Multiplicity is an odd comedy from the last half of the 1990s which actually surprised me in several ways. I assumed it would just be a zany comedy about a guy’s life spinning out of control when his clones run amok, but it is actually much more complex than that. It digs into numerous gender issues in interesting ways.
One thing which is important to note is that Multiplicity hails from the hay day of feminism. The female lead, Laura, is a classic 90s woman: a mother of two, she is now desperate to return to the workforce and so wants her husband, Doug, to work less so he can share the brunt of childcare.
What I find most intriguing is that, near the end of the film, they actually question the independent-working-mom mentality a bit by saying how confusing it is to “want to be independent and be taken care of.”
But, even more fascinating is the movie’s interpretation of the correlation between male gender roles and personality traits. Doug’s clones embody different sides of him, manifesting themselves in isolation to show what they are like alone.
The first two clones effectively represent Doug’s Yang and Yin.
Two is the Yang, the masculine. He is gruff, brash, work-obsessed and less-than-sensitive. He is every male stereotype.
Three is the Yin, the feminine. He is polite, neat, detail-obsessed and almost-overly-sensitive. He is every female stereotype.
Now, as you might guess, Two is the clone who takes on work as a construction contractor, while Three is the ‘domestic’ clone, tending to the home and children. This, I think, shows a distinct view on gender roles.
The message is thus: the Realm of Work belongs to the Masculine. The Realm of the Home belongs to the Feminine.
However, I don’t think the movie is trying to reinforce traditional gender roles. As I wrote above, it shows the different ‘realms’ as belonging to the masculine and feminine, not to men and women themselves. Basically it’s saying that masculine people work and feminine people tend house, but that men aren’t necessarily the masculine ones and women the feminine.
It shows men and women breaking out of traditional roles and taking on traits associated with the other gender. Really, the movie challenges traditional gender roles by not only showing a working mother, but exploring what it is like for a man to become homemaker (at least to some degree). It questions the very definition of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and weather their qualities are exclusive to men and women.
The overall implication seems to be that a yin-yang balance does exist within men, that they are capable of working and parenting, if they can find that equilibrium. At its core, the move is about understanding yourself and balancing all the different parts of you life.
One other thing I find potentially ironically humorous is how the movie portrays the ‘house-husband’ clone as overtly feminine. Really, this could be seen as a bit of a warning to working wives: leave him at home, and your husband will act like more of a woman than you do.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Recent data (such as here and here ) has shown that, despite all of the progress women have made into the workforce, often with the support of men, those same women still haven’t adapted to the idea of being the sole breadwinner. Both those articles discuss how working women tend to resent stay-at-home-dads, either for a lack of respect for an unemployed husband or because the women see themselves as under-performing as women by not running the home.
Women might actually have some catching-up compared to men when it comes to doing away with old gender roles.
They say they want to be liberated from the home, but are they ready to surrender it?
As is a tradition in my house, we watched Independence Day this Fourth of July. A fun movie, and I love that the military refused to help if Area 51 was mentioned, and it got me thinking on this kind of catastrophe movies in general.
Looking at some well known ones like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, you can see a common theme (besides the near-destruction of humanity): dads & kids.
All three of these examples feature important father-child relationships.
In Independence Day we have David and his father, Russel and his three children, the President and his daughter, and Steve and his son (in-law).
In The Day After Tomorrow we have Jack Hall and his son, whose relationship is central to the story, as well as mention of several other family bonds.
And in Armageddon we have the strained-but-loving relationship between the hero, Harry Stamper, and his daughter, as well as the renewal of the relationship between the less-than-law-abiding Charles “Chick” Chapple and his son.
These are all powerful, positive father-child relationships, showing the ups and downs of parenthood and all the challenges men and their children can face (and I don’t just mean DOOM FROM SPACE!).
These are all wonderful themes to see in the media, most of these relationships seeming quite honest. They involve flawed individuals, but the faults of the fathers are not over-emphasized and they aren’t constantly being railed on by their wives (where present). But what I find so interesting is that these sort of characters seem to gravitate toward, or maybe even spring out of, these sorts of ‘end of the world’ hero films.
I don’t know why this is the case. Maybe it is just the movies appealing to a primarily male viewing base. Maybe it is done to sympathize the heroes.
Or maybe there is something about these kinds of do-or-die situations which, even when fictional, bring out the hero in men, so that they can put everything on the line to save the world and their family.
Maybe deep down we still have a sense that, when the clock is running down and everything is on the line, there is nothing a man cares about more than his children.
Food for thought.
At its core, Incredibles is a family story which centers on the father of that family, Mr. Incredible (I’ll call him Bob for short).
As so many men do (and as so many films portray), Bob is going through a mid-life crisis. The only problem is that he is a retired superhero, so he naturally wants to get back in the hero game.
The hero motif allows Incredibles to really dig into some of the issues of a man’s mid-life crisis in ways which less fanciful movies can’t. The major theme is Bob’s quest for ‘strength’, metaphorically shown through his urge to be a literally-Strong superhero once more.
However, as the film goes on it becomes clear that this is much more about inner-strength.
Bob needs to prove to himself that he is still worth something, that he can still be a hero for his family. What it really comes down to is self-esteem, a topic not often discussed in regards to men. While some men have a mid-life crisis mostly for themselves, Bob’s is really more about his family. Although he is suspected of it, he never cheats on his wife and he does genuinely love his family. He is seeking to be worth something to his family, not just to himself.
Toward the end of the movie Bob shows a nicely emotional side, undergoing great distress when he thinks his family has been killed. He wrestles with grief and rage, until he is finally and lovingly reunited with his family. He finally gets to see them as heroes too as they all work together to overcome the challenges before them, the love between all the family members deepened because of it.
Men are often taught to try to do everything themselves, and Incredibles touches on this in its conclusion, but not in a critical way. Bob tries to protect his family from all harm, possibly at the cost of his own life, because he cannot bear to ‘lose them again’. However, his family stands by him and his wife insists that they face all the dangers together, as a family. Bob isn’t criticized for wanting to fight alone, he is just lovingly offered help.
The Incredibles is a fun family adventure about a superhero’s struggles for identity and self-esteem. It shows a sincere, believable and loving family who stand by each other, including a wife who truly loves her husband and is determined to stay with him and a husband who must grapple with his own self-image as he tries to be there for his family.
The place of men in general housework has long been an item of contention. One of the stickier subjects has always been cooking. Most professional chefs are men, and yet cooking at home is considered the duty of women. This has been changing, with more men entering the kitchen, and this CuisinArt commercial could show such a change in trend:
Now, I will admit that some may find the commercial cheesy or even creepy, but I am looking more at the meaning than at the acting.
Here we have a married couple in the kitchen, their daughter doing her homework. Mom is busy preparing dinner in a non-specific fashion. Then comes over dad. He offers to aid his daughter with homework, but she (politely) replies “no”. Then he moves to use the Vertical Rotisserie. The young girl is amazed that her father helps with dinner, but he then goes on to proudly declare how he can use it to cook perfect meats of any sort. His wife comes up to support him, noting its health benefits, and the daughter then goes on to give her full approval of her father’s participation in cooking.
What we get from all this is a man taking part in domestic cooking. He enjoys it, he is proud of it and he is supported in doing it by both his daughter and his wife.
Now, I am not an average man. I don’t eat meat and I already cook plenty, but I can see how this sort of commercial could actually have a positive effect on encouraging men to join in the work of the kitchen. It is this kind of positive reinforcement from women which men need in order to feel confident doing something. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, that’s natural. Feminists have long complained about how housewives are under appreciated. They now want men to assist at home, but there is little emotional support for such. However, a lot of people’s view on such topics is influenced, maybe even heavily, by what they see in the media.
When it comes to getting men involved at home, as much of it has to do with women supporting them as with the men themselves moving past the old stereotypes within their own minds. Media like this (and matching behavior from family members) could go a long way toward integrating men into domestic work.
If we could get women to ‘hand over the keys’ of the kitchen to their husbands (provided the men have the time to take it up), I think many would be surprised by how well things could go.