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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
February 16, 2009

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.


The Truth about Men; Oscar Depression

The movie He's Just Not That Into You opened recently and leapt to number-one status at the box office.

With that cast, what did you expect?

But I haven't seen it, and so I'm not going to review it.

I want to see it, but I'm teaching this semester at Southern Virginia, I'm working on a novel, I'm directing a play, and I'm finishing up the screenplay for the Ender's Game movie.

When I tried to go to a movie a couple of weeks ago, it was Coraline at the Carousel, and the 3D was broken, which was giving me a headache, so we ended up leaving and getting our money back.

It's not like I get paid to review movies. Which is a good thing -- paid film reviewers across America are dropping like flies, as newspapers decide that their shrinking revenues don't allow them to give a salary to somebody for going to the movies.

What I want to talk about isn't the movie He's Just Not That Into You. It's the book.

Yeah, there's a book, and no, it can't really be the basis of the movie by the same name, because the book isn't fiction. Well, actually, the authors have a disclaimer that suggests that it is. But it isn't.

It's a how-to book.

It's a book for single men, masquerading as a book for single women.

The book for single women is all about they can accurately interpret the behavior of the men who date them and treat them like dirt.

But the real book, the deep book, is for single men, and it's all about how they are treating women like dirt and getting away with it.

Written by a pair of writers from the HBO series Sex and the City, the book is witty and smart, as you might expect; and it's candid about the mores of well-to-do urban singles, including the expectation that "dating" means "having sex" and "engaged" means "living together and probably having babies."

That's not the way "dating" and "engagement" are interpreted in Greensboro, or mostly not. So far.

But the really fascinating thing is that authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo are actually about as old-fashioned as you can get.

They think that men should treat women honestly, and not exploit them without any intention of marrying them. How old-fashioned can you get, short of buying a shotgun?

I listened to this book on audio, with the authors reading it themselves. It had an amazing effect. On paper, the book might have seemed flippant and smart-alecky. But when you hear the authors' own voices, you realize: They really care about single people. They want them to be happy. Even if it means reinventing morality so they have a chance at it.

The book is full of stories -- masquerading as ersatz letters from women trying to make sense of -- or excuses for -- the behavior of the men who are misusing them, lying to them, exploiting them, and breaking their hearts.

And time and again, Greg Behrendt comes back with his ever-more-truthful answer to everything: "He's just not that into you."

If he says he'll call, and doesn't, then he's just not that into you.

If he tells you that he has "intimacy issues," all it means is he's just not that into you. Those intimacy issues will go away the moment he decides that he's found the right woman. And get this: He's met you, he knows you, he's gone out with you, and it isn't you.

Over and over again, the message is: Don't waste your time and break your heart trying to turn a guy who doesn't love you into one who does.

To which Liz Tuccillo responds with the bitter truth: There aren't all that many honest, kind, dependable, loving men out there. What's a lonely woman in her thirties or forties to do?

Behrendt might seem a bit too optimistic when he says that he believes that for almost every woman, there's a man who really wants to please her and make her happy.

Or he might sound kind of heartless when he says that even if there isn't a decent man for you, you'll be better off alone than with a man who doesn't love you enough even to try.

He's mostly right on both counts. And if more men read this book, he'll get even righter!

That's the reason why this book is secretly for single men. It tells them how to be a decent human being! How to treat women fairly, by not treating them unfairly; how to show them you love them, that you want them to be happy.

It's really the syllabus for Male Adulthood 101. Because there are also a lot of lonely men out there who don't understand why women don't fall in love with them.

Men: Read this book, and then don't do anything these jerks do. Become the man of a good woman's dreams.

Then, as the total number of thoughtful, caring men rises, more women will find the mate they long for.

The one big mistake in this book is that they treat men as a "given" -- as if men can't change.

But we can. I had my years as a jerk of a single guy, who called -- or didn't -- without any relationship to what I said I would do. But then I grew up. Suddenly, at the ripe old age of 24, I realized that I didn't like the dating game. I didn't like pursuing women till I got them and then wondering what in the world to do with them. I was ready to be a grownup.

So I went over to see the smartest, most independent, and -- for me, at least -- best woman I ever dated, whom I had broken up with about six months before, and I ...

Proposed to her.

Yep. Because I knew that she would have to have some kind of proof that I had changed, and this time I was serious. She made me wait four-and-a-half months for an answer. And during the interim, she didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for me. All was not instantly forgiven.

But by the time we got married, I was well on the way to being the man she deserved -- instead of the man I used to be.

It's not a formula. It's not a trick. It's called "being a decent human being."

It really increases your chances of mating and reproducing in a civilized society. More guys ought to try it.

Do I recommend this book? If you can stand a couple of F-words and some candor about today's urban sexual mores, then yes, I do. Because it applies to modern single life whether or not you move in sexually "liberated" circles.

Maybe I'll also get to see the movie. Someday.

*

Look at the list of Oscar nominees. How many of those movies look like anything you'd actually want to see?

Just looking at the lists -- and the screenplays and screeners that got sent to me because I'm in the Writers Guild -- made me depressed.

What have the Oscars become? Hollywood's answer to the Booker Prize -- given only to objets d'art that snobs pretend to like?

Going to most of these movies would be an unpleasant duty -- like having to clean up somebody else's vomit because they threw up on your carpet. Dark, ugly, pretentious, politically correct, and (above all) convinced that they're smarter than me: Why should an Oscar nomination be a reason for me to pay them for talking down to me?

So ... I'm still holding an Oscar party at my house. But I'm going to have my own list of nominees. They'll consist of movies that were made and marketed in such a way that I actually wanted to see them.

The overlap between my list and theirs will be very small.

Meanwhile, this year television is doing a better job of coming up with first-rate stories with brilliant actors in the leading roles:

Life. Burn Notice. A revived Lost. The Mentalist. Medium. Big Bang Theory. How I Met Your Mother. Even Smallville.

Never have there been so many series worth recording, week after week -- and then worth watching.

Television has better writing and better acting than most of the movies I've seen; and, unlike the movie industry, the folks who make TV actually want regular Americans to watch their shows and care about them. How about that.


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