Hollywood has got to stop sending these messages.

Spoiler Alert: This concerns the movie The Age of Adeline. I will be going into specifics, so if you are planning to see the movie, you may not want to read this.

Last Friday, I saw The Age of Adeline. Nice performances, cute guy, pretty woman, Harrison Ford (who still looks damn sexy), plot holes you could pull Pluto through, and total scientific implausibility.  Not bad for two hours; Independence Day did worse. However, ever since I saw the movie, every time I think about it I become more outraged.

The protagonist, Adeline of the title, stopped aging as the result of a freak accident (see: scientific implausibility), and after a nasty encounter with the government who wants to study her scientifically, begins changing her name and location every decade so people won’t get suspicious when they notice that they are getting older and she isn’t. She deliberately avoids emotional attachments for what would seem obvious reasons. (A.k.a. the Doctor Who dilemma.)

Ellis, a hot (and as it turns out, brilliant and rich) guy sees her across the room at a New Year’s Eve party. (Cue obvious symbolism.) He jumps into her elevator and hits on her. She rebuffs him.  She gets into a cab, he prevents the cab door from closing by placing his hand in the door, and again asks for her number.  She again politely but firmly says no. (I, on the other hand, would have said “Get your damn fingers out of the door before I break them.” Then again, I have never been a beautiful woman who had guys hit on her.)

Ellis appears at the archive where Adeline works.  As it turns out, he belongs on the board of directors, and has seen her after a meeting, and has always wanted to get to know her. He donates a large number of books, and insists that she appear in the photograph accepting the donation, even though she is not the director.  When she refuses, he threatens to take back the donation, and goes so far as to say he will burn the books. Faced with this horrible maneuver, she caves. She still refuses to be photographed, but agrees to lunch with him. (Why her bosses — who saw the entire exchange — did not step in and state that they would not allow their employees to be harassed in this way, and that they would not accept the donation with such strings attached, mystifies me.)

Ellis cajoles her into dinner at his place. They have sex. Adeline leaves the next morning without  telling him her address or phone number.  When she arrives home, her dog has collapsed and she needs to put him down.  As she approaches her apartment after leaving the vet’s office, Ellis appears, flowers in hand.  The library had given him her home address. (Whether or not this is illegal in California — where the entire movie took place — I do not know; but it is sure as hell unethical.) She yells at him to leave her alone. He stands on the sidewalk looking after her, frustrated but clearly determined to get her to love him.

Okay, thus far we have the beginnings of a pretty good stalker film. Hot guy fixates on woman who repeatedly tells him to get lost, escalating the level of his creepy behavior as time goes on. But then the movie goes off the rails….

Adeline goes to Ellis’s apartment and apologizes to him for HER behavior.  She agrees to go with him to his parents’ place, more plot ensues, and  (after more scientific implausibility) in the end she stays with him.

So, in the end Ellis wins. After repeatedly being rebuffed, after repeatedly acting in ways that should get you kicked out of your board position, after no after no after no, Ellis gets what he wants.

So, boys and girls, what is the movie trying to tell us?  That ignoring a woman’s stated wishes is acceptable if you are wealthy? That a woman doesn’t really mean it when says no? That a woman who says no really does not know her own best interests?

Once Adeline said no the first time, that should have been the end of Ellis’s pursuit of her. Could she change her mind? Sure, but that ball should be squarely in her court. As it is, Adeline never really has to do the seriously hard work of finding someone. And Ellis’s actions as a board member of an organization where she is an employee clearly constitute illegal sexual harassment, something the movie seems to hand wave away.

Was Adeline happier now that she found love? According to the movie, yes. And, according to the movie, this was only possible because Ellis was a persistent pain in the ass. See, men who stalk you really love you!

We live in a culture where all too often what a woman says she wants is ignored. Stalking and sexual harassment are both part of the rape culture we live in, and part of Ellis’s operating manual.

Remember Elliot Rogers? He believed that women should fall at his feet because he was rich. When they didn’t, he indulged in an orgy of misogynistic violence that left six dead and fourteen injured. Given movies like this, his behavior becomes more understandable — Ellis is just the nice end of the women- devaluing spectrum on which Rogers occupies the evil end.

As I said, the more I think of this movie, the madder I get. We need Hollywood to fight rape culture, not subtly encourage it.

This entry was posted in Culture (popular and otherwise), Feminism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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