Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

We had just finished watching the delightful romantic farce Paul Blart: Mall Cop when Mrs. Φ asked me: “Why don’t they ever make movies about an overweight, homely woman capturing the heart of a hot guy?”

Why indeed? The only movie I can think of that made a nod in this direction was The Truth about Cats and Dogs – and really, Janeane Garofalo is reasonably slender and adequately cute standing next to anyone other than Uma Thurmond. (Another example might be Shallow Hal, but that movie cheated by having Rosemary re-imagined as Gwyneth Paltrow almost until the very end.)

Further, while it might be difficult to imagine the Paul Blart character attracting a girl that looks like Jayma Mays in real life, the real-life Kevin James is married to this girl:

So personality (and wealth and fame, no doubt) really can compensate for a lack of abs, at least in men. Janeane Garofalo, meanwhile, is “married” to producer Robert Cohen, a man so ordinary that he has evidently never been photographed.

But lack of realism has never been an obstacle for Hollywood before. So why doesn’t it release more movies following a homely-girl-outscores-her-station storyline?

My first assumption is that there is no market for such movies, among either men or women. Men don’t want to imagine themselves with a homely woman, and women don’t want to imagine themselves as overweight. In contrast, men don’t care that Kevin James is heavy; all they care about is that he gets to be with Jayma Mays! (I’m not sure if these movies have much appeal for women.)

Alternatively, the homely-girl storyline has no appeal to the kind of people who write screenplays, which I suspect explains a lot of what Hollywood produces.



Justin said...

In our overweight society, women want portly men, at least, more portly than they are: it makes them feel smaller, by comparison. Being a thin man actually shrinks your dating pool.

Chaulk it up to the cruelty of genetic shuffling. The square-jawed, thick-body type that makes a girl unattractive, makes for a manly man. Conversely, thin and delicate is great for a girl, bad for a guy.

The parents who produce that type of offspring, however, can't really control if they have a boy or a girl! The hidden victims of sexual dimorphism... Mommy bred with a thick-bodied powerful man, and daugther got daddy's body type and features! woops

erik said...

It's not PC for Hollywood to accept the premise of a homely woman to begin with? So we get movies that instead portray physically beautiful women trapped in lower socio-economic or status roles who get the rich/famous/alpha guy to fall for them...think Cinderella or Maid in Manhattan.

Eddie A said...

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Nia Vardalos is overweight and homely in my opinion. And she captures the heart of John Corbett, who was hot enough to be a love interest in Sex and the City. That's the best I could do for an exception to the rule. Nia Vardalos did have to write the story herself though.

Burke said...

Eddie: Nia Vardalos, like Janeane Garofalo, is overweight and homely only by Uma-Thurman standards. I will agree that she is not in the same attractiveness class as John Corbett, but in the context of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, her character undergoes a metamorphosis -- from ugly bespectacled waitress to lovely college-educated travel agent -- before attracting the attention of John Corbett's character.

Justin: interesting observation about the effect of relative girth within couples. It certainly sounds plausible, but I can think of a certain contributor to Bobvis/Econoholic/HitCoffee who would likely dispute it.

erik: yes, the Cinderella storyline is a long-time staple, and appeals to women much as Paul Blart appeals to men.

Thursday said...

It's not a movie but Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is all about how the homely girl snags the alpha.

Anonymous said...

In our overweight society, women want portly men, at least, more portly than they are: it makes them feel smaller, by comparison. Being a thin man actually shrinks your dating pool.

Women may tolerate men who are somewhat overweight but they do not want fat men. The reason why you often see fat man/normal woman couples is the fact that men have a tendency to pack on the avoirdupois after age 30 or 35, even as women focus on diet and fitness (note that almost all weight-loss and exercise commercials are aimed at women). While some 30+ women will leave their husbands for fitter men when the husbands get fat, most will not, especially when there are children involved. Look at wedding pictures, particularly those of the middle class and above, and you won't see too many fat men marrying non-fat women.

Note that by "fat" I generally mean soft, big-bellied fat. Some men have a burly sort of build and aren't really fat even though they may weigh quite a bit. Men of this type probably do not suffer anywhere near the dating and marriage handicaps as those experienced by big-bellied fat men.


Anonymous said...

Obese romantic heroines are unusual, but thin ones with average to really rather homely faces (& who are 30+) yet have no trouble snagging hot, often successful men seem common enough in TV aimed at women (Grey's Anatomy, SATC, etc.) I don't know too much about current chick flicks, but recent news brings to mind the classic plain Jane attracts Adonis love story Dirty Dancing.


Burke said...

Um . . . which of the actresses on Grey's Anatomy and SATC are homely?

I'll give you this: the "ugly duckling" storyline isn't (or wasn't) all that uncommon. But the conceit was always obvious: a hot girl in, say, horn-rimmed glasses was still a hot girl, and you'd have to look long and hard to find a guy that was even momentarily fooled by these kind of gimmicks. Come to think of it, Nia Vardalos was the only such actress to pull this transformation off with any degree of plausibility.

Trumwill said...

It certainly sounds plausible, but I can think of a certain contributor to Bobvis/Econoholic/HitCoffee who would likely dispute it.

And dispute it I do. Justin is wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Way wrong. Way, way wrong. Unbelievably wrong. Bizarro-world Wrong.

My height has been advantageous due to what Justin is talking about. My weight? Not so much. I did a fantastic job of attracting girls that were comparatively heavier than myself. I did fair-to-middling attracting girls my size. I did pretty poorly attracting girls that were less overweight than me. And the thinner ones I did attract all had stories behind them. And when I wasn't overweight, I attracted a lot more female attention than when I was. Even when I was bone-skinny.

Interestingly, though, Justin is not the first person I've heard say this. I've heard women say it periodically, but it ranks moderately less credible than women saying they want a nice guy. I also think it's something that heavy guys tell themselves to convince themselves that they can get somebody skinnier than they are. And, occasionally it is true. But as a general rule? No way. I've got 10 years and 70 pounds of weight fluctuation to back it up.

(And no, it wasn't about "confidence" because my perception of my weight always lagged my weight fluctuations.)

I wonder if it is (a) something overweight guys tell themselves to justify going after less overweight or normal-weight women, (b) something that girls have told them to make them feel better or less self-conscious, (c) that girls are reluctant to date guys that are exceptionally skinnier than they are, (d) they happen to witness one of the few cases where it's true, or (e) some combination of the above.

I have seen girls spurn skinnier guys for heavier guys, so it's not like it's determinative. Of course, I've also seen guys spurn skinnier girls for heavier girls. Sometimes, there are other issues involved. But the overall pattern as I have witnessed and experienced is very clear.

Trumwill said...

Disregard the last two paragraphs of my comment. I have this irritating habit of leaving "rough drafts" in the post. If you're so inclined, Phil, delete those paragraphs and this comment.

Justin said...

Bizarro world wrong? I don't think so. I've heard lots of women say it. But it only makes sense. Women want men who are larger than them. We all know its proven for height. I'm not saying women want fat men, I'm saying they want men fatter than they are. Do skinny guys hook up with fat chicks? Well, yeah, of course, but that hardly disproves the rule.

Trumwill said...

Regardless of what they say, my extensive life experiences tell me that's wrong as it pertains to non-muscular weight. Height is different and an exception could be carved out for guys that are heavy but with athletic builds, but fat almost never helps with any woman skinnier than you are and being thinner does help with girls that are heavier than you are.