The Farrelly brothers are known for their profitable, occasionally droll, gross-out comedies, notably Kingpin, Dumb & Dumber, and There’s Something About Mary. In 1999, they wrote and directed the disastrously earnest, and bad, film Outside Providence, based largely on their personal experiences growing up in Rhode Island. It took in a total of $7 million at the box office. Noting this misstep, a studio head later observed (I’m paraphrasing here), “Inside every filmmaker’s heart is one deeply personal and important story that they want to tell. My job is to make sure those movies never get made.”
I was put in mind of that wisdom reading the new issue of The Atlantic, a magazine for which I have enormous affection. But the editors there have done a grave disservice to writer Lori Gottlieb by publishing her long piece arguing that women should “settle” in marriage.
I’m unfamiliar with Ms. Gottlieb’s work, but it can’t possibly be as parochial, self-serving, and offensively useless as this essay: Gottlieb is a single forty-something who, facing no marriage prospects, decided to become pregnant through the use of a sperm donor. Her piece is a crushing epic explaining why she probably should have just married some schlub and had a traditional family instead. She then extrapolates her own experiences and regrets and uses them to formulate a thesis—”Marry Him!”—which she says women ignore at their peril. She relies for her argument on a string of personal reflections and comments from friends and acquaintances. Here is a sample:
Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous.
Well who could argue with that.
Gottlieb tells us nothing in 5,000 words that Charlotte Lucas does not explain in a few sentences. But she does tell us an uncomfortable amount about Lori Gottlieb. The editor’s most important and fundamental job is to, when needed, save their writer from himself. For everyone’s sake, I wish The Atlantic had done its duty.