The XX Factor

The Newfangled Rom Com Cliche: Body Dysmorphia

The trailer for the forthcoming Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis romantic comedy Friends with Benefits hit the Internet today, and the way it’s being marketed, it looks nearly identical to the Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman hit No Strings Attached , which came out in January. Both movies are about fabulously good-looking friends who decide to have sexual relationships sans emotional attachment. Both movies star super foxy petite Jewish ladies. Both movies have a cast of kooky sidekicks who may be even more appealing than the main characters (Greta Gerwig and Kevin Kline in NSA , Woody Harrelson and Andy Samberg in FWB ).

While both movies purport to be paving new romantic ground (sex! no emotions! how modern!), I noticed that they rely on one of the oldest clichés in the book: Female body insecurity. Here’s part of the conversation between Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, in which they’re deciding to hop in bed, sans icky feelings. Timberlake suggests they have sex on the couch.

Mila says:”The bedroom has better light, and because we’re just friends I don’t have to be insecure about my body.”

Justin replies: “Come on, you’re beautiful, you have nothing to be…”

Mila: “That sounds emotionally supportive, lock that down.”

Justin: “Your ass is a little bony.”

Mila: “Much better!”

In No Strings Attached , as part of the ground rules for their sex without love deal, Ashton Kutcher’s character says to Portman, “Don’t ask me what I think about your body,” as if that is one of the hallmarks of girlfriendly behavior. Do I even need to say how absurd it is to pretend that Portman and Kunis don’t have remarkable figures, as we all saw in Black Swan ? Which is not to say that body insecurity doesn’t affect even the most stereotypically attractive ladies, but that both movies see the expression of self-loathing as a big part of romantic connection is pretty foul.

Friends with Benefits Trailer :

No Strings Attached Trailer :