Why a Woman Won’t Marry an Idle Man: Hands Across the Table (1935)

hands-across-the-tableIdleness is “an inclination not to do work…”1 Synonyms include laziness, indolence, and sloth.In Mitchell Leisen’s Hands Across the Table (1935), Theodore Drew III (Fred MacMurray) is an idle man who has never worked to earn a living. An important theme in the film is that a woman will not marry a man who refuses to get a job.

One reason why Theodore doesn’t want to work is he is a man-child. When Regi Allen (Carole Lombard) first meets him, he is playing hopscotch in the hallway. Later, when she lets him stay in her apartment, he asks to be tucked into bed. Years earlier, he joined the navy, but his father pulled him out. Theodore is a man-child because his father never taught him to be responsible for his own financial needs.

Theodore’s refusal to work forces him to choose between marrying for money or marrying for love. Before he met Regi, he planned to marry Vivian Snowden (Astrid Allwyn) and live off of her wealth. However, when he falls in love with Regi, he wants to break off his engagement, and be with her, but she refuses.

There are two unstated reasons why Regi sends Theodore away. As a manicurist, she is a low-income earner, and doesn’t want to remain poor by marrying a man with limited job prospects. She tells him he’ll have to “scratch for a living.” Secondly, she may fear that she will have to support him financially.

In the end, Regi agrees to marry Theodore because she realizes how much she loves him, and he promises her that he will find work. The film suggests that a man must take financial responsibility for his own life if he wants to attract a wife. This was true in 1935 and is still true today.

According to a 2011 survey by ForbesWoman and YourTango, 75% of female respondents said they would never marry a man who was unemployed.3 Women today may not want a man to financially provide for them, but they are reluctant to marry a man they will have to provide for, especially if he is healthy and able to work.

While there are valid reasons for a man being unemployed including health issues, raising children, and the need to retrain for a career, if a healthy, able-bodied man refuses to work, he may ruin his chances of getting married. Women (on average) earn less money than men do,4 and hence are less likely to want to financially support a husband. Therefore, if an idle man wants a wife, he should start looking for a job.

Notes

  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Idleness,” accessed February 12, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/idleness
  2. Ibid.
  3. Megan Gibson, “Study: 75% of Women Wouldn’t Marry A Man Who Was Unemployed,” Time, June 23, 2011, http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/06/23/study-75-of-women-wouldnt-marry-a-man-who-was-unemployed/
  4. “Women’s earnings 83 percent of men’s, but vary by occupation,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 15, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/womens-earnings-83-percent-of-mens-but-vary-by-occupation.htm

Shunning Someone You Disagree With

ExclusionTo shun is to “persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.”1 Shunning is a demonstration of intolerance toward another person, often because of something they said or did. While shunning may be necessary to safeguard one’s physical or mental health, it is usually not justified. Shunning is a way to punish someone you disagree with, can be a sign of hatred and contempt, and leads to contradictory behavior.

Shunning is common behavior among celebrities. On January 24, 2017, Ewan McGregor refused to do an television interview with Piers Morgan because of his comments about the women’s marches against Donald Trump.2 Instead of speaking directly to Morgan, McGregor tweeted, “Won’t go on with him…”3

When a celebrity shuns someone, they may rationalize it as a form of protest. However, if a celebrity wants to “protest” someone’s words or actions, all they have to do is exercise their right to free speech. Shunning is not required.

In reality, shunning is not about protest. It is a form of punishment. Its purpose is two-fold: First, to make the person feel the pain of rejection and social isolation. When you shun someone, you want them to pay a price: to become a social outcast for their words or actions.

The second purpose of shunning is to deter people from similar behavior. If a celebrity shuns another celebrity for their words or actions, it serves as a warning to society: If you speak or act this way, you deserve to be a social outcast too. Thus, shunning is a strategy to control people’s speech and behavior. It puts social pressure on an individual to change and conform.

The problem with shunning someone because of their words or actions is it often results in contradictory behavior. If you shun a person you disagree with, then you become obligated (by your own moral standard) to reject anyone whose words and actions are equally (or more) offensive.

As a case in point, consider Ewan McGregor. He refused to be interviewed by Piers Morgan, yet he made the film The Ghost Writer with Roman Polanski, a director who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl,4 was found guilty of “unlawful sex”, and fled the U.S. to avoid going to prison.5 In shunning Morgan for his words, but not Polanski for his actions, McGregor is guilty of a double standard: “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people.”6

Although shunning is usually not a virtue, there are situations where it may be justified. For instance, if a person has threatened you, or physically assaulted you, then you should stay away from them, and if necessary, get a restraining order against them.

It may also be necessary to shun someone who is verbally abusive. No one should have to tolerate a person who continually insults them. Shunning is justified when it is for your own safety: to protect your physical or mental health.

The dark side of shunning is it can be a demonstration of hatred and contempt for another human being. If you shun someone, you may view them as inferior to you, morally or intellectually. In such cases, shunning is evidence of pride and self-righteousness.

When you shun someone you disagree with, you are unable to separate that person from their words or actions. The alternative to shunning is to love people unconditionally, to treat them as you would want to be treated, even if you disagree with what they say or do.

You don’t have to be close friends with a person whose actions or words you find objectionable. But if that person is no danger to you, and is not rude to you, then there is no reason to shun them. Instead, be brave enough to tell them the truth about their behavior. If you speak the right words, you could impact their life.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “shun,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/shun
  2. Alex Ritman, “Ewan McGregor Cancels Appearance on Piers Morgan’s U.K. TV Show After Women’s March,” Hollywood Reporter, January 24, 2017, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ewan-mcgregor-cancels-appearance-piers-morgans-uk-tv-show-womens-march-comments-967925
  3. Ibid.
  4. Andy Lewis, “Roman Polanski Rape Victim Unveils Startling, Disturbing Photo for Book Cover,” Hollywood Reporter, July 24, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/roman-polanski-rape-victim-unveils-591015
  5. “The Slow Burning Polanski Sage,” BBC News, September 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8278256.stm
  6. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “double standard,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard

How Trust is Restored: The Awful Truth (1937)

awful-truth-posterTrust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone.”1 Trust is a choice to believe in someone (often based on the evidence of their past behavior), and the stronger the belief, the greater the feeling of trust.

In Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth (1937), Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) no longer trusts his wife Lucy (Irene Dunne) after learning that she stayed at an Inn with Armand Duvalle (Alexander D’Arcy). Jerry’s trust is restored when he takes a risk: He believes Lucy’s denial of infidelity.

The two most common ways to respond to a trust violation are “apology and denial.”2 Lucy denies cheating on Jerry, but he doesn’t believe her. While it is possible that Lucy slept with Armand, he has no proof that she is guilty. Jerry no longer trusts her because of circumstantial evidence: “evidence not drawn from direct observation.”3 Instead of trusting her, he becomes suspicious, which causes their marriage to implode.

During their legal separation, Jerry and Lucy realize how much they love each other. Love is demonstrated when a person does something good to another person, in particular a selfless act. When Mrs. Leeson (Esther Dale) shares a rumor that Lucy had an affair, Jerry comes to his wife’s defence, saying that he was unfaithful, not Lucy. Jerry does this to protect Lucy’s public reputation, which is unexpected, given that he still believes she had an affair with Armand. Jerry’s selfless act (making himself the bad guy) is a demonstration of his love for her, and Lucy’s love for him is re-awakened.

When two people love each other, they need to trust each other, or their relationship will not last. Lucy says, “You can’t have a happy married life if you’re always going to be suspicious of each other.” Without trust, there can be no intimacy, and without intimacy, there can be no happy marriage.

Because trust is a belief which can never be 100% certain, it always involves taking a risk. The reward of risking to trust someone is intimacy. In the end, Jerry decides to let go of his suspicion that Lucy had an affair. Realizing that he still loves her, and having no evidence that she did anything wrong, he chooses to trust her again, and their marriage is restored.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Trust,” accessed January 21, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/trust
  2. Peter H. Kim et al., “Removing the Shadow of Suspicion: The Effects of Apology Versus Denial for Repairing Competence Versus Integrity-Based Trust Violations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 89, no. 1 (Feb. 2004): 105.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Circumstantial Evidence,” accessed January 21, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/topic/circumstantial-evidence

The Dangers of Casual Sex: It Follows (2014)

it-follows-poster-criticaIn David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014), Jay (Maika Monroe) goes on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary), and after they have sex, a monster starts following her. Interpreted allegorically, the film is a warning against the dangers of casual and premarital sex with the monster representing a sexually transmitted disease.

The film suggests that if you have sex with the wrong person, it can have devastating consequences. After Jay has sex with Hugh, the shape-shifting monster that was following him comes after her. There is, however, a short-term solution. The monster will stop following Jay if she has sex with someone else, so she has sex with Greg (Daniel Zovatto). Unfortunately, this only delays the inevitable. The monster kills Greg, and then starts following Jay again.

The monster is playing a game. Games have rules, and the monster plays by certain rules: “It” only follows one person at a time, the unlucky individual who had sex with the last person it was following. (The game is similar to the children’s game of tag where the last person touched is “It.”) The monster is playing the long game with its victims: The last person who is “tagged” will be motivated to have sex again, giving the monster a larger number of potential victims.

The film can be interpreted allegorically with the monster representing a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Hugh says “It” started following him after a “one night stand.” Like an STD, the monster can only harm people who have casual or premarital sex. Two virgins who get married would never be in any danger from “It.” The monster punishes people who engage in risky sexual behavior.

Casual sex is risky behavior because you might get an STD. Despite the possible consequences, the percentage of young people engaging in casual sex is increasing. A 2014 study found that “35% of GenX’ers in the late 1980s had sex with a casual date or pickup (44% of men, 19% of women), compared to 45% of Millennials in the 2010s (55% of men, 31% of women).”1 The increase in casual sex has led to STD rates reaching a record high in the United States.2 In 2015, there were over 1.5 million reported cases chlamydia, 395,216 cases of gonorrhea, and 23,872 cases of syphilis, with most of the infections among people ages 15 to 24.3 Millions of Millennials have been infected with STDs because of their sexual promiscuity.

Although STDs can often be prevented through the use of condoms, the only safe sex is between two people who are married or in a monogamous relationship. Unlike casual sex (which is usually spontaneous), you can delay having sex until you both go to a doctor and make sure neither partner has an STD. Making sure your partner has a clean bill of health before having sex is the responsible thing to do. It could save you from a life of suffering, and possibly even death.

In It Follows, Jay nearly dies because she had sex with Hugh. She didn’t know his sexual history, and suffers the consequences of her unlucky choice. In the climax of the film, Jay and her friends try to destroy the monster. Unfortunately, with STDS this is not always possible. While many STDs can be treated and cured, others will never go away.4

Notes

  1. Jean M. Twenge et al., “Changes in American Adults’ Sexual Behavior and Attitudes, 1972-2012,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 44, no. 8 (May 2015): 2278, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25940736
  2. Jacqueline Howard, “STD rates reach record high in United States,” CNN, October 20, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/health/std-statistics-record-high/
  3. Ibid.
  4. McKinzie Brocail, “Sexual Healing: Which STDs Can & Cannot Be Cured,” September 11, 2015, STDcheck.com, https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/sexual-healing-which-stds-can-cannot-be-cured/