Reel Women: What to Expect From ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’
'What to Expect When You're Expecting' hits theaters Friday -- based on the best-selling guide to maternity by Heidi Burkoff and Sharon Mazel, the film tells the interwoven stories of four women in the midst of various maternal crises. The book is filled with valuable information, but what does the film teach us?
Mostly that women are shrews!
While the books have been a treasure to expectant women and men alike, the film is more servile to men. It's a nearly two hour motion picture brochure to prep men for what they can expect when their woman is expecting, with the biggest takeaway being that women will become utterly intolerable, manipulative, controlling jerks, especially when and if a baby is involved, reinforcing the old cliche that babies make women crazy.
The idea is a long-standing one: A woman must suffer the burden of carrying a child for nine months. This is something that a man has done to her, thus she's entitled to all manner of shrewd behavior and the man has no choice but to deal with it because he's stuck, forever. The bun is in the oven and cannot be un-cooked. You, as a man, are forced to remain with the baker who has somehow made the uncanny career leap from artisan chef to evil dictator and your life is now a prison of your own design.
Let's break it down, plot by plot.
Anna Kendrick plays a young food truck owner who has a one night stand with a rival food truck owner (Chace Crawford) that results in Kendrick accidentally getting pregnant with a baby that will probably be a food truck owner. She confronts the guy at work one evening and their conversation immediately turns to whether or not he'll be involved. They merrily tiptoe around the word that rhymes with shmashmortion (this plot is totally cribbed from 'Knocked Up,' anyway), with the only indicator of that concept being Crawford's line, "It's your choice, right?"
What to Expect Here: The unreasonable idea that Crawford's character is automatically in a serious relationship because of an accident baby, and when things take a turn for the worse, Kendrick goes into full-tilt irrational mode, unceremoniously dumping the guy who is trying to tell her he actually gives a damn about her, baby or no. Sure, she's hurting, but the film encourages the idea that unplanned pregnancy via a one night stand warrants a full-blown relationship.
Jennifer Lopez is a photographer who takes pictures of babies and kids at aquariums. She is completely obsessed with the idea of having a child of her own, but it's physically impossible for her. Lopez turns to adoption, and once her husband acquiesces, she demands he buy her a house, too, even though they can barely afford the baby. Oh, and she loses her job, lies about it, and still wants all of this really expensive stuff.
What to Expect Here: Expect that J. Lo is going to pout and whine until she gets her way. And when that doesn't work, she'll use oral sex as a bargaining tool. It's an appallingly primitive idea that sexual acts are little more to women than an enjoyable part of a courting ritual until marriage, at which time sex becomes uninteresting, and thus is only used to bribe your husband for what you want or make babies. Since J. Lo cannot make these babies, she obviously must not be having sex with her husband, which is why he's so easy to manipulate when she offers to please him. It's not just insulting to women, it's also insulting to men because it implies that men are dumb, primitive, and easily swayed into making major, bank account-emptying life decisions just for the promise of a single sex act.
Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone are the most well-rounded couple of the bunch. They've been trying to have a baby for a couple of years now, and after agreeing to take a break from trying and getting a little drunk on wine in the park, which leads to sex (of course), Banks magically winds up pregnant. It's like that thing your grandma says when she tells you how she was trying to have a girl for years but she popped out your 12 uncles instead, and the moment she stopped trying your granddad got her lit on a six-pack of Bartles & James, and that's how your mom was born. Sort of like that.
What to Expect Here: Banks is the woman who thinks pregnancy is all unicorn kittens and fluffy rainbows filled with angel juice, and when she finally gets knocked up she discovers it's all just bodily functions, sweat, waddling, and peeing yourself in front of everyone. Pregnancy will make you totally gross. Banks' character is completely unrealistic, but kudos to the writers for trying. What woman doesn't know that having a baby makes you look like a homeless incontinent woman and hurts like hell? Is Elizabeth Banks a time traveler from 1952? SHE MUST BE STOPPED.
Cameron Diaz plays a reality TV fitness trainer (a la Jillian Michaels) who discovers she's pregnant on a celebrity dancing competition show. Her dance partner is the father of the baby, and the two of them get into a lot of fights about circumcision. Yes, foreskin is a huge source of conflict in this film, a metaphor for the ongoing strife between Israel and Palestine, for sure.
What to Expect Here: Diaz is awful -- totally selfish and unwilling to compromise on the smallest issues. She continuously sabotages the relationship out of some not-so-subconscious need to feel validated and loved. It's like she's testing the poor guy's limits to make sure he's dedicated to their life together, but every time he jumps through a hoop she tells him she didn't need him to do anything for her because she is an independent woman and she can take care of herself, just like those Beyonce songs.
To really stick the nail in the stigma coffin, 'What to Expect' features a group of dads (Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon -- fun fact: the "cha-ching" in each of their names is silent) who meet up every Saturday at the park with their kids so they look like dutiful dads, but really it's just a way for them to bemoan their controlling wives. They have a pact that nothing said in the group will ever be repeated outside of it, especially to the wives because they'll get in trouble. The idea is reinforced here that once a woman becomes a mother, she becomes a nagging harpy who runs her household like North Korea. The men are simultaneously terrified and resentful of their chosen life partners because having a baby turns the woman you once loved into a horrifying, entitled jerk whose sole reason for existing is to make your life hell for impregnating her.
Never mind that in the real world it takes two consenting adults to make a child -- planned or not -- and it seems awfully silly to promote the idea that it's hilarious for men and women to engage in a battle of the sexes over something that should be bringing them together, especially when that idea involves scheming, dishonest men and shrewd, unreasonable women. 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' only further perpetuates and stigmatizes sex and the sexes -- and all of this valuable information was gleaned from a reference book!