Brow Beat

Husbands Are a Liability, According to Movies in 2018

A man and woman lay in bed together while the man talks on the phone.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce
Graeme Hunter/Sony Pictures Classics

Nearly every one of my favorite movies released in 2017 left me with one clear message: Call your mom. It was a directive, an imperative: Call your mom because you were a bratty, precious teenager. Call your mom because you’re having relationship problems. Call your mom because Armie Hammer didn’t eat the peach. (Or call her because you’ve just said good-bye to all six feet and five inches of him, and your heart is broken and you’re crying at the train station and you need someone to pick you up.) Call your mom because holy shit, why would Darren Aronofsky expect you to enjoy a movie about rude houseguests eating babies?

The movies of 2018 have also given me, personally, a lot: Lady Gaga punching a cop in A Star Is Born. Michael B. Jordan sneering “Hey, Auntie” in Black Panther. Nicholas Hoult saying that he likes to gossip in The Favourite. Bradley Cooper’s long hair and beard, and his deep Jackson Maine voice. Even Vice—a movie that I didn’t enjoy—gave me something. (A nap.) Twenty eighteen has also taught me a valuable lesson that I hope to never forget: Husbands are, at every opportunity and in every way, the freaking worst.

Would you like to have your scheme to take over a foreign throne that you have a legitimate claim to thwarted? Good. Marry a man, he will fuck it up. Are you in the mood to finally recognize the humble humanity in your family’s domestic worker? Perfect. Marry a man, he will leave you for another woman, destroy your family, and break your heart. (By my count there is only one truly suitable husband and that’s Armie Hammer as Martin Ginsburg, but alas, in real life, Armie already has a perfect wife.)

It’s clearest in The Wife: Glenn Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of acclaimed novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). When he’s awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, they fly, along with their son, to Europe so he can accept it. Joan isn’t exactly long-suffering, but she is deeply attuned to his every need or desire: She folds his clothes, strewn all over their hotel room, wordlessly. She listens in on all his calls like a dutiful assistant. She wipes crumbs from his beard. She also ignores his many affairs, and has been ghostwriting all of his novels. (He can’t even recognize the name of a major character from his most famous books!) At the hotel room after the ceremony, Joan erupts: He’s getting all the credit for her work, and he has the audacity to feel bitter about her indignation, and smug about his own reviews.

Ditto Colette, where Keira Knightley writes a series of books about a ravishing character under her husband’s name. At first Willy (Dominic West) was the writer and the star, but once Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley) puts pen to paper, her work is clearly superior. Willy locks her in bedrooms and offices, making her write more and more. He doesn’t even get the work, but he demands it.

What do Collette and The Wife have in common? Husbands, and a few truly bizarre accents, but mostly husbands. If they are not cheating on you, they will plagiarize your work and use your personal life to buy another armoire that no one needs. They are, by all accounts, a liability.

Everything is going well for Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and Ally Campana (Lady Gaga) until they decide to get married. From the first night they met at a drag bar, he helps her find her voice and encouraged her songwriting. After they’re married by Eddie Griffin, however, things start to go south: He gets fussy about her pop music, and then pees himself onstage as she accepts a Grammy. Enough!

As Saoirse Ronan is planning her way to take over England’s throne in Mary Queen of Scots, she makes a critical misstep that is totally avoidable. It’s really a shame—she’s a fair employer and formidable leader, and it really seems like she’d make a great ruler. Early on, however, she falls for a cute boy from Dunkirk and agrees to marry him. I’m not good at percentages, but I will say that approximately all of the movie’s next 90 minutes show her trying to recover from this mistake. Her husband sleeps with her gay best friend and then tries to usurp her. Meanwhile Margot Robbie, playing Queen Elizabeth, is basically doing papier-mâché and scrolling through Into the Gloss, trying to figure out how to heal her face, pinpricked from smallpox.

Elizabeth remained unmarried, and she also remained queen. Mary got married and was beheaded. Interesting.

All the husbands are dead in Steve McQueen’s heist movie Widows, and even from beyond the grave, they are causing problems. Alice, Veronica, and Linda are mourning their husbands’ deaths, when a local gangster turned politician demands that the women repay the money their outlaw spouses stole from him. So the women get in cahoots and repay their husbands’ debts. There’s another absent husband in Roma, where the family’s doctor husband leaves them for another woman and can’t even bring himself to be in the same room with the family he has abandoned. Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t doing Carey Mulligan any favors in Wildlife, either: He runs off to chase fires, leaving her to figure out how to build a life for herself and their teenage son. In Green Book, Linda Cardellini’s husband Viggo Mortensen leaves home for weeks at a time to drive Mahershala Ali around the South and lecture him about Little Richard and fried chicken. Okay, fine—this one doesn’t exactly fit the thesis, but if that movie didn’t need a wife then Linda Cardellini wouldn’t have had the misfortune of being in Green Book, so what do you have to say to that?

It’s not that all men are bad. (Although, honestly, I mean yes—they are kind of the worst.) Dads, especially the sensitive ones wearing soft, muted colors, are perfectly pleasing: In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, John Corbett plays a compassionate single dad content to sit on a staircase drinking a glass of white wine and praising his daughter for being brave enough to open her heart to a wholesome, khaki-wearing lacrosse player. Josh Hamilton gives a similarly empathetic performance in Eighth Grade: He doesn’t really get the social strata of his daughter’s middle school, but he tries to convince her that she’s the very best person he knows, and that he’s incredibly proud of her. There is no father more supportive than Colman Domingo in If Beale Street Could Talk: He holds his daughter in his arms through her middle-of-the-night cramps when she’s pregnant, and enlists the whole family to hustle to free her falsely accused boyfriend from prison. Also, all three of these dads are attractive-to-hot, which certainly helps their case.

I am sure there are certain advantages to being married: Someone is always around to laugh at your jokes, or turn off the bedroom light when you fall asleep reading or rewatching old episodes of Veep. If you’re married, there’s always someone else around to empty the trash. If you’re married, maybe you will have kids, and one day in the future your child will watch Lady Bird and get in their feelings and call you to apologize for being so desperate and anxious when they were 17, but you will frown and say that you weren’t nearly as mean as the Laurie Metcalf character. (I have, over the course of the last year, spoken to nearly every one of my friends’ mothers about Lady Bird, and have also spoken to my own mother at length about Lady Bird, and this is the only thing all of them have said to me.) These are really the only advantages I can think of when it comes to having a husband. The cinematic evidence seems overwhelmingly in favor of never marrying.

See also: Pop Music Was 2018’s Greatest Movie Villain