The poster for the movie Husband Factor
This post is going to be full of spoilers for Husband Factor, though to be honest, if you are familiar with romantic comedies, there isn’t much I can spoil for you.
In this part, I’m going to focus on describing the movie without directly evaluating it. I express what I think of this movie in Part 2 of this post.
The Beginning: A Confident, Bookwormish, Happy 30-year-old Female Protagonist
The movie starts with a cheerful 30-year old woman, Efsun, who lives in Istanbul. She doesn’t care about making her appearance appealing (she doesn’t wear makeup or ‘sexy’ clothing), she has a bedroom with some very full bookcases, she loves reading, in particular reading a specific book over and over again, and she has managed to channel her love for books into a career in the publishing business.
But She’s Unmarried!
Her older female relatives are not so cheerful about her unmarried status. In fact, they think that this state of affairs is a disaster, and that she should get married before it’s too late. Efsun tells the camera that obsession with marriage is in the ‘DNA’ of Turkish women.
Some of Efsun’s female relatives
We then get an abrupt switch to a … date? It is coded like a date … Efsun eating in a restaurant with a man her age … but I am still not entirely sure since Efsun had earlier said something about being happily single. In any case, the man is more interested in sports than her.
It then turns out that her 20-year-old cousin is going to marry a young, handsome, rich guy, and that they are truly “in love”. This increases the pressure on Efsun to get married, and the preparations for her cousin’s wedding is the perfect opportunity to give Efsun a makeover which will finally get her a husband.
The only relative who isn’t pushing Efsun onto the marriage track is her father, a ‘househusband’ who cooks and watches TV all day. Efsun also is close friends with the ghost of the man who wrote her favorite book.
The Transformation of Efsun
Efsun’s female relatives start dolling her up – changing her hair, getting her new clothes, etc. It’s pretty clear that most of the initiative is coming from Efsun’s family, not Efsun herself. I don’t understand why Efsun went from ignoring all of her relatives exhortations to dress up, meet guys, etc … to submitting to their demands. Did she cave in, or does she actually want this? I’m still not sure. It would have helped if the movie had either a) shown Efsun put up a stronger resistance only to be defeated, or b) shown Efsun changing her mind about letting her family doll her up.
Meanwhile, even at work, Efsun’s [female] colleagues are pushing her to do what it takes to get a husband.
After Efsun has had her makeover, her younger relatives take her to a nightclub. She asks for mineral water, and then gets told that she should drink. She doesn’t understand, isn’t mineral water a drink? A mere thirty seconds later, Efsun suddenly decides she needs more courage, and since certain bold man at the nightclub had drunk some alcoholic drink, Efsun decides to drink the alcoholic drink as well … a lot of it.
Efsun at the nightclub
[Note: it’s obvious by now that Efsun lives in a very secularist segment of Turkish society – I cannot imagine a devoutly religious Muslim women pressuring an unmarried female relative to make her appearance more sexually revealing, or drink alcohol]
Upon getting drunk, Efsun goes wild, flashing her panties by accident a few times, draping over a man she never met before, etc. She also runs into the one boy she had a crush on in high school, Sinan, now a grown man, and vomits all over him.
Efsun & Sinan
From this point on, much of the movie is preoccupied with Efsun and Sinan’s interactions with each other. They start dating, and Efsun’s female relatives micromanage her interactions with him. They control her appearance, tell her not to kiss on the first date because she shouldn’t be too ‘easy’, tell her to tell him she likes sports and not books (even though she loves books and finds sports a bore) etc. In short, they tell her ‘Don’t be yourself, be the ideal woman to catch a husband’.
Efsun and Sinan
In fact, Efsun and Sinan nearly do kiss during their first date, but this happens to be just in front of Efsun’s house, and one of her relatives throws a slipper to interrupt the imminent contact between their lips.
It becomes clear that Sinan was also in love with Efsun back in high school, and he’s looking for the girl he had fallen in love with all those years ago. However, Efsun is acting like a ‘marriage freak’, just like all other Turkish women. Eventually, Sinan gives up.
As Efsun’s cousin is about to marry rich young handsome dude, the wedding is suddenly halted because … she might have to sign a pre-nup. The groom then explains that it’s a misunderstanding, and then Efsun’s family says that they don’t care about the groom’s money at all, that they aren’t greedy. Since there apparently isn’t a prenup, Efsun’s family lets the wedding continue.
Efsun Pours Out Her Heart
After Efsun gets dumped, her female relatives immediately try to set her up with a banker. “But didn’t you say that Sinan was my last hope?” Efsun asks – indeed, her family pressured her into going into Marriage!Freak mode by saying that Sinan was her last hope of getting married – but it turns out that even with Sinan out of the picture her family isn’t going to stop pressuring her. Moving goalposts indeed.
Efsun’s father continues to be the emotional rock in Efsun’s life – in fact, I think he is the only character in the film who accepts Efsun as she is and doesn’t push her to take a particular course of action, whether it’s to because a ‘marriage freak’ like Efsun’s female relatives, or even to pursue Sinan at all.
Her father also says that, as a child, when all of the young girls were given chicks, the other girls’ chicks grew into chickens, and only Efsun’s chick grew into a rooster.
Efsun’s father reads aloud from her favorite book as she is upset about being dumped by Sinan.
Meanwhile, the ghost of the man who wrote Efsun’s favorite book says that maybe it’s time that she stop being best friends with a ghost (himself), and go after Sinan. Wait, how is this different from what Efsun’s female relatives want her to do? Oh, that’s right, he wants her to go after Sinan because she’s been in love with him for 14 years, and he wants her to get him by being herself.
So Efsun goes after Sinan, confesses her feelings, and gets rewarded by kissing him multiple times in an elevator.
What is this movie trying to say?
Finally, before I go full steam ahead into my own aromantic perspective of this movie, I want to try and clarify what the movie’s message is.
The movie says that Turkish women, with the exception of Efsun, are obsessed with marriage, particularly marriage which improves their economic prospects, and they will use manipulation and deception to get it. Part of that manipulation/deception is insisting that they are totally into romantic love, but as the ‘prenup-crisis’ reveals, they are ultimately more interested in economic/social standing than romantic love.
Meanwhile, the men – particularly Sinan and the ghost – are for genuine romantic love, and for being one’s true self, which naturally leads to romantic love. Efsun’s father is also for being one’s true self, though he doesn’t combine this with ideas about romantic love like Sinan and the ghost do.
It turns out that Efsun herself has a ‘masculine’, not a ‘feminine’, approach to marriage/romance, as symbolized by the fact that as a child she was the only girl with a rooster. Eventually, she realizes that she should take the ‘masculine’ approach, go for being herself, accepting romantic love. Instead of marrying Sinan, she kisses him.
Okay, now that I’ve got the description of this movie out of the way, in the next part, I’ll really chew into it with my aromantic teeth.