Misogyny masked as jealousy: Reflections on two Canadian films

I’m not sure where filmmakers lost sight of the reality of romantic relationships, but it seems important to remind them that jealousy is not part of the process of developing a healthy partnership. I’m thinking of two Canadian films: Clement Virgo’s Lie with Me (2005) and Bruce McDonald’s The Husband (2013).  The problem with both these features is that jealousy is taken to be a natural and accepted facet of compulsory monogamy.

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In Lie with Me, David falls for Leila. Later, Leila is “caught” dancing with two men. David then berates her, names her a slut, and forces anal sex upon her. Leila apologizes, will never dance again, etc. We see Leila panic, in various states of crises; we see the effects of misogyny on her and unfortunately she cannot help but participate. In short, stronger female characters are necessary. Had this film been made in France, by Catherine Breillat for example, David’s jealousy would have led him to murder; but in the end, the two reconcile their differences, and fall even deeper in love.

David’s desire for complete possession of Leila is, in fact, not a natural part of their budding relationship. It is nothing short of psychotic. The only legitimate response that Leila should have given David, and in other romantic love stories of this type, is Gloria’s in Gloria (2013): she tells her jealous partner to “Grow a pair.”

McDonald does us worse in The Husband. There, jealousy attains an ever greater legitimacy as Henry’s wife is caught fornicating a teenage boy. Henry’s friends and family “understand” the husband’s plight; not only had the wife broken their (impossible to uphold) promise of monogamy, but it was with a minor. Any erratic behavior then, on Henry’s part, is totally rational.

I’m sick of this approach to love. Dominating a partner is for the dark, psychological narratives that border on horror films. This is its place, not in the positive and affirming (quasi-realistic?)  love story. I want to see fictional couples growing a pair and addressing jealousy in all its seriousness: as an unhealthy aspect to love, not a small and necessary part in a relationship’s process or striving for longevity.

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