The XX Factor

Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann’s Shameless Flirting Is Hollywood Under the Female Gaze



Unless you’re Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron doll, movie promo interviews can be monotonous, overscheduled affairs with few opportunities for unscripted merriment. All the more reason, then, to praise Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann for turning their How to Be Single press tour into a piece of performance art by disarming a Miami TV reporter with a barrage of flattery about his attire and alleged good looks.

The giggling pair starts out by giving Chris Van Vliet a compliment on his socks, a bold statement pair covered in fish silhouettes. They ask after his relationship status, applaud his workout regimen, and finally convince him to unbutton part of his shirt. It’s brazen, though not particularly sexy, and just uncomfortable enough to be a gender-politics power grab.

Of course, the indignant men of YouTube are already riled up about the interview’s implications. “Yeah no this is perfectly fine right? Funny, cute, awesome?” the top comment reads. “Except only if it were two male actors hitting on a female reporter, then it’d be labelled ‘degrading, low, unprofessional, creepy’ etc. If its okay for women to do this it should be okay for men to do it too.”

I disagree: Johnson and Mann’s shameless flirting is degrading, and definitely creepy. That’s what makes it great. (It’s worth noting that Van Vliet appears game throughout their shtick and has been joking about it on Twitter for the past few days.) Men have so often objectified women reporters and interview subjects, minimizing their professional accomplishments by making statements about their looks, that it’s wonderfully unsettling to see a little evening of the score with a glimpse of the world through the female gaze. The patriarchy doesn’t have to crumble under male tears—sometimes, a little chest hair will do.