.

And, of course, the cutesy poo work environment, complete with ping pong table and Anne riding around the joint on her bike, is utterly preposterous. Even more preposterous, not to mention deeply insulting and insensitive, is the scene involving the warehouse workers. Anne orders some of the crap from her website, to see how it is sent. When the garbage arrives at her home, she tunes out her husband (of course), and is engrossed in the details of how the packaging and tissue paper and such-like are arranged. Needless to say, it is not up to her high and mighty standards. So, the next day, she detours to the warehouse before going to the office, and there she explains to the gaping mouthed, enchanted (no doubt minimum wage), minority working women, just how the shit is supposed to be packed, wrapped and tissue papered. De Niro cites this act of patronization as indicia of her greatness! The fact that these hourly workers perhaps have good reason to not really give a damn (do they have shares in the company, one wonders!), is never mentioned.

All in all, while the movie is well acted and somewhat entertaining, at least at the beginning, the chance to explore work/family issues, gender roles, the realities of the new economy, and even ageism (the ostensible “main” theme, one would think, of a movie about a seventy year old intern called “The Intern”), is lost. Or, worse yet, papered over in an unthinking, entirely uncritical, so called “feminist” way. A woman, merely qua woman, should, according to the movie, no only “have it all,” but have it all entirely her own way. Or, if not merely qua woman, then because she is a female entrepreneur.

Anne Hathaway is beautiful, however!