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2009 has not exactly been a fruitful year—so far—for the American filmmaking industry, at least in terms of quality and originality. If the latter part of 2008, as in most years, was marked by the release of some of the most memorable films in history, the first four months of 2009 have mostly made-for-children movies, romantic comedies, and guy-bonding flicks. Bride Wars is a relatively superficial take on women’s obsession with weddings, and is currently ranked at number nine in the list of top-grossing films worldwide.
Directed by Gary Winick and starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, Bride Wars narrates the lifelong friendship of Emma and Liv—women in their mid-20s who, as young girls, made plans for almost identical weddings. When they hire the same wedding planner who schedules them both on the same time, day, and venue, the conflict begins and the ‘wars’ take place. A series of impossible schemes hatched by each to hinder the other’s plans ensues, yet ultimately end in happy endings for both.
Despite its arguable shallowness and lack of believability, Bride Wars may still be evaluated according to specific themes inherent in the discussion of the female psyche: conforming to cultural and social traditions, particularly in terms of gender roles and expectations. The pivotal scene is revealed at the very beginning of the film, as the young Emma and Liv are shown with their respective mothers at The Plaza Hotel, an upscale location for weddings.
They both witness a newly-married couple—the groom looking dashing in a suit and the bride in an exquisite gown—in a moment of utter romance and love; this singular image drives both girls to make a pact to have their own weddings in the same place. But more than the desire to be wed at The Plaza, the most notable element in this scene is the accepted—even expected—notion of marriage, without essentially considering the function of the process as a partnership.
By being presented with an image that fully conforms to the traditional concept of women and their social roles, the young girls immediately associate this with their own goals and ambitions. Though later scenes show how they both pursued their individual interests—public relations for Liv and teaching for Emma—it is apparent how getting married is still their priority. The concept of marriage in this film is limited to the actual wedding, with a few flimsy forays into the discussion of sharing a life with another person.
That first image set the boundaries of the ideology chosen by the filmmaker, as evidenced by the dreamlike treatment accorded to it; it sends the message of perfection and idealism as befitting women by being a bride. After all the events that had taken place, Emma and Liv kept their friendship and even resulted in Emma marrying Liz’ brother Nate. Unsurprisingly, the last scene proved to be the answer to the first—with the two women meeting after their honeymoons, and revealing that they were both pregnant.
It is evident how this scene was meant to provide the punchline to the film, leaving its audience assuming that the same ‘war’ would take place later. However, it also reinforces the established parameters set by weddings, since pregnancy and giving birth is the traditional next step after the union. The happy occasion of revelation and reconnection exhibits the place of childbirth in the context of the female role, yet it fails again to make any argument regarding the personal significance of bearing children.
Bride Wars, though peppered with pup culture references and modern concepts, is centuries behind in terms of gender issues and breaking free from stereotypes. Light romances and comedies are not strictly confined to such superficial subjects, which shows why Bride Wars is a film only meant for commercial objectives. How We Think, Speak, and Feel: An Understanding of Human Behavior in Three Films Visitors from another planet are perhaps the best test subjects for the assessment of texts, particularly films.
Since cinema is a depiction of human behavior and portrays concepts gleaned from human experience, having extraterrestrials view films—given that they understand the language—will allow them to achieve a sense of what and how humans are. Rather than take them through a historical representation of human life through films, it would be best to introduce them to the inherent traits found in most cultures—through intelligence, language, and psychology. The three films that may be able to communicate these are A Beautiful Mind for intelligence, When Harry Met Sally for language, and Doubt for psychology and its permutations.
Ron Howard’s 2001 film A Beautiful Mind is based on the life of gifted scientist and mathematician John Forbes Nash, and narrates his journey into schizophrenia and depression. But the film is also a real-life account of a man given an extraordinary amount of talent, which shows the extent to which the human mind can progress. This information would be essential to the extraterrestrial visitors, for it will let them know how humans think; whether it reveals similarities or not is the ultimate goal of the exercise.
Since Nash’s expertise is in numbers and formulas, logic is the knowledge represented in the film, which may be more ‘universal’ compared to politics, economics, or other contextual topics. In the film, Nash is shown as having his own world apart from the people around him, only surrounding himself with equations and other methods pertaining to scientific and explainable phenomena. This is clearly presented in the scene where he writes his formulas on a glass window, consumed by the process and unaffected by his environment.
Seeing a human engage in such intellectual activity may inform extraterrestrials of the workings of the human mind, specifically this advanced depiction of thinking processes. On top of that, Nash’s account of seeing UFOs and aliens may appear to be a point of connection with this particular audience, as it shows how human validate their existence. The 2008 film Doubt, directed by John Patrick Shanley, is set in a Catholic Church in New York in 1964. During this time, the notions of faith and religion were primarily dictated by priests—portrayed as almost immortal beings who could do no wrong.
However, assumptions about the unusual behavior of Father Flynn, the parish priest, were made by the nuns tasked to care for and educate the children in the school run by the church. The result was doubt in authority and in the general power of organized religion, and eventually in the faith of the nuns in their chosen vocation. Introducing the alien guests to these concepts will acquaint them with the complex values and traditions of humans, which are directly associated with the idea of faith in a Higher Being.
The image of Father Flynn is meant to symbolize faith itself, and accusing him of improper behavior—in this case, an illicit relationship with a young boy—shows how humans are capable of acting against established rules. What the aliens may glean from this could be the debate between the human need for something to believe in, whether seen or unseen, and the alternative human quality of logical analysis based on observable phenomena. When Harry Met Sally, released in 1989 and directed by Nora Ephron, is one of the most effective portrayals of the differences between men and women.
Language is one of the issues illustrated by the film, and it would benefit the extraterrestrials to see how men and women think and express themselves differently. The film narrates the friendship of Harry and Sally, which eventually ended in romance after years of struggling to keep it platonic. The iconic scene where Harry and Sally are in a restaurant arguing over sexual attitudes of men and women reveals both mindset and language, as their discussion is progressed by their opposing views and the final act of Sally faking an orgasm.
Aliens and non-humans will find this portrayal extremely significant, for it almost shows how men and women are of different life forms as well. It also illustrates the mating habits of both men and women, which may be similar to their own. These three films will definitely equip the extraterrestrials with enough information and knowledge to guide them toward a better understanding of human behavior.
But while these films tackle some of the basic realities present in most societies all over the world, more complicated concepts—such as war and poverty—can only be understood after fully comprehending the abilities and capacities of humans, since these are effects of a misguided use of innate human traits. References Ephron, N. (Dir. ) (1989). When Harry Met Sally. Columbia Pictures. Howard, R. (Dir. ) (2001). A Beautiful Mind. Universal Pictures. Shanley, J. P. (Dir. ) (2008). Doubt. Miramax Films. Winick, G. (Dir. ) (2009). Bride Wars. 20th Century Fox.