13 Going on 30, Sex in the City (The Movie), and Friends with Money represent three outwardly dissimilar female main characters. However, as mainstream Hollywood always seems to point out, their happy ending only comes when they get the man they were always looking for in the end.
For Jenna in 13 Going on 30, this was her childhood best friend who was once an unattractive, pudgy middle school boy and grew up in a handsome gentleman.
For Carrie in Sex in the City, although Mr. Big originally leaves her at the altar, she reunites with him at the end of the movie and haves the happy-ever-after she was always looking for all these years after being a forlorn sex columnist for a popular New York City newspaper.
In Friends with Money, Jennifer Aniston plays Olivia who was a former teacher who became a maid in order to make ends meet. She cleans the home of an eccentric, unemployed man named Marty who she slowly begins to develop feelings for only to later find out that this man is a cash cow. The movie ends with Olivia and Marty deciding to let this potential relationship blossom—another happy ending for the female lead.
However, when we look at these movies even deeper, we see some recurring symbols that we would not ordinarily pay attention to at the cinema.
13 Going On 30
The proverbial daddy issues are subtly put into the “chick flick” 13 Going on 30. In fact, the father figure is not so absent as much as he is complacently detached. He only appears in the film a whopping total of five times. In one scene, Jenna, a 13-year-old girl stuck inside the body of a 30-year-old-woman, crawls into bed with her parents to seek emotional comfort. Her mother is there to cuddle and coddle her daughter whereas her father curls up apathetically on the corner. Jenna has to either face her big girl issues alone or with the singular emotional support from her mother.
Accepting Loss and Lack
When a person accepts loss and lack, they have begun the process of maturing and healing. Jenna accepts the loss of her nerdy childhood best friend who marries another woman who appreciates him more than Jenna did when she was a young 13-year-old who became the popular girl in high school. Jenna knows that she is no longer a child and must face the consequences of her choices and actions of how she mistreated Matt, even if those choices were made when she was just in high school.
Sex in the City
Women with successful careers
Sex in the City is one of the typical modern career-woman-centered films that shows the typical successful, urban woman who feels like she is lacking in life. Carrie, as with the rest of the gang with the exception of Samantha, feels that she is lacking validity and substance without a love life. Samantha is the only woman in the group who feels satisfied with just having a sex life.
It appears that all of these women, with the exception of Samantha, all felt emotionally empty without a man by their side. Samantha is the only woman out of their group to only have one serious relationship—one man who stayed by her side as she went through cancer treatment in season six before the debut movie—preceded and followed by a string of emotionally invalid relationships. I do think that if you are sexual with someone, you should be mutually emotionally invested in each other.
As much as we try to deny that we can have emotionless and meaningless sex, I do think that we should be honest with others and ourselves by admitting that a string of hollow and insincere one night stands only fills whatever voids in our lives that we’re trying to fill for an extremely limited amount of time. At the same time, a healthy and fulfilling relationship and sex life should not be the end-all and be all. It should certainly be a part of your life, but it should not be your happy ending.
Friends with Money
Women’s identity inextricably linked to consumerism
The film with Jennifer Aniston shows that a woman’s identity is linked to conscious consumerism. One of the remarkable things I noticed about Friends with Money is that the titular character, played by Jennifer Aniston, an attractive, slender, blonde, American woman is shown down on her knees and cleaning the grimy corners in a role that is usually left to minorities and B-list actresses.
What does this all mean? 13 Going on 30 and Sex in the City were both mainstream films whereas Friends with Money was an independent film with a female Director and Writer. I think as the audience we have to ask ourselves questions about the films that we are seeing, even if our intention of seeing a film is to just turn off our brains for that hour and a half and enjoy what we’re viewing. Still, I think any film should, by its very nature, encourage us ask and answer questions about whatever is going on in our own lives. Films should also inspire us to see another person’s view point in order to better understand the world that we are living in.
From the Alpha Female point of view, the biggest point that should hit home with us is that a woman should not feel irrelevant or invalidated just because she doesn’t have a Prince Charming to call her own. I know that pressure is on all of us because from a young age we’re bombarded with Disney films with false promises and unrealistic expectations. These films show us that all these strong, female princesses are only just that until they have their happy ending with a man who whisks them away into these fairytale marriages. We are more than our partners. We do not have to be one tree living as one with our partner, but we must have interconnected roots in a forest with all individual trees with a common connection.