(500) Days of Summer

***Warning Spoiler Alert*****

So after reading this brilliant post at Tiger Beatdown, I wanted to see for myself what irks so many feminists about the movie (500) Days of Summer.

Unfortunately, I knew I would not like the film as the opening credits rolled. Why? Might you ask.

Because the author of the film provides a innocent disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that all events and people are fictitious. Well, except for the lady in question, Summer who is Jenny Beckman and who is a “bitch.”

Now, guys can be dicks so I let that one slide.

However, when we are first introduced to Summer, Tom is looking at her wistfully from across the office and his friend notices. “Oh she’s a bitch,” the guy friend says. Why? Because some other office dude said “hi” to her and she didn’t say “hi” back. Tom tries to feign disinterest. But this is weird because why is she a “bitch” because she didn’t say hi? And then OHHHH, I get it—she’s a “bitch” because The Other Dude wanted to fuck her and she didn’t want to fuck him or notice him.

So, let’s review: the main female character of the film has been called a “bitch” twice even before she has opened her mouth.

When we next meet Summer she smiles and says something to Tom in the elevator. Tom is *shocked* and *thrilled* that The Bitch of the Office spoke to him! HE IS VERY SPECIAL.

The Narrator of the film goes on to tell us that Summer is an average, normal, ordinary girl. At least where her looks are concerned—but wait, in the very next scene, The Narrator tells us that when Summer walks onto the bus everyday she gets no less than 18 “double takes” from old white men on the bus.

Wait. What??

That’s no ordinary girl. Summer is no ordinary girl. Summer is hot. Summer is The Girl All The Guys Want To Fuck At The Office. (Not to mention, who the hell is keeping count of the double takes? Summer? Tom? And why are double takes from old men on the bus a good thing?) Later in the film we learn during a conversation between Tom and his friend is that Summer is “out of his league.” Oh, we’re getting a better picture about what this story is about.

Summer kisses Tom at the copier at the office and thusly, she wants to have sex with him. Summer has sex with Tom. Cue The Happiest Day of Tom’s Life Sequence complete with dancers, music and happy fountain.

Now, let me repeat–The Happiest Day of Tom’s Life is when the hottest girl at the office fucks him. Ok.

Now, we’re led to believe during the course of the film that Tom loves Summer and when she “breaks up” with him, it destroys him because he really loved her.

What makes this film complete shit is that Tom doesn’t love Summer.

When Summer “breaks up” with him, Tom exclaims, “BUT WE HAD SHOWER SEX.”

Wait. What?

Often, in the woman’s romantic narrative, this is the part where the guy breaks up with her and she’s distraught because he said he loved her and they had sex. But that doesn’t really work here because Summer never said I love you or felt that sex connoted love. In fact, Tom thinks Summer loves him because they had shower sex. Or in others words, she fulfilled Tom’s sexual fantasy therefore, she must really love him. She’s not having shower sex cuz she likes it. And come to think of it, you never know why Tom loves Summer. Sure, he loves her smile, her laugh, her heart shaped birthmark—oh wait, does Tom love Summer because of who she is or because she’s fucking hot? Hmmm.

Three fourths of the way through the film the audience discovers that Tom isn’t a reliable narrator. Some people have noted that this is what makes the film so great—it’s the male perspective and it’s kinda crap. In fact, that kiss Summer gave Tom at the copier? Totally didn’t happen. Which throws the whole film into question. I mean, geez, did Summer exist in the first place? Did they even fuck? Hmmm.

And while (500) Days of Summer is fascinating in regards to it’s perspective, reality, fantasy and subtext, it is kinda full of bullshit because the writer of the film has already stated at the beginning of the film that Jenny Beckman/Summer is a “bitch.” Regardless of what the real story is, the film wants you to know that Summer is really a “bitch.”

At the end of the film, for all of Summer’s “I don’t want a boyfriend”s and “I like my independence and freedom”s, she gets married to a dude that’s not Tom. Tom asks why. Summer tells him she didn’t believe in love until she met this person–in fact, she married him because she is “sure” of their relationship unlike her relationship with Tom. Which begs the question: What is she sure of? Her love for this person? His love for her? Or is it something else?

One of the subtexts of the film, I think, is about money. Summer is the boss’s personal assistant. Tom is a greeting card writer. I’m sure both aren’t earning lots of money–but Tom had wanted to be an architect–a position that I imagine would make more money. Summer is really confused as to why he’s at the greeting card job if he really loves architecture. After they “break up”, Tom pursues his architecture career–why? Because he thinks if he makes more money Summer will love him?

Mercifully, the author doesn’t tell us anything about dude Summer marries. So, what we’re left with is that Summer is a bitch because she was full of shit—she wanted to get married and be dependant, she just didn’t want to get married to Tom. Well, Tom, welcome to things that Sally from When Harry met Sally and Carrie from Sex and the City have experienced with dudes. Tom is a guy you fuck, not the guy you marry.

At the end of the movie, Tom makes an impassioned speech against the industrial complex of love. But what makes Tom full of shit is that Tom never subscribed to typical notions of love in the first place. In fact, the film states that the way he learned about love was from watching the movie, The Graduate. I haven’t seen the film, but it might support the notion that Tom subscribes to the typical notion of “love” as acceptable for men—i.e. you can only love the girl who is the most fuckable, who doesn’t want a boyfriend, who loves “kinky” sex etc. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really explore how masculinity has failed Tom—instead it’s Summer who is the “bitch”, not the real culprit, masculinity.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/samll/ Sam Lindsay-Levine

    I saw this movie on an airplane and therefore it’s quite possible I’m missing a lot, but what I took away was that Tom and Summer simply weren’t right for each other, and that viewed from the objective standpoint Tom was clearly being immature and foolish in pining over her and blaming her for the end of their relationship. To me the whole point of the story was Tom getting over his blame of her and growing up, and I thought that was what was intended by the movie.

    • http://feministing.com/members/athenia/ athenia

      Yeah, I think that movie would have succeeded on that point without the disclaimer because it shows that Tom really didn’t grow up.

      • http://feministing.com/members/samll/ Sam Lindsay-Levine

        I very definitely see your point and it is a very convincing one. I had actually forgotten the disclaimer by the end of the movie – maybe to me it was still part of the immature blame of the beginning, and we were supposed to wrap it up as in-character?

        I think I was giving the movie too much credit though and your interpretation now seems more accurate, especially after reading the link in your reply to ellestar! Thank you for sharing your analysis with us.

  • http://feministing.com/members/starzki6/ ellestar

    Wow. I didn’t get this at all from the movie. First of all, I took the beginning where it is announced that Jenny is a bitch as dark humor. Yes, it’s ridiculous to once again use women as the “bitch” to provide humor, but it was unexpected and actually shows the writer of the movie as having a tainted perspective. I think this was on purpose. There is no Jenny Brickman, either.

    Also, as much as Summer is called a bitch, the movie shows that she is decidedly not one. She’s completely honest, especially about not wanting something permanent with the leading man. I also think he doesn’t fall in love with her because she’s hot, but because she opened herself up to him. There is a very important part in the middle where they have an intense conversation and she says something along the lines of, “I’ve never said these things to anyone before.” The narrator took that as a great honor, which it would be.

    While I kind of agree with you on the whole class aspect, I disagree that being an architect was a ploy to get Summer back. It was obvious that architecture was the narrator’s passion and it was something Summer encouraged in him. He was unhappy at his job as a greeting card writer. The narrator knew Summer was gone, already married to someone else, and he used the break up and his sadness and anger about it to move on to his true passion.

    Ultimately, I think the movie showed how we learn about ourselves in relationships. Summer learned she could be open and committed in a loving relationship, just not in one with the narrator. The narrator learned that a relationship is not the only place to find passion. You can create it on your own, through your work, too. Their relationship to one another, while it didn’t work out, changed them both in positive ways and they moved on, ultimately happy in their lives.

    Which belies the “bitch” comment in the beginning.

    • http://feministing.com/members/athenia/ athenia

      The Summer character was based on an actual person. See link below.
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1209556/500-Days-Summer-Revenge-writing-film-girl-dumped-you.html

      I think the disclaimer really cancels out any growth for Tom and it shows how easily guys can cast a girl as a bitch as soon as she doesn’t do something they want her to do—she doesn’t say hi, she doesn’t love them. If the author was going for dark humor and prepping the audience for a skewed perspective—-I think it could have been left out and the humor and perspective of the movie would have remained.

      I thought the “I never told anyone else this before” scene was interesting–he takes it as a sign that she loves him, but for her, it’s a sign of friendship.