Divorce is sad, but building an entire narrative to say so is boring.

What Women Really Think
July 7 2011 10:41 AM

Why Doesn't Hollywood Tell Us Divorce Is Sad?

117073923
Louis C.K. by Getty Images.

I'm a little unsure what the point of Heather Havrilesky's piece in the New York Times lamenting "happy divorce" narratives really is. She argues that there's some fascistic requirement to present divorce as fun and uplifting in Hollywood, but then admits immediately that two of the best shows on television, "Louie" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," have main characters whose lives are falling apart in the wake of a divorce. It's not that there's not a spate of divorce-as-liberation narratives, but those are proliferating because they're counterintuitive (which gives them a hook) and because divorce is working as the catalyst for a narrative and isn't the point of the story.  A TV show that has a person starting a quest for a new life in the wake of losing their job isn't suggesting that getting fired is a basket of roses. 

If she's asking where the "Kramer vs. Kramer" of our generation is, well, she answered her own question.  The main difference between "Louie" and "Kramer vs. Kramer" is that "Louie" isn't soaked in misogyny.  On the contrary, "Louie" is a far more measured and nuanced view of what divorce is and what it means.  Louis C.K.'s character may be a miserable sack who isn't handling post-divorce life well, but that he is such a miserable guy is the implied reason for why the divorce was inevitable and his wife had every right to leave him.  Additionally, Louie's ability to take proper care of his children is a nice antidote to the "Oh no, how do you feed a child?!" dilemma of single fatherhood that's traditionally been presented.  Louie takes care of his kids, does a decent job at it, and doesn't expect a cookie, because taking care of your kids is what you're supposed to do. The show's take on divorce is about right to me: It's sad that it has to happen, but let's not pretend that it didn't have to happen under the circumstances.  

Advertisement

If there has been a shift in our cultural narratives around divorce, it's probably that they've evolved to meet an audience that is well-acquainted with the topic.  Watching a weep fest about the tragedy of divorce sounds boring nowadays.  I don't like watching movies that are about how it's sad if your dog dies or tragic when people are thwarted from being their true selves.  If I'm going to spend time considering the obvious, I'll go stare in a mirror and marvel at the nose on my face. It's far more interesting to consider what goes on after the divorce is truly final and people are starting to move on, which is where obvious stops being a factor and character differences begin to emerge. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Sports Nut

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 18 2014 1:34 PM Americans Fault Obama for Giving Them Exactly the Anti-ISIS Strategy They Want
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 18 2014 12:47 PM How One of the Most Prolific Known Forgers in Modern History Faked Great Works of Art
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Everyday That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 18 2014 1:41 PM Television for Adults The Good Wife is cynical, thrilling, and grown-up. It’s also TV’s best drama.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 1:24 PM Can the Celebrities Whose Photos Were Stolen Really Sue Apple? It may be harder to prove “harm” than it seems.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.