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When misogynist movies like Love Today glorifying toxic masculinity are the blockbusters, we definitely need to question, “Are we really progressive?"
Last year, the movie Love Today was a big hit, and its popularity continues online/offline. The lingo “boy bestie”, “Mamakutty”, have since been the meme template for the 2k generation who are relating a lot to the movie.
Director Pradeep Kumar has presented a narrative which details the way we are always logged in, even when we are not. The online personas that have come to define our existence have been etched with great visual effects. The movie is set for more remakes, and the all-inclusive patriarchal undertones are set to win hearts all over.
Love Today follows the problematic logic of “boys will be boys”, which is common to many Tamil movies. This movie however offers a balance between patronising patriarchy and woke awakenings for the audiences. It is the movie that any progressive would not want to watch but still will watch, as it appeals to the ‘blind entertainment’ category of Tamil cinema.
Director Pradeep Ranganathan (and the lead male actor) present love in the age of social media, with dating apps, and the digital footprint of internalised misogyny also gets its reboot.
The movie is basically about a dad who asks his daughter and her boyfriend to exchange phones, so that they can prove their understanding of each other. This challenge to prove the mettle of their relationship derails soon enough and how they still patch up is the rest of the movie. Flirting, exes, boy-besties, browsing history all are explained with the “he said, she said” narrative, but as usual skewed to favour patriarchy.
The character, Uthama Pradeep, clearly articulates how a man baby suffers in the world where women are part of the public sphere. The audience gets to see how the ‘poor’ man baby has to fish for women on social media with the numerous “hi’s, gm’s and gn’s”, and attempt conversation with unsolicited flirty lines, memes, adult jokes.
The “hard life” of boys in a world where women have a CHOICE and EXPECTATIONS, have been yet again described in detail by Love Today.
Additionally, the horrors of online harassment are justified as a ploy of an “innocent” man baby who “simply doesn’t know how to approach a conversation”. They are the “victims” as they simply don’t understand “no” and when to stop (I mean in many ways stalking still remains number one, be it digital or physical).
The movie does its least bit by not engaging in body shaming, but remains as another movie about men’s existence. Male privilege relating to porn, sharing nude pics, and intimacy are laid bare in the movie.
The male characters in the movie, be it the really obnoxious little boy (who creates havoc and nuisance all round with his temper tantrums) or the controlling all pervasive father figure, the authority of the XY chromosome is indisputable throughout the movie. While the movie does attempt to show the many ways women get harassed online, the perspective makes these sequences justifying male prejudices. The flashy graphics conceal the real violence like mental anguish that women face.
The lead female character Nikita is also wilfully ignorant of red flags and does not really get her own say. Adjusting to the insecurities of her boyfriend she manages her circle of male friends and her ex. This is again described as betrayal on her part, and not as a personal space which is the choice of an educated, working woman.
The women, be it the mother, sister, love-interest, friends are portrayed as quite gullible about the “real world.” Say for example Nikita the romantic interest who needs the constant technical expertise of her dad or her male friend to access the features of the app, which she also regularly uses! This is just one of the few infantilising ways for women characters are represented in the movie!
Love Today starts a discussion about the many challenging problems in today’s society but the solutions offered are all steeped in the same old patriarchal notions. The proverbial saying “He could be worse” is unfortunately the yardstick used to justify the red flags. Scattered throughout the movie are also bits of the lived reality of women on the internet. The impact of online harassment on women is not really discussed in the movie, and the concept of “deep fakes” is introduced as a cautionary tale for women.
Our world remains wrapped in double standards and around puritanical attitudes towards sex. The control over women’s choice, restricting mobility, lack of access all are meshed as culture and women are conditioned to conform. Love Today portrays this male entitlement in all glory. It goes to describe the fragile Indian male who indulges in the soothing by porn, in harassment and stalking exes, to survive. By normalising many toxic undertones this movie follows the age old Tamil saying, “ if a saree falls on a thorn, it’s the saree that has to bear the brunt.” Crimes targeting women have been steadily increasing and intimate partner violence is especially a hard taboo to break. In this context, when movies like Love Today are the blockbusters from last year, we definitely need to question, “Are we really progressive?”
Am a feminist who is wished for a room but got stuck in a jar. Still, I go on clueless but hopeful and I keep writing. Taking it one step at a time! read more...
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