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.

An Aromantic American Saw the Movie ‘Husband Factor’ (Part 1)

The poster shows a woman with glasses holding a coffee cup with the steam rising from it forming a heartshape, as said woman is bound together at the hips to a tall, handsome man behind her by a giant diamond engagement ring.  In the background there are eight people standing in various poses, mostly women.

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

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.

The Nightclub

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

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

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.

Pre-nup Crisis

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.

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.

The End.

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.