There’s nothing glaringly wrong with this film, but half way through I realized that I’d rather be watching a different film. Rather than talk about the real 500 Days of Summer, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about my film. It starts the same way:
Tom believes in soul mates. Tom meets Summer and they start to date casually. Tom falls in love with Summer. Summer dumps Tom. Tom reflects on their time together.
My point of departure is catharsis:
Tom realizes that he didn’t actually know Summer, that she had no character. Rather, Tom is in love with a mental construct of his ideal mate. When Summer dumped Tom it shattered this construct, revealing her to be the Other. In addition to losing this particular construct, Tom recognizes the futility of new constructs.
Tom realizes that he is ultimately alone in the world. Tom will never truly know someone else and will never have the soul mate relationship he fantasizes about. Tom comes to accept the loneliness of the world and share the viewpoints of his two friends: McKenzie, who avoids suffering by lack of desire of the Other, and Paul, who recognizes that the Other is generic and continues to date the first girl who came along.
I’d probably have to give Camus a writing credit.
Like every other gynosexual man (and, I suspect, most if not all of everyone else) in my culture, when I look at a woman I employ The Male Gaze. This isn’t intentional, I don’t say “hey, look, it’s a woman: I’d better turn her into an object! shoop-da-whoop“, it’s just something I’ve been trained to do by being raised in this culture. On an intuitive level I consider it somewhat harmless (just because I briefly consider having sex with you doesn’t mean I don’t respect you), but rationally it’s rather repulsive.
This New York Times article titled What Do Women Want? has been widely circulated in the blogosphere. The first two-thirds of it are modernist science stuff that you’ve probably already heard: vaginal lubrication does not equal mental arousal, etc. The bottom section, though, summarizes a surprising theory from a Canadian (now teaching at the University of Nevada) social-constructionism psychologist named Marta Meana: women get turned on when they are regarded as sexual objects. In fact, women get turned on by observing other women being sexually objectified or when they themselves have the potential to be sexually objectified.
This says that womens’ eroticism is not primarily in the mind, as is commonly supposed. But it’s not in the body exactly, either. Instead, as the existentialists would say, woman’s erotic identity is in her relation to The Other. And because he is more different, the “best” Other is Man.