In spring 2015, a comedy was released named The Intern, and it is quite inter-esting to take a closer look at this movie. It is a movie that marches proudly into the minefield that is gender issues, and steps on every bomb.
I hesitate to do the same, and I don’t really want to get involved in these discussions, but at the same time I feel like this movie is really dumb and it irks me personally.
So, The Intern is the story of Ben Whittaker (Robert DeNiro), 70 years old and retired. His life is a daily fight against boredom and in the end he enlists as an intern at a new company that sells clothes via the internet. He doesn’t have a clue how the whole internet thing works and the management of the company isn’t really interested in him, but through time he becomes a rock of stability and advice with his old-school manners and experience, a friendly monolith that everyone can depend on.
In order to set up this story, both modern men and modern women are painted as inadequate in the movie. It’s really a strange setup for a story, when you think about it. Why bring some people down to raise other people up? If the point of the movie was to show that old people have lots of experience to share and can still make a difference in today’s world, fine, that is a nice point to make, but why make it by bringing everyone else down?
Ok, so Ben Whittaker starts working at this very modern, quirky office, where everything is casual, the CEO rides a bike around the office and people ring a bell whenever something great happens. It is all very fake-jolly and makes me want to puke, because underneath the surface everyone is stressed out of their minds. The company is run by Jules (Anne Hathaway) and her secretary Becky (Christina Scherer) and they lost all control over it, and their private lives are a mess.
In comes DeNiro, and with his calm advice and “Yep, that’s what it is” smirk, he becomes a stable pillar amidst the whirlwind of chaos and emotions that surrounds Jules and Becky. All they needed apparently was a stable, dependable man to put their lives back together, because running a company was too much for their emotions and they stopped looking after themselves. So says the movie. The men already working in the office did not succeed in being there for them, in taking up that gender role for them. They are instead a bunch of hipster, metrosexual people in various stages of growing up.
Halfway through the movie, Jules goes on a where-did-all-the-good-men-go rant, in front of these guys. Why couldn’t they be the DeNiro that she needed? In effect, demanding that they take up the old male gender roles of being a strong, stable support for her, and that their new modern ways of expressing themselves are unwanted and not of use to her. Besides all that, there are some old women in the movie who are portrayed as overbearing or incompetent, clearly not suited for the role of support that Ben Whittaker takes up. Which is kind of strange when you consider that the movie was directed by a 65 year old woman.
Whew. Let’s take a step back. Now, we could take all these plottwists as friendly advice. I don’t want to say that successful women are not allowed to have problems and should have everything under control, right. People are allowed to fuck up. I don’t want to say that men never need some fatherly support to make them confident, right. There is friendly advice here about looking after yourself and not make work ruin your personal and emotional life. There is more friendly advice about that people should grow up, and carry themselves with self-esteem and confidence.
The problem is that the advice is coming from the wrong mouths. When an old man shows women that they can’t do it by themselves, and when a woman tells men that they are pussies and useless, then that’s not advice, that’s shaming. It is criticizing people for not acting according to roles that serve you personally. It’s not how advice works.
I guess I just don’t understand why any of this has to be part of a movie that shows that old people can still make a difference.