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Jewish World Review Dec. 26, 2000 / 29 Kislev 5761

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports

Feminists really want neutered males -- I ABSOLUTELY refuse to see another Mel Gibson movie unless I can be assured that the Aussie will kill at least 10 people in the first five minutes -- preferably all sneering English aristocrats who've murdered members of his immediate family.

Better he should depopulate the British Isles than make another comedy like "What Women Really Want," wherein the star of broadswords and flintlocks gets sensitized.

The movie reeks of consciousness-raising sessions, unshaved legs, glass-ceilings hysteria and sexual-harassment suits.

At the outset, Gibson is a feminist's fantasy of the typical urban bachelor. He's a successful advertising executive whose sofa is a receptacle for discarded ladies undergarments. His specialty is manipulating women, whether the objective is a toasted bagel or a roll in the hay. Through an improbable plot device, Mel develops the ability to hear women's thoughts. This leads to the discovery that many of those around him do not, as he imagined, view him as a love god -- but think he's a conceited jerk who uses too much aftershave, tells tasteless jokes and treats female colleagues like field hands.

The ability to crawl into the psyche of the opposite sex leads to a transformation. The hunk becomes maudlin. The more he listens, the more he relates. The former man's man ends up as Hugh Grant with chest hair. (If this is what turns women on, why did they swoon for Mel in his Mad Max/Lethal Weapon days?)

Like most of today's movies about relationships, "What Women Really Want" is relentlessly anti-male. Men are dense. Men are crude. Men are self-centered. Men just don't listen. From the Oprah-Rosie vineyards comes a fine whine.

Practically the only sympathetic guys in movies these days, virtually the only ones who are allowed to rise above boorishness, are feminized males of the Leonardo DiCaprio variety and homosexuals.

A favorite gimmick of the Hollywood sisterhood is putting cinema macho men in films where they'll encounter their softer selves. Arnold Schwarzenegger goes through a pregnancy in "Junior." Michael Keaton becomes a housewife in "Mister Mom." Robert DeNiro gets into therapy and has a breakthrough in "Analyze This."

Hollywood is incapable of making movies about feminine women and masculine men unless they're set in another era. Thus one of my favorite films of 1999, "An Ideal Husband" (where the two male leads both are honorable and heroic), takes place in Edwardian England.

The most romantic moment of a 1990s movie was in the remake of "The Last of the Mohicans," where Daniel Day-Lewis encounters Madeleine Stowe on the wall of a besieged fort during the French and Indian War. He stares at her intensely, longingly. She: "What are you looking at, sir?" He: "I am looking at you, miss." He exudes strength and quiet determination. She is soft and yielding.

Besides celebrating neutered males, Hollywood tries very hard to convince guys that what they really want in a gal is an emotional clone of themselves, or at least what they used to be.

Thus, at the end of "What Women Really Want," Gibson tells Helen Hunt, his romantic interest in the film (a testicle traumatizing exec who's hired to do the job he wanted), that he loves her all the more because she's tough, competitive and career-driven.

Yes indeed, men truly desire this in a woman -- the way they really want to spend hours trailing their wives or girlfriends around a shopping mall, watching a "Friends" marathon or flipping through the pages of the Janet Reno swimsuit calendar.

All kidding aside, the essence of masculinity is the urge to protect and provide for. This can only be satisfied with a feminine woman -- not a Barbie doll dope, someone who's smart and funny to be sure -- but a woman who's compassionate, yielding and nurturing.

But I digress. What do women really want? It's a question that has puzzled my gender's best minds for eons.

However, if all that they desire is a male girlfriend who gives them psychic massages every five minutes, cries on cue and wants to feel their biceps, then there is no hope for the species and the world will be inherited by lower life forms -- emanating from the Hollywood hills.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate