Manic Pixie Sarcastic Dream Girl

What seems like a decade ago now I watched the film Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I’m sure for some of you this effectively affirms your belief that I have terrible taste in films and you’re not wrong, but I agree with G. K. Chesterton on this point — if you want to know what’s important and interesting to the masses, don’t go to the high forms of art, go to the crudest incarnations of it.

This film qualifies, and boy does it have a lot to say about society. What I found most personally irritating was the female lead.

Gemma Arterton is not a terrible actress and you could argue that she only seems to be cast in terrible films, and this film did a great disservice to her. It forced her to be “sarcastic”.

It’s a well known archetype that actually goes back quite a few years. Jean Arthur played a world weary cynical D.C. aide in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and nailed it perfectly and it’s incredibly prevalent in cinema today because it’s one of the easiest ways to prove your female character is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man while…having her depend on a man.

It’s also a nice ironic take as many films like to subvert our independent sharp-tongued heroine by making her an idiot.

Sands of Time does BOTH. It’s incredible really.

But what really bothers me is that sarcasm, like any kind of humor, is not simply a speech pattern that can be worn like a new shirt. You can’t put on sarcasm. (Fun fact: Friends almost left the character Chandler out of the cast because they couldn’t find someone who could be sarcastic, dry, and likeable until Matthew Perry auditioned) Forcing a female to be sarcastic to sell her strong willful meet-the-hero-on-his-level character can result in the most annoying, abrasive, irritating character if the actor can’t do it.

Gemma Arterton can’t do sarcasm. This is not a criticism. In fact it’s probably a compliment. I’m sure she can do a lot of things well, and I have a feeling that humor is one of them, but it’s not sarcastic humor.

All of her supposedly clever lines just come out mean and angry. She’s not sassy and brassy, she’s rude and obnoxious.

Look, women are funny. Women are clever. Women are great. But they’re usually great when you’re not shoehorning them into the “it” girl of the moment.

Not every girl can be Katherine Hepburn. Not every girl can be Jennifer Lawrence. And, oh dear God, not every girl can be Zooey Deschanel.

None of that’s bad even! It’s all good! Jean Arthur rocked the sharp-tongued brilliant independent woman because that’s what Jean Arthur did best. She didn’t do it best because all women could do it best, nor should they.

What’s great about women (and men) is that they can rock all kinds of personalities and humors with sass and class. Of course, in order to do that, you should probably stop watching crap films and taking tips from them…she said to no one in particular…

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