A Great Lost Opportunity

Mel Gibson’s film What Women Want, from which I take the title of this Part, was a tragic waste of a good idea. To start with, it was depressing that the intrinsically intriguing device was used merely for a run-of-the-mill romcom set in an advertising agency; does Hollywood really not know of any professions other than acting, singing, dancing, policing, stealing, soldiering, spying, and lying about consumer crap? I would have preferred a reflective and erudite man who could hear women’s thoughts. That way we might have discovered something rather more interesting about women than what they were thinking about while Wearing The Product.

The film did, however, contain one interesting insight, which might usefully have been further developed; that women take pains to be nice to men whom they secretly despise. We may charitably regard this as a self-defensive, danger-averting manoeuvre. The contrary proposition, that women purport to despise such men as they secretly like is, of course, an ancient trope of romantic comedy. A more intelligent treatment of the theme of a man who could hear women’s thoughts might get to grips with the question of just how – if the way women treat men is often the precise opposite of what they really feel about them – the men are supposed to process such perverse feedback; and what is worse, a perverse feedback that is not even consistent, because sometimes when women are really nice to someone it actually does mean they like him, and contrariwise.

Were a woman to be electrocuted into being able to hear men’s thoughts, she would realise that we are very literal-minded, and that most of us tend to respond to the visible incentive structure in front of us. We do not generally think, “She says X, therefore she really means Y”; that women think we do is because they are projecting their own dishonesty. A woman who could hear men’s thoughts, therefore, would quickly realise that making nice to nasty men is a very, very dangerous strategy.

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 10:14 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, The Copernican Revolution

Leave a Reply