In Which "Modern Love" Makes Us Embarrassed To Be Women


Looking for the depth of a Carrie Bradshaw pun, the sparkling dialogue of The Hills and the dazzling wit of Gossip Girl‘s text bulletins? Look no further than this week’s Modern Love!

The essay, “A Guest Star in His Romantic Drama,” is about open relationships, but that’s hardly the point. Katherine Ruppe is, her byline tells us, a “screenwriter in Venice, Calif.” which goes some way, I suppose, in explaining the execrable quality of the better part of Hollywood’s exports. For rarely if ever have we encountered such aggressive cutesiness, such nauseating self-importance or such thorium-weight dialogue. “All dialogue in Modern Love is based on memory?” Yeah, memory and a few hundred hours of Friends.

Okay, before I get carried away: Ruppe has bad luck with men. She’s drawn to “adventurous, charming, yet fatally flawed boy-men” and so when she meets a nerdy engineer who “also indulged in Red Bull and Jägermeister” she thinks her luck has changed. (“He owned a plane — hot.”) They embark on a thing and she’s so enthusiastic that she takes a leap of faith: she invites him to a Moby concert. But ah, here’s the rub: turns out the mild-mannered nerd is in fact a swinger who’s in an open relationship with another woman – who wants to meet our heroine. But…what of planes and aging club kids?!

I told him I had no interest in meeting his ball and chain and hung up. Clark Kent had a secret identity all right. As I poured myself a bucket of wine, I mourned this new blow to my trust in people. Why couldn’t men surprise me with roses or trips to Paris instead of requests like “My girlfriend wants to meet you”?…After my brief pity party, however, the Steven Spielberg (Soderbergh?) in me became intrigued. Maybe there was a screenplay in this.

Of course, things get complicated. (“He explained that he didn’t become emotionally involved with the women he played with; they were just friends.Double ick. I hadn’t been anyone’s playmate since fourth grade.”) She and the girlfriend talk and have some false-ringing dialogue about the difficulties of the open dynamic – a weird third-act shift to Serious Emotion after two pages of wacky rom-com antics. Then she ends things with the dude. “I sensed our meeting was destined for the cutting room floor of my imagination, so I finally asked him what I most wanted to know: ‘Were your affections toward me just an act, or did you really feel anything?’”

I’m not going to dignify this particularly lackluster episode of SATC with any kind of analysis of polyamory or emotional availability or judging books by covers, because that would suggest that this essay had larger implications than it did. Interesting topic? Sure. But the desperate gloss of would-be hilarity strips it of any power to interest, inspire, start conversations, or even entertain. More than anything, it depressed me: why does this kind of trivial nonsense still qualify as legit women’s writing about relationships? And seriously, I couldn’t help but ask myself: if this is who’s writing movies for women, can we wonder that they blow?

A Guest Star in His Romantic Drama [NYT]

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