In his New Rule segment on Friday, comedian Bill Maher riffed on the complicated nature of romance and how the success of movies like Fifty Shades Freed betray ironies in the #MeToo era as well as dating in and outside the workplace today.
As squeamish as his tongue-in-cheek critique of the #MeToo/#TimesUp movement might make you feel, it does make one wonder about the rom coms we gushed over in the 80s and 90s—from Maid in Manhattan to While You Were Sleeping—that aren’t “PC” by today’s standards. “In romantic comedies,” Maher says, “there are only three plots: she married her boss, stalking is romantic and then ‘I hate you and then I love you.'”
Over the years, Hollywood has not only shaped dating culture, it has illustrated how uncharted and unpredictable attraction and the act of coupling can be in real life, especially in the workplace. Maher cited The Harris Poll’s 2014 survey with CareerBuilder which found that nearly two in five (38%) U.S. workers have dated a co-worker and 31% end up getting married to their office sweetheart.
But even beyond our “unwoke past,” Maher adds, storylines of recent Oscar-nominated films—like Beauty and the Beast and Phantom Thread still reinforce the sexual and non-sexual power dynamics that #MeToo is fighting off-screen. Ultimately, Maher’s monologue appears to suggest more consistency in Hollywood and the #MeToo movement in what is championed off set and the stories the movie industry tells.
“The #MeToo movement falters if it thinks we can make pain-free the messy transition from two people not in a relationship to two people who are,” says Maher.