When going off to the cinema to see How To be Single I expected to see a cliché yet entertaining film about your typical straight, white female trying to “find herself” by moving to the concrete jungle and naïvely navigating the New York night-life. My suspicions were confirmed with the movie incorporating various elements of the Hollywood formula for a good chick-flick: the token chubby friend included purely for comedic purposes, played by the Australian gem that is Rebel Wilson, and the goody-two-shoes-girl-next-door protagonist, Alice (Dakota Johnson), who struggles to get her head around her love life. Although these two were the focus of the movie, the real highlight for me was found within the sub-plot of Alice’s sister, Meg (Leslie Mann).
I was immediately enraptured by Meg’s independent nature. At the beginning of the film we see Meg working as an obstetrician in a hospital delivering babies yet holding firm to the idea she would not have any of her own. Her mind is then changed, quite reluctantly, by one of the most adorable babies I have ever seen and Meg decides to find a sperm donor to fall pregnant.
However, her path to single-motherhood did not come without it’s problems. As much as Meg wanted to stick by her ‘I don’t need a man’ attitude, she soon realises that she might not be able to do it alone. The perfect opportunity presents itself in the form of Ken (Jack Lacy) who we are introduced to at Alice’s work Christmas party. Being the persistent young male that he is, Ken pursues a romance with Meg but is unaware of the third wheel until he runs into her, bump and all, in a baby store.
Up until this point you’re probably thinking “Okay, yeah, just another tidbit to add to the whole movie. What’s your point?”. Well! As the film progresses, you begin to realise that these two characters are defying gender roles with every step they take. Meg, who you would technically expect, as a woman, to have always wanted kids and would enjoy nothing more than to be a maternal figure, has been presented to us as the complete opposite. Ken, a vibrant and oh-so-handsome young male has not been packaged to us as a man who doesn’t want any paternal responsibilities at this point in his life, but as someone overly keen to become a father with a love for babies.
Being able to witness such a switch in gender roles in the mainstream film industry is a huge step forward for the equality of men and women everywhere. Our gender should not be restrictive of what kind of roles we can or cannot play in society or, in this case, film. Some women don’t typically ever want children and for some men it might be an absolute pinnacle moment in their life when they become fathers. Just because the generation before us have had these gender norms ingrained into their minds does not mean it should be that way today.
This supposedly minor detail in the scheme of How To Be Single was the most important part that I took away from the film. I am proud to be a part of a generation that is beginning to erase the prejudices of the past, one film at a time.
Featured Image Credit: The Knot