I really loved the movie. The Asian references were a refreshing sight, to have a movie (at least some parts of it) speak to a culture I not only understand, but am actually a part of. Limited in perspective, yes. Not quite what The Great Gatsby was to a hedonistic, excessive lifestyle, yes. But nonetheless I enjoyed it.
The storyline that really appealed to me however wasn’t Rachel and Nick, but Astrid and Michael. Their story, while uncoventional, treads familiar ground with a man unable to be a man, and a woman unable to be a woman. The line Astrid drops at the end of the movie, “It’s not my job to make you feel like a man”, still rings in my head.
Is that true?
Before we move on, let’s get some things clear. Michael was clearly in the wrong – no doubt about that. Astrid shouldn’t have to hide her wealth or spending habits to make Michael feel better about himself – that’s for certain.
So I guess from here on out I’m really taking the quote out of it’s original context, but I do believe the questions it raises are worth exploring.
What is the role of a woman to a man in a romantic relationship? Clearly not simply to “make him feel like a man” by hiding her wealth and status, but is there some truth to that statement? That a woman should help a man feel like a man? Certainly not in the way we would percieve “man” ie. its connotations of power and dominance. But perhaps in some ways? That she would help, no empower him, to fulfill his role as a man in the relationship.
Then we come to other side of the coin, where the role of a man is to help, no empower her, to fulfill her role as a woman in the relationship.
The original quote grounds itself in the definition of masculinity as power (financial, maybe social, in the case of the movie), and so Astrid’s retort is clearly appropriate. But if we were to take a step back not just from the movie, but from the very way we define what makes a “man”, perhaps we might reconsider whether such a phrase would be appropriate for all situations.
The narrative of Astrid and Michael paints a raw and bleak picture of what happens when a boy involves himself in something only a man should – that is marriage. But even within marriage, no man feels and behaves like one all the time. Marriage isn’t a static affair, where two parties grow individually, distinct from one another. They grow together, intertwining one with another – should not a woman help her man be a man, and a man help his woman be a woman?
We don’t love in a vacuum; why should we expect to grow in one? We bump and bruise and sharpen, each working for the other, each slowly shaping and being shaped.
What makes a man? What makes a woman?
What makes them work, together?