Think back to the year 2000. We were freaking out about Y2K, the fashion of the new millennium, and Mel Gibson’s decision to wear stockings in What Women Want.
19 years later the social fantasy has been gender-flipped, and we’re getting into men’s minds in What Men Want.
Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is an accomplished sports agent who gets passed up for promotion by her male colleagues. Fed up with their lack of self-awareness and oversight, Ali wonders what she has to do to succeed in a man’s world. Seeing a psychic at a friend’s party, Ali drinks a weird tea concoction that suddenly allows her to hear men’s thoughts, and uses them to get the advantage over her workmates.
At face value, What Men Want is a pretty trashy movie. Ali and her friends have a penchant for drug use, elevator hook-ups, and are pretty lax on the rules around marriage.
Ali’s ‘Christian’ friend simultaneously skips drugs in favour of Jesus, but also organises the psychic for her pals. In the midst of that, Ali is being held up as a mouthpiece for the current women’s rights movement, and a leader to get behind.
That What Men Want is trying to be a picture of equality and liberation, is hard to stomach though.
Women ‘As Vulgar as The Dudes’
Released to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the movie’s copied a type of ‘womanhood’ that’s unfortunately trendy at the moment. The new wave of female-led comedies (Rough Night, Girls Trip, Trainwreck), makes characters as ‘vulgar as the dudes’ (The Hangover, Wedding Crashers, Get Hard), and sees it as equality in entertainment and expression.
In doing that, the strength of what distinguishes a woman is overlooked and we’re left with the idea that if you a copy a man you can be as powerful as one; even if his values are questionable.
The moment What Men Want gets interesting is three–quarters of the way through. Ali’s love interest Will tells her that knowing what a man thinks doesn’t show you what’s happening in his heart. He says you can’t fully judge a person based on what’s happening in their mind.
“We’re left with the idea that if you a copy a man you can be as powerful as one; even if his values are questionable.”
It reflects the truth Proverbs reveals about the power of thoughts to shape a man, but how, with our words and actions, together they complete the picture of who we are.
Ali also comes to realise that despite hearing men’s thoughts, she hasn’t considered what they represent. Yes, What Men Want includes the stereotypes you’d expect, but shows men to be vulnerable, caring, and in need of the same connection we all crave.
Ali’s confronted by the effect of her quest for control and to win at all costs.
These heartfelt scenes aren’t enough to outdo the majority of the movie (and pale in comparison to On the Basis of Sex’s approach to women’s rights), but they do offer a small dose of wisdom for its viewers if they choose to hear it.
But honestly, save yourself $25 and watch something on Netflix instead.