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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

A Million Ways to Die in the West movie review: “nice guys” need to shut up

A Million Ways to Die in the West red light

Director, producer, writer, and star Seth MacFarlane laments the epic romantic tragedy of Seth MacFarlane, who deserves a beautiful girlfriend because he’s “nice.”
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the “funny” bits in the trailer were not funny

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If timing in comedy is everything, then Seth MacFarlane’s timing with A Million Ways to Die in the West is really off the rails.

I’m not talking about the comic timing of the alleged jokes in this overlong, underfunny, and shamelessly self-indulgent flick. No amount of tinkering with timing could repair the cesspool collection of done-to-death comedy clichés that range from “might have been funny the first time they were deployed in cinema, in 1912” to “might be hilarious to those not quite finished with potty training” to “oh my god, dude, not funny ever.” For this is two full hours of “deadly” farts, explosive defecation, ridiculing of “ugly” women based on nothing but their physical appearance, ridiculing of men who are in love with sex workers, ridiculing of men who are emasculated by women who are more skilled in manly talents, “retarded” sheep, offhand racism, suggestions of oral rape, allusions to sheep rape, allusions to child rape… Need I go on?

This all plays out against a late-19th-century Western backdrop about as authentic as a painted backdrop the Roadrunner would prop up against a boulder to fool Wile E. Coyote. But authenticity was never going to be the point of this flick.

The point — which is connected to the lousy timing — is entirely about director, producer, writer, and star Seth MacFarlane (Movie 43, Ted) lamenting the epic romantic tragedy of Seth MacFarlane. His “character,” Albert, whines about the “general depressing awfulness of the West,” but his ongoing litany of all the many ways the West wants to kill you is but a barely disguised dirge about how the women he wants are always with bad boys when they should be with him. Because he’s such a great guy and why can’t they see that? He deserves the most beautiful, most desirable women. Sure, he may be clumsy, untalented, a self-declared nerd, and nothing more than a sheep farmer; he admits he’s not even a good sheep farmer. But he’s nice!

Does this sound creepily familiar?

The course of this epic will take Albert on a quest to win back the woman he loves, Louise (Amanda Seyfried: Epic, Les Misérables), from the colossal jerk, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris: The Smurfs 2, American Reunion), she left him for. (Foy’s major crime — apart from sleeping with the woman who rightfully belongs to Albert, no matter her wishes in the matter — would appear to be that he is a successful businessman. That’s it.) Then Albert transfers his affections to Anna (Charlize Theron: Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman), except she’s married to the biggest bad boy in the territory, gunslinger Clinch (Liam Neeson: The Lego Movie, Non-Stop), and isn’t that just like the world, all the best women with all the worst guys, and not with the worthy Albert?

It’s a foregone conclusion from the moment they meet that of course Albert, who “always smells like sheep,” will end up with Charlize Theron, generally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women in the world. (Shut up. I’m spoiling nothing. You also already know that her character, in addition to being physically gorgeous, is smarter, wiser, much more confident, and all around infinitely more awesome than Albert; that she is, in a phrase, out of his league.) He deserves her, you see. Because that’s what these movies are about, no matter what they pretend to be about. They’re about validating the romantic fantasies of nerdboy filmmakers who, now that they have power and money, can hire the most beautiful women in the world to pretend to fall in love with them. (Theron also brings impeccable comic timing, even with the sometimes literally shitty jokes, and generally makes the unpleasant, ungenerous, screen-hogging MacFarlane look far better than he deserves to. And he still doesn’t look that great.) That these movies accidentally also end up validating the romantic fantasies of ordinary guys watching by reassuring them that yes, supermodels love ordinary schlubs? Mere side effect.

And yet, that’s what happens at Teh Movies. Over and over and over and over and over and over again. And here it is again. It’s also no spoiler to guess which segment of the vast potential audience will find this simply amazing.

Not that there was any saving this movie. Even in a glorious parallel universe where women filmmakers bore moviegoers with their romantic fantasies in the same proportion that men do, this is still a deeply terrible film peopled by actors with little chemistry looking uncomfortable as they engage in random grossouts.

But A Million Ways to Die in the West has the bad luck of being released at just the right wrong moment in our dimension to underscore how banal and yet also insidious this immeasurably wearisome trope has become.

I want to be perfectly clear here, because I refuse to let myself be misunderstood. It is not MacFarlane’s fault that we’re watching this tedious and oft-told tale less than a week after a young man went on a killing spree prompted by the fact his reality did not match an unattainable fantasy that Hollywood had sold him as eminently reasonable and attainable. I want to be perfectly clear that I am not blaming MacFarlane for anything other than being a whinging entitled self-centered jerk who is forcing us to sit through his romantic fantasy just like uncountable other insecure male filmmakers have been doing for the past century. I’m blaming MacFarlane only for being so unoriginal as to give us a movie that’s the same as a million other movies we’ve seen, and for not even bothering to be pretend that it’s anything other than his own personal wank material.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
US/Can release: May 30 2014
UK/Ire release: May 30 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated NGW (contains Nice Guy Whining)
MPAA: rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references, comic violence)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Jurgan

    “But- but Mel Brooks did it in Blazing Saddles, and I bet you like that!” Pre-empting this obvious comparison by pointing out that the problem isn’t the level of vulgarity, but the context and whether it has a point to make.

    ” a self-declared nerd”

    Wow, talk about anachronistic.

  • *Blazing Saddles* has other stuff going on, like satirizing racism in American. This movie has no larger concerns than whether Seth MacFarlane is getting laid to the degree that he feels he should be.

  • from all the trailers I’ve seen, the only good gag has been the shout-out to Back To the Future.

  • I’m with MaryAnn on this: Blazing Saddles deconstructed the whole Hollywood Western mythos, as well as blow up every racial and cultural norm… and had little to do with stroking Mel Brooks’ own ego (that, unfortunately, came later in Mel’s filmography… sigh).

    This movie all looks like McFarland trying to show himself off as clever and witty. Painful echoes of that horrendous Oscars night he hosted.

  • Tyler Foster

    Which, in the grand “Family Guy” tradition, is not really a gag at all, just “oh yeah he’s referencing a thing that I enjoy!”

  • Bingo.

  • Jurgan

    To be clear, I’m with Maryann as well, just predicting an obvious response.

  • RogerBW

    I think of this as Lily of the West syndrome: as the narrator goes out and kills the Rascal who Took His Faithless Girl, there’s not a thing to suggest that the girl was ever interested in him at all. It’s just assumed.

    It depresses me tremendously that it’s still necessary to point out that Women Are People Too.

  • Allen W

    If Seth Macfarlane isn’t getting laid as much as he wants, then what chance do the rest of us guys have?
    It seems more likely to me that he’s not getting laid by *whom* he wants. And even more likely that he’s okay with his current getting-laid status, but that his work is informed by his life experiences from before becoming rich and famous.
    Too bad if the resulting movie isn’t good, though.

  • Anthony

    “If Seth Macfarlane isn’t getting laid as much as he wants, then what chance do the rest of us guys have?”

    That’s… basically another version of the Nice Guy argument, which is further proof of how insidious this movie’s message is.

  • Allen W

    I’m not saying Seth Macfarlane is a nice guy and/or deserves to get laid; I’m saying he’s a rich, powerful male writer/producer/director in Hollywood, and I would expect such people to be able to get laid on a regular basis if they want to.
    If he does *not* in fact get laid a lot, it may indicate that he has standards and/or is actually a decent person, both of which would get him points in my book.
    And yes, I do think that decent people “deserve” more sex (and more love) than assholes do. I also think that hurting and killing people (because you’re frustrated that that’s not how life works) is a pretty good sign that you’ve become an asshole.
    Disclaimer: I used to watch and enjoy Family Guy before its first cancellation, but otherwise haven’t seen much of Macfarlane’s work.

  • Anthony

    It’s because the “if someone I consider superior in some way can’t, I can’t either” often conveys the unspoken “if someone I consider inferior in some way can, then I can too.” Comparisons of “worth” by some self-perceived metric (what makes one “decent” and another “an asshole”?) lead to that very same frustration and resentment, especially when related to a “reward” (e.g. sex) that is actually realized by two people, not by the merits of one.

  • Beowulf

    I’m prepared to see this to judge its judging by MaryAnn and others. What may prevent me from executing this desire is the film’s length. With few exceptions, no comedy should be longer than 90 minutes.

  • Damian Barajas

    “If Seth Macfarlane isn’t getting laid as much as he wants, then what chance do the rest of us guys have?”

    Think about this, he’s rich and successful, therefore he MUST, I repeat, MUST be getting laid.

    That’s the fantasy isn’t it?
    Seth Macfarlane isn’t playing a random nice guy in the movie, he’s just himself, he’s playing his Hollywood self.
    that nice guys tend to not get the girl in part because they tend to
    fetishize their niceness, the very idea that being rich and famous gets
    you the girl isn’t even questioned, but it should.

    Because, and I suspect you know, it certainly doesn’t get you THE girl, it could only get you as close to another person as his/her interest in money and or fame will allow.
    (Which is why you probably said this:
    “If he does *not* in fact get laid a lot, it may indicate that he has standards and/or is actually a decent person”)

    It makes sense, if Seth plays Hollywood Seth onscreen (Instead of “Average nice guy”), then that should be enough to understand why any girl should want him, or aspire to be with him, or end up with him anyway. Doesn’t this then say something about the woman/fantasy object of his affection?

    It would make Seth not a stand in for anybody, but a stand in for the fantasy of “nice guys” who want to perpetuate their “nice guy” fantasy.

  • Matt Clayton

    What’s worse is how flaccid the movie is in terms of laughs. Funniest thing was the tongue-in-cheek title song, far funnier than the actual movie. And counterproductive for Charlize to play this ass-kicking gunslinger, and then just become the damsel-in-distress just because Seth’s character “deserves her.” Then that unfunny joke “It never was going to work out. He’s Methodist, I’m half-Jewish.”

    And sudden cameos do not make the film funnier, even though I appreciate the Jamie Foxx one at the end. (Of course, they run that into the ground with the hideously unfunny post-credit scene.)

  • paginator

    Guy actually wrote a book about this a year or so ago.


  • Many people have been talking about Nice Guys, pickup artists, and other pathetic excuses for manliness for many years.

  • amanohyo

    I know MA hates Dumb and Dumber, but part of the genius (yeah that’s right, I said genius) of that movie is that neither of the “lovable,” moronic nice guys ends up with the out of their league woman.
    Asuming the trailer is an accurate representation of the highlights (which isn’t always the case), the problems would appear to be:

    1) McFarlane and Sulkin are lazy writers with short attention spans.
    2) McFarlane is a horrible actor surrounded by very good costars.
    3) McFarlane’s knowledge of 1) and 2) makes him insecure
    4) Most bafflingly, McFarlane doesn’t understand why Ted was a success.

    He’s a skilled voice actor. Given some decent material, he can be funny. It’s just a shame that for the most part, he and his team are incapable of producing that material. The whiny nice guy syndrome is one of the symptoms of the larger problems that he shares with large portions of his audience: namely lazy thinking and a general lack of empathy.

  • Allen W

    So “Nice Guys” are as much “pathetic excuses for manliness” as pickup artists are? It’s hard not to take offense at that, but as a Nice Guy, I’m willing to listen to an explanation.

  • Bluejay

    You may indeed be a nice person. But if you’re labeling yourself a Nice Guy with capital letters, you’re (inadvertently?) referring to the construct that, as Wikipedia has it, “implies a male who is unassertive, does not express his true feelings and uses acts of ostensible friendship with the unstated aim of progressing to a romantic or sexual relationship. The term is often used in the context of dating and romantic or sexual relationships with women.”

    In other words, it’s a strategy to get laid, as much as being a pickup artist is. Nice Guys, with capital letters, still see women as prizes rather than people, and see themselves as entitled to those prizes by virtue of their “niceness.”

    You don’t have to be a Nice Guy. Just be genuine and honest. Treat women as people. Be a real friend, not a “friend” who just really wants sex. If you’re interested in someone romantically or sexually, be upfront about your interest. And always be aware that anyone who has sex with you does so because they want to and choose to, not because you’re entitled to it or “deserve” it or are “worthy” of it.

    If you already believe all that, then you’re not a Nice Guy. You’re just a nice guy. :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, here’s the short version: the difference between a PUA and a Nice Guy is the difference between aggressive misogyny and passive-aggressive misogyny.

    So, do you spend your time complaining that women only “date jerks”, and insisting that “the friendzone” is a real thing, and trying to determine exactly how many hours you have to spend “listening to a girl complain about her boyfriend” before she’s obligated to have sex with you?

    If so, then yes, you are a Nice Guy. And yes, you are a pathetic excuse for manliness.

    If not, well, then you’re just not quite down with the lingo here. And are a bit defensive, even for a random internet commenter.

  • Martin

    Dammit, looks like Ted was a fluke.

    There goes my already dwindled expectations for Ted 2, a completely unnecessary sequel.

  • Allen W

    Well, I’m not a completely-random commenter; I’ve been reading off and on for many months, and I’m a subscriber. I haven’t happened across this particular “Nice Guy” concept before, though.

    I’m also a happily-married father in my late 40’s, so my days of complaining that women only “date jerks” are well behind me; and I don’t think “the friendzone” was a term back when I would have been using it. I do think it’s real, however (though I mostly hear about it in the context of often-female internet commenters discussing Jorah and Daenerys on Game of Thrones).
    While I did wait 20 years after meeting my wife before we started dating, it definitely wasn’t because she was complaining about her boyfriend, so I can’t help you there.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, welcome to the flickfilosopher comments. Also, in re: Nice Guys – welcome to the internet.

    No, the friendzone is not a real thing. Because insisting that it does is very, very strongly implying that women exist primarily as potential sexual partners. A boy (it’s always boys, regardless of calendar age) complaining that he’s been placed in the friendzone is actually signaling that he believes that women do not have the right to choose who they want to have sex with, and under what circumstances. (Incidentally, Jorah Mormont is not in the friendzone; he’s a trusted advisor and father-figure to Danaerys, and his unrequited love is, frankly, more than a little creepy.)

    No one presumed anything, Allen. We simply responded to your statement. Bluejay and I both gave you the option to not be a Nice Guy.

  • Allen W

    Jorah’s thing for Daenerys is doomed and inappropriate on many levels, including the ones you mentioned. Nonetheless, many commenters (of both genders) summarize him as being “friendzoned,” so at least the concept’s use (if not the complaining about it) doesn’t seem to be restricted to boys.
    I disagree with the rest of your analysis, but this probably isn’t the place for further discussion.

  • Oracle Mun

    I think I’ll give this a miss in favor of some Brisco County, Jr.

  • Matt Clayton

    Also, it annoys me that if Charlize is this kick-ass gunslinger, then why she didn’t rid herself of her husband in the first place? Would’ve saved us the trouble of seeing Seth McFarlane’s acting.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The term is a thing that is in the vernacular, so it can be a convenient shorthand and internetism. That doing so perpetuates the idea isn’t helpful but is another matter entirely.

    There’s also the act of taking something negative and appropriating it to make a statement in irony. That too is a thing that happens.

    And y’know, a lot of people believe a lot of things that are stupid and wrong and contrary to their own self-interest. That doesn’t make those thing suddenly right.

  • Being a nice guy (or even, I suspect, a Nice Guy) is not actually a winning strategy if your main goal is to get laid, so it annoys me if that’s presumed to be my (or anyone’s) motivation.

    We don’t have to presume. The Net is full of guys who *tell us* this is their motivation.

    If you haven’t heard of Nice Guys before, lucky you. Almost any woman who has interactions with men knows the type.

  • OMG what a great idea. It’s still the coming thing!

  • Oracle Mun

    “Existential thought don’t carry much water out here in the territories.”

    The minute I heard that line, I knew I’d found a show I could love. Though Bruce Campbell was a powerful initial argument.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Kelly Rutherford was a very powerful follow-up argument.

  • Bluejay

    I haven’t really followed Seth MacFarlane’s shows and films, and it’s disappointing to see that his work isn’t always of the same caliber as Cosmos. But I had to laugh at the animated segment of the most recent Cosmos episode, which depicted a 19th century fair with all sorts of inventors’ and merchants’ booths — including one in the foreground with the prominent sign “MacFarlane’s Refined Lard.”

  • Beowulf

    On second thought, I’ll save my money.

  • David

    Two things about Nice Guy Syndrome:

    First, I think most men have experienced the frustration of unrequited romantic feelings. Most men have also had the experience of being rejected in favor of someone they feel is lesser. Who hasn’t thought at least once, “If you’re going to reject me, why did it have to be for that flaming douche-nozzle?” Finally, it’s natural to feel envy from time to time towards people who seem to be more successful. That’s what Socialism is based on; “Why do rich tycoons get everything they want while decent hard working people like me have to suffer.”

    For me, it doesn’t really become contemptible until it crosses the line from natural frustration into enmity directed at women and others. A lot of these guys start to resent women and they get trapped in a victim mentality where they blame the world (I am truly convinced that the “Victim’s Mentality” is the greatest single source of evil in the world.) Also, they become passive aggressive towards others.

    Secondly, I tend to be more forgiving towards this attitude depending on age. It’s more understandable to see this mentality in someone who is 19 or 20, especially if they have been the victim of bullying or other abuse, than in someone who is 29 or 30. It’s downright inexcusable in someone over 40. Case in point, Jason Bateman’s passive aggressive dick in The Switch (although I forgive the actor because he did Arrested Development Season 4).

    (This is written from a male’s perspective and is NOT intended to preclude the experiences or opinions of females)

  • Bluejay

    This is the second time you’ve bashed socialism, in threads about movies that have nothing to do with socialism. Is there something you want to get off your chest? :-)

  • David

    On Cracked.com, David Wong wrote this really brilliant article on misogyny, http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-hate-women.html.

    One thing he points out is that from the age of 11 or 12 males are told that one day we will get a hot girlfriend/wife and all we have to do is be nice, compassionate, and in love. In so many movies, all the dorky, dweeby, nerdy, unpopular guy has to do to win over the object of his affections is to tell her how beautiful and amazing she is. Sometimes the movie will throw in a curveball by having him get initially rejected by the hot, blonde, snobby girl until he notices the geeky, brunette girl who is also hot. At the end of the day, however, he will get a hot girlfriend. It can be rather shocking to learn that in real life women also tend to desire men who are charming, confident, and interesting. Also, surprisingly, there are no shortage of men willing to tell women that they are beautiful and amazing.

    I would also like to point out that women tend to find men who project confidence very attractive. Some of these guys who are really shy were victims of bullying or abuse when they were younger and it can be hard to display confidence when you were forced to keep your head down as an adolescent.

  • David

    As this site’s resident right wing conservative commenter I frequently find myself in the opposition to the author’s opinion on certain issues; however, reviews like this are the reason I keep coming back. I seriously doubt that any other reviewer who tackles this film will approach it from this angle. I felt the same way about the Horton Hears a Who review. Not a single other reviewer pointed out the inherent sexism of sidelining the female character who has a strong motivation in favor of the male character who had a weak motivation. While I often disagree with the author I do respect her unique voice.

    Also, I am one of the few people who have actually read Rodger Elliot’s 142 page Manifesto/autobiography. It is fascinating in the same way that I found Mein Kampf fascinating. It really is like tumbling down a hole of madness. This guy was a paranoid, megalomaniac who had a stunning lack of self awareness. He would talk about how much he wanted to torture women for not accepting him and in the same paragraph refer to himself as a “magnificent gentleman”. He was also likely borderline schizophrenic; his psychiatrist prescribed Risperidone, an anti-psycotic, which he refused to take. Him and that guy who shot up the Yoga class in Philadelphia a few years ago stand as extreme examples of NGS. Most of them are content to just post nasty comments on various websites.

    (Sorry for the three posts, but I had a lot to say)

  • David

    I just like to tweak lefties.

  • Well, stop it. Stay on topic.

  • I think most men have experienced the frustration of unrequited romantic feelings. Most men have also had the experience of being rejected in favor of someone they feel is lesser.

    Women experience the same things. And this is not what Nice Guy-ism is about.

  • We know why Nice Guys feel entitled to whatever hot girls they want. I’ve been complaining about this shit in movies for years.

    This site you are at right now? It is Advanced Smash the Patriarchy. We don’t need basic lessons.

  • Danielm80

    That’s certainly true, but Wong’s article is excellent, and drive-by readers who aren’t actively trying to Smash the Patriarchy might be interested in learning the basics, so they understand what some of us are getting worked-up about.

  • David


  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As this site’s resident right wing conservative commenter

    Dude. Don’t. Do do this. In another comment you’re going to decry “victim’s mentality” as “the greatest single source of evil in the world”. Well, this right here is a victim’s mentality: trying to set yourself up as some sort of lone voice in the wilderness. (It’s also something of a hyperbole. I’ll grant that a lot of bad behavior can be traced back to it, but, single greatest source of evil?)

    Look, if you want to be a conservative, knock yourself out. If you want to come comment on sites that you view as leftist (as viewed from your particular position on a particular socio-political axis), feel free. But, please, do try to avoid the cheap rhetorical tricks when making what you think is a serious point.

  • David

    I was trying to further the conversation by offering the perspective of a
    male who is the intended recipient of this kind of fantasy. You write
    from a feminist perspective which is one of the reasons why I like this
    site, but I feel like because you feel like this attitude is an attack
    on women in general that you may have difficulty sympathizing with these
    boys. I see Nice Guy Syndrome as a self-destructive phase that a lot of
    boys go through and hopefully grow out of. I can sympathize with a 20
    year-old while still acknowledging that he is wrong. I have no sympathy
    for someone in their 40s who are still engaging in passive aggressive

    Let me put it this way: if some 19-year old boy who has had the experience of a girl he liked dating another boy who bullies him reads this; I would like him to think, “oh, so that’s why I shouldn’t have that mentality,” rather than, “oh, here’s another woman who hates me.”

    I was hoping that my perspective could help reinforce that.

  • David

    “Well, this right here is a victim’s mentality: trying to set yourself up as some sort of lone voice in the wilderness.”

    Uh, no, actually I made that comment to make three points:

    One) I’m a resident commenter, which means that I read most of what’s on this site and comment on it rather than just the occasional view.

    Two) I have a sense of humor about the ways in which I can be labeled and the ways people tend to label others.

    Three) That my political views influence how I comment in the same way that the author’s influence what she writes.

  • David

    “I’ll grant that a lot of bad behavior can be traced back to it, but, single greatest source of evil?”

    Name me a current evil today that isn’t motivated by the Victim Mentality and I’ll name you a greater one that is.

  • I was trying to further the conversation by offering the perspective of amale who is the intended recipient of this kind of fantasy.

    But the thing is, the perspective of the intended audience of this fantasy is already way overrepresented in our culture. It is not a mystery to anyone. There’s no need to explain it.

    you may have difficulty sympathizing with these boys.

    Yes, I have difficulty sympathizing with these boys. Because they seem utterly incapable of sympathizing with anyone else… including, most pertinently, the girls who experience *the exact same things.*

    If you think there’s something precious and special and mysterious about how these boys think (and what you’re describing isn’t really Nice Guy-ism, just normal reactions to being rejected), then I have to wonder whether you really know that girls and women have similar experiences.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    1) dude, your Disqus history goes back just a few months (I checked because I was wondering when you became the “resident right wing conservative”.) There are regulars who’ve been commenting here for years. I’m not saying you’re lying (“David” is an unremarkable handle, so perhaps your history is blending with other conservative commenters) but I’m just not convinced of the degree of your residency.

    2) Humor in internet comment sections is tricky. If you’re not going to go with broad and overt, you have to work pretty hard to build context for subtle.

    3) First, I think the content of your posts more than adequately lays out your biases. Second, there are ways of explicitly announcing your biases that don’t involve also setting yourself up as a solitary underdog, a “victim”, if you will. And as I said, that tactic (even in jest) is starkly at odds with your views on “Victim’s Mentality”.

  • I think that’s enough of this tangent. It’s straying a bit too far off topic.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Let’s not. That will very quickly devolve into a debate as to which “evil” is worse than which, and to what extent any given “source” can or should be applied. Suffice to say, I find your claim valid but somewhat exaggerated.

  • David

    Just to clarify, at what point do you feel that this attitude crosses the line from acceptable frustration to something more contemptible?

    Also, what would you say is the female equivalent to Nice Guy Syndrome or Nice Guys?

  • David

    One) Dude, I’ve been reading this site since I was in high school 10 years ago.
    Two) Okay
    Three) I wasn’t setting myself up as a victim, because I am not a victim.

    Now, I think we have spent more than enough time and energy analyzing one sentence out of a two paragraph posting. Time to move on.

  • David

    They should do a movie of Brisco County Jr. and Shia Labeouff should play his son.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    There isn’t an equivalent. Nice Guys are a product of male privilege. There may be similar attitudes, born of other forms of privilege – white privilege, or the privilege of wealth, perhaps – but they don’t enjoy nearly the cultural cache or power that Nice Guys do. (Which is not to say that Nice Guys “enjoy” rejection, but rather that they retreat to Nice Guyism in order to restore their sense of power and privilege.)

  • Allen W

    David and Dr. R,
    I’m not as versed in the terminology and theory as you may be, but it seems to me that one female “Nice-Guy” equivalent (or at least parallel) would be “easy lay” (or whatever other term you prefer; a woman who has sex with men not because she wants to, but out of low self-esteem and a thwarted desire for love, or at least affection).
    Parallelism: Both are examples of members of one gender adopting behaviors that they think are what the other gender really wants, in the hope of gaining what *they* really want. And paradoxically, in both cases, doing so tends to make the other gender lose respect for them.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Eh, what you’re describing is significantly more self-destructive that Nice Guyism, and lacks the cultural support structure. It is born of male privilege, yes, and acts to support it, but it doesn’t support the women engaging in the behavior. So, parallel, but weakly.

  • Look, I did not invent the term or the concept of the “Nice Guy.” There are plenty of resources available to learn more. (Google is your friend.) Here’s a good primer: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Nice_guy_syndrome

    And there is no female equivalent of the Nice Guy.

  • No one enjoys rejection, but only Nice Guys get to blame women for their own shortcomings (real or perceived).

  • No, they really shouldn’t.

  • Allen W

    I’m unconvinced that “Nice Guyism” supports the men who engage in it, or that it’s less self-destructive than low-self-esteem-sex. But then, I’m still unclear on exactly what you mean by the term.
    Are you saying that there *isn’t* a “cultural support structure” that encourages women to trade sex for affection? Isn’t that a huge chunk of Western culture?
    Or, for that matter, one that encourages them to have sex with “Nice Guys”? What about all of the already-complained-about movies, including the one nominally under discussion?

  • LaSargenta

    I disagree with that term. Plenty of guys assign “easy lay” just to a woman who isn’t shy about her sexual desires. Of course, they often use ‘maneater’ for that as well, depending on how blunt she may be about it.

  • Allen W

    Well, I didn’t use the first term that sprang to mind, “slut,” because it’s definitely used insultingly as you describe (and in many other ways). I chose “easy lay” because (to my middle-aged ears) it sounds old-fashioned enough that I hoped it wouldn’t carry much current baggage.
    Do you have any other suggestions? As commenters here well know, there are very few terms for “woman who has frequently has sex” that aren’t primarily used as insults. And I was deliberately aiming for a term that implied the behavior (or at least the motivation) was undesirable.

  • Allen W

    Thanks for the link. The links from that page that concerned the “friendzone” were especially helpful.

  • I’m still unclear on exactly what you mean by the term.

    Try reading some of the other comments, like the one where I supplied this link: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Nice_guy_syndrome

  • Allen W

    Bringing this back to movies: MaryAnn, how does “When Harry Met Sally” bear up under this sort of analysis? Particulary scenes such as this one:


    You don’t seem to have written about that film much on this site.

  • Allen W

    I just did, actually; thanks.

  • The problem is that the concept you’re suggesting is a female equivalent to a Nice Guy simply isn’t.

  • LaSargenta

    Except that behaviour isn’t inherently undesirable. If I understood your attempt at an equivalency (which other commentors deny exists for very good reasons), you were looking for someone whose motivations were identical (do “anything” to be liked). Overtly sexual behaviour and frequent sexual relations does not universally spring from insecurity.

    The only pop culture equivalent is the girl-who-takes-her-glasses-off-and-is-suddenly-recognized-as-beautiful-the-doofus-she’s-been-helping-all-through-the-movie.

    Btw, I’m also middle-aged. I think you should qualify your defense as middle-aged-male. Me? I always thought Mae West rocked. Easy Lay pissed me off in the 70’s, let alone now.

  • Allen W

    Re: behavior isn’t inherently undesirable: That’s why I qualified it with “(or at least the motivation)”.
    I didn’t intend to say that “easy lay” wasn’t used as an insult, just that I didn’t think it was still in general usage.
    Mae West’s public persona was a “vamp”, a “sex goddess”, possibly a “man-eater”; but not an “easy lay”. As you said, it’s a question of insecurity vs. security. To me “easy lay” implies insecurity, which is why I used it.

  • LaSargenta

    Easy lay is used like slut…the person who’s using it is trying to denigrate, they aren’t implying insecurity vs confidence. They’re just thinking of their wants, not the females’ motivations.

    Moreover, Nice Guy ™ doesn’t imply anything about his body or use thereof; it relates to emotions and motivations. Your choices of terms are all connected to the idea of reducing a woman’s body to a hole.

  • Allen W

    I don’t use either term, except in theoretical discussions such as this one. But I see a difference in connotation; both are used to denigrate, but “slut” is often used in anger, while “easy lay” is more dismissive.
    As I said, whatever term you prefer. However, since I was specifically looking for a term to refer to a woman who was trying to conform to that idea, I doubt you’ll find a less-offensive one.

  • I haven’t written about lots of movies. And since this has nothing to do with *Million Ways* or my review, I’m not getting sidetracked into this.

  • Moreover moreover, Nice Guys want “easy lays” for themselves, but hate the “easy lays” who are easy-laying with other guys.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It soothes their egos, nominally raises their self-esteem, tells them that it’s not their fault, and creates a self-reinforcing subculture. If you don’t want to call that “support”, then what?

    Sure. I might nitpick that those are more cultural pressures and influences than support structures. Trading sex for affection is at best a double edged sword for women. There are always significant, real risks and downsides to it. Until very recently, there has been no downside for a man to engage in Nice Guyism. And even now, the very worst thing that happens to men who get called out as Nice Guys pales in comparison to what happens to women.

  • Allen W

    I wasn’t trying to sidetrack, or imply anything. I was curious, and did a site-search to see if you had already addressed that film with these issues in mind.

  • Allen W

    But wouldn’t they call that second category “sluts”?

  • Allen W

    A “Nice Guy,” especially one who’s not obviously interested in sex, may be thought effeminate by other men. This does carry risks and downsides, both social and physical.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No, that’s not correct. First off, there are no Nice Guys who are not interested in sex. Nice Guyism is entirely about getting sex. You said you read up on this; how did you miss that?
    Second, while Nice Guys do like to set themselves in opposition to Jocks, being a member of the former does not increase your risk from the latter. That’s part and parcel with that support structure I mentioned. The two groups occupy different subsets, but they’re all members of the He Man Women Haters Club.

  • They might. So? These are all horrible words and phrases that condemn women and attempt to police their sexuality.

  • A “Nice Guy” who is not interested in sex has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here, or with the general usage of the term.

  • Allen W

    I said “not obviously interested in sex.” Thus, a casual observer (let’s say a Jock) may assume that they’re gay.

  • Allen W

    And nor does it have anything to do with what I’m talking about, which is someone who is concealing their interest in sex, which I gather is a key feature of the Nice Guy.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    How far are you planning on narrowing this down just to make a point? And what exactly is your point, anyway?

    Look, your lack of understanding here is starting to cross into willful. And I’m tired of 101ing this shit for you. Go read some more. If the problem doesn’t become abundantly clear to you, you can safely assume that you are part of the problem.

  • Allen W

    Indeed they are; that’s the context in which we were discussing their usage. But we can stop.

  • Concealing an interest in sex? No, that’s not part of Nice Guy-ism.

  • Allen W

    I was clarifying a misunderstanding. And my only point has been to discuss David’s original question, and your and LaSargenta’s takes on it. Which I think we’re now done with.

  • David

    “And there is no female equivalent of the Nice Guy.”

    Really? You just previously wrote that girls go through the same things that boys go through. Girls are not also presented with unrealistic fantasies of romantic relationships and some of them also don’t react with passive aggressive behavior? There are female serial killers, female sex offenders, female spousal abusers; why wouldn’t there be a female equivalent to NSG? It might not manifest in the same way and it might not be as reinforced by pop culture but it does exist.

    I know because I have met women like this. I knew a woman who always wished that she had met a Prince Charming or a George Clooney that would sweep her off her feet and she was greatly disappointed that it never happened. She would treat her husband with all kinds of passive aggressive nastiness and made it clear to him that she was settling.

  • David

    I really hate that word “slut”. It definitely has sexist connotations. I’m not sure about the word “bitch”, though. Obviously context matters, but can that be used as a female equivalent of “asshole” or “dick”, which are primarily assumed to be masculing terms.

  • David

    I have patented several methods for men trying to get out of the Friendzone:

    Hotwire her car, take it for a drunken joyride, then tell her to
    “lighten up” when she confronts you (this last step can be repeated
    every time she confronts you about anything).
    2) Make up a fake craigslist ad for gay male prostitutes and put her father’s contact info into it.
    Break into her house when she’s at work, rip out all the electrical
    wiring and plumbing, then sell it to unscrupulous construction crews.

    These are simple and effective strategies for leaving the Friendzone.

  • Bluejay

    why wouldn’t there be a female equivalent to NSG? It might not manifest in the same way

    Exactly. Girls may have the same emotional difficulties as boys, but it doesn’t manifest the same way. “Nice Guy Syndrome” IS the manifestation.

    She would treat her husband with all kinds of passive aggressive nastiness and made it clear to him that she was settling.

    That’s not being a Nice Guy.

  • David

    Then what is that called?
    Women are just as likely to have a sense of self-entitlement as men it would just be through a different filter.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Seriously, man, do some research. If you don’t find our explanations convincing, there are at least a few dozen more readily available just a click or two away from a first page Google search. (And while you’re studying “Nice Guys”, do take a moment to look up “false equivalency”.) Like I told Allen, if after all that you still don’t understand what the problem really is, you’ll know that you’re part of the problem.

  • Bluejay

    Self-entitlement has many different expressions (Pick-Up Artist is one of them, as has already been established). Nice Guyism is one such expression, and that’s the focus of this thread. The woman you’re describing, however self-entitled she may feel, is not engaging in Nice Guyism and is therefore irrelevant to the discussion.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Indeed. I was trying to end-run the most obvious willful misinterpretation of my use of the word “enjoy”.

  • Beowulf

    Okay, I confess this was something that some how went right over my head or otherwise eluded me. “Nice Guy” syndrome. I’m usually pretty caught up with the culture for an old dude (I guess the kids today would call me “hip” or “cool.”)

    But, being a good guy, I thought “Nice Guy” meant the same thing and didn’t realize what a huge, recognizable thing it has become in our culture. What really opened my eyes was that David Wong piece several people have alluded to. (By the way, MaryAnn, he quotes a passage from a G.R.R.M. book that is meant to be from a female point of view yet mentions another woman being observed thusly: “…She wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass slippers. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest…”)

  • That quoted passage is emblematic of a whole other problem, the dominance of the male gaze.

  • amanohyo

    Look at all this! Here I was expecting to see a grumpy bunch of angry MacFarlane apologists, ad hominems at the ready, and instead find an extended primer on Nice Guy Syndrome. This corner of the internet is considerably less flammable than it was ten years ago. Sweet progress! Or maybe this movie is so bereft of merit that nice guyism is the only topic worthy of sinking one’s teeth into?

    Unfortunately, I have nothing worthwhile to add because I’ll never watch this, but I’m curious about one thing. The strength of Ted’s surprisingly cohesive plot was that it was a personal story for MacFarlane, it was about understanding the limitations of an adolescent perspective and moving beyond it, about tackling the fear that being responsible and making a long-term romantic commitment would somehow destroy the spontaneous, playful aspects of one’s personality. Of course, it was also funny and well produced.

    MA suggests that the plot of this movie is similarly a personal one, that the nice guyism of Albert reflects MacFarlane’s attitudes about women and their (completely imaginary) obligation to sleep with guys who are “nice,” but otherwise unremarkable. My question is, does the Albert character change at all during the course of the film? Is he kind to people in general by the end, or only to the women he wants to sleep with? Does he demonstrate (through deliberate deeds, not just words and dumb luck) some talents and/or positive qualities that might allow him to rise above the nice guy label?

    The most annoying aspect of nice guys in movies is not necessarily that they end up with the intelligent, attractive, successful woman at the end (although that does get pretty old). It’s the complete lack of any effort to acknowledge and/or address their faults that really strains credulity. In Ted, John (and Ted) change for the better during the course of the movie in a surprisingly (for a MacFarlane comedy) nuanced way. I guess my question is, ignoring the quality of the acting, is there any attempt to develop the Albert character at all?

  • Albert is a nonentity. He mostly exists here to make wisecracks. He barely does anything at all beyond complain about his life, so it’s hard to say if he’s a decent person or not.

  • amanohyo

    Oh, that’s a shame. I guess MacFarlane decided to revert back to Family Guy mode. It does make me curious to see if there’s anything of substance in Ted 2 though. Well… I guess I’ve still got Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Toss in a smuggled fruit smoothie and I’ll have myself a sweet, silly summertime triple feature.

  • Tonio Kruger

    You’ll be a regular Olaf the Snowman! :)

  • darypoo

    This review makes me so happy.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Alice Cooper even wrote a song about it as well…

  • Walter Iego

    I liked the movie-logo ;)

  • You’re easy to please.

  • Walter Iego

    I know :)

  • Odin Griffen

    You spund like the biggest PC bitch on earth. Im almost 100 percent postive the only men who hate fart jokes that much are the prisssy gay ones thay drink 35 dollar martinis and care what brands they wear and if their clothes match. Your article reads like a whiny, pompous, cunt.

  • Danielm80

    Pay attention, folks. If you listen to this review, you might start wearing clothes that match.

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