An Aromantic American Saw the Movie “The Husband Factor” (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

Here it must be said that I know little of Turkish culture or media. However, if stories of 30+ year old unmarried women who discover that they can have a fulfilling life with a husband/boyfriend are really common in Turkish culture/media, and that this movie is the exception in that a woman starts out claiming to be happy as an unmarried woman, only to find that she is not … well, if that’s the case, then I will learn Turkish.

In the movie, Efsun has to choose between being a ‘marriage freak’ like her female relatives (and Turkish women in general), which will lead to marrying a man, and being her genuine self … which will also lead to marrying a man.

Okay, that’s a bit unfair. In some cultures, the difference between getting married for social/economic benefits and doing it by making oneself fit into a certain mold, and getting married for romance by being one’s quirky self, would be mindblowing. Maybe this is a significant difference in Turkish culture. However, I am pretty sure it’s not a mind-blowing difference in Turkey, simply because even the characters in the movie who are getting married for social/economic reasons at least pretend to also be interested in romantic love.

If you take the marriage thing for granted (for example, if Efsun’s goal all along was to get married), then there is a sensible message that being one’s genuine self is a more effective way to persuade someone to marry you than being manipulative and copying everyone else.

The movie itself admits that the ending is pretty awkward – in the last scene, Sinan says that he dumped Efsun because she’s obsessed with marriage, and then Efsun pours out her heart, and then they kiss, and the last line of the movie is Efsun saying to Sinan “So, we’re getting married, right?” (I don’t remember the exact words, which were translated from Turkish anyway). I suspect that the movie does not stop with a wedding is that it would have been strange for Sinan to go straight into marriage when the whole reason that he dumped Efsun was that she was acting like a ‘marriage freak’. (Okay, I get it, Sinan wants to get romantic with the girl he fell in love with in high school, not the woman that Efsun’s family wants her to be, and that once he’s reassured that Efsun really is the same person he fell in love with, he’s cool with marrying her. It’s still an awkward ending).

I think it would have been really cool if the ending had been that Sinan and Efsun agree to have a romantic relationship without getting married. And technically, that’s not incompatible with the movie’s actual ending … but I think audiences are supposed to assume that Sinan and Efsun do get married, not that they don’t.

But Why Was Happy Single Womanhood Brought into This Movie at All?

Okay, so if Efsun had been in love with Sinan for all of these years, and she had been looking for him in every boy she dated (she says so in her confession) … then why did the movie start with depicting her as a confident and happily unmarried woman? The movie starts out as happy single woman vs. family who is uncomfortable with her lack of a husband … and then morphs into getting man by being stereotypical Turkish woman vs. getting man by being yourself.

I think the movie would have been better if we had been clued in right at the beginning that Efsun was still in love with Sinan, and that her attachment to him was why she was unmarried at the age of 30. It would have made the scene where she vomits on him much funnier. It would be even better if we actually learn something about Sinan beyond the fact that he is handsome and apparently nice. When I watch/read romances, I like the characters involved in the romance to have personalities (to be fair, the fact that Sinan broke into their old high school does show a bit of personality – but in my opinion, not enough to make him more than a cipher).

Of course, I would love this movie even more if it were the movie about the happily unmarried 30-some-year old woman who has to confront her marriage-obsessed family. I’m getting closer and closer to becoming a 30-year-old unmarried woman myself, and I expect that I will be happy to be unmarried and without any romantic relationships at that time, so I would definitely enjoy more stories about such women. I would totally root for Efsun devastating her family with the awesomeness of being a happy unmarried 30-something-year-old woman. I would also root for her if she were (temporarily) pushed by her family into becoming a marriage freak, and her family set her up with the gay banker, only for it to be revealed that the banker is gay, and that Efsun doesn’t need to marry at all (even though the gay banker only appears in two scenes in the entire movie, he has more personality than Sinan).

I think, however, that the reason the movie pulls this bait and switch with the woman is is 30, unmarried, and fine with that, into the movie who is desparate to get married/get romance, is because the movie wants to ridicule the notion of being a 30-year-old woman who is fine with being unmarried. Maybe the people who make the movie thinks the audience will enjoy watching the 30-year-old woman who is fine with being unmarried turn out to be desperate for marriage after all, or maybe they are themselves uncomfortable with the concept of a 30-year-old woman who is not interested in marriage, so they want to tear down the concept. Whatever the reason, it makes the story less effective than it would have been otherwise, and it’s also not okay.

If this movie was the exception in a sea of movies about 30-year-old women who find that they are happy without marriage/without romance, I wouldn’t complain. But it’s not. It supports all of the people who hassle unmarried 30-year-old women simply because they are unmarried. On top of that, it pushes a woman who at first makes snappy comments about not wanting romance into romance. In other words, it support amantonormativity and the norm of women getting married.

***

You might think, because of all of this criticism, that I do not like this movie. On the contrary, I found it very entertaining. Some parts of the movie are truly hilarious. The acting is what really makes this movie work – the quality of the acting certainly helps compensate for many of the problems with the script. Ironically, it’s also the quality of this movie which inspired me to critique it. If it were a crappy movie, I would ignore it. However, it’s vivid enough that I wanted to go deeper into the messages that it sends. And then rip them to shreds.

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