THE IRONIC SEXISM OF THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU


The Adjustment Bureau, which comes out on video this week, is about a man (Matt Damon) who discovers that a shadowy group of men is secretly making decisions large and small about his life, without his knowledge or consent. Which makes it ironic that the same man spends the movie making choices about what’s best for the woman (Emily Blunt) he’s supposedly in love with. (Spoilers Ahead)

In the middle of the movie, Damon’s faced with a choice between his and Blunt’s career ambitions and their chance to be together. Does Damon let Blunt in on the decision? Nope. Instead he ditches her in a hospital in a way that could be tragic if it was necessary or he was sympathetic, but instead is just frivolously obnoxious. Then, when he sees that rather than waiting for him to reappear as a non-jerk, she’s about to marry someone else, he changes his mind about what’s best for her and chases her down to get her to call off the wedding. Once he finds her, he deploys winning lines like “You cannot marry that man” and “You have to trust me” while doling out the smallest amount of information he thinks he can get away with. Seems he picked up more than a hat from the Adjustment Bureau.

When Blunt does get to make a choice, it’s an ultimatum: Walk through this door with me or live without me. Damon’s inside guy at the Adjustment Bureau praises him for risking everything in his campaign to get her back – and then, as an awkward afterthought, praises her for deciding to follow Damon through that door. It’s almost (but not quite) as though he senses the gendered weirdness of the whole situation.

The whole thing might have been redeemed by a true twist ending, as when Scott Pilgrim gestured towards upending its own gender weirdness. Maybe reveal that Damon was part of the Adjustment Bureau all along, and Blunt was the real subject, which is why he treated her like a chess piece. Or that she was part of the Adjustment Bureau, she was testing him to see if he could treat a woman as a partner, and he failed and thus must be punished for eternity.

That wouldn’t have made it a great movie, but it would have made it a less sexist and more interesting one.

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4 thoughts on “THE IRONIC SEXISM OF THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

  1. It’s a shame that Josh doesn’t realize how narrative works. Blunt’s character doesn’t possess the knowledge that Damon’s does. He’s not like the Adjustment Bureau because he’s omniscient. He just has more info than Blunt’s character. Plus, when we he lets her in on the secret, he gives her free will to make her decision. The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t work that way.

    Josh’s article is a good example of someone who doesn’t know how narrative truly works. He doesn’t appreciate the story because his main goal is to make political comments and not to enjoy the movie. I’d say that Josh is more like the Adjustment Bureau. He’s trying to get readers to accept his particular point of view or his “plan” if you will. Hopefully, Josh will study some narrative theory and stop making unsupported claims. If you haven’t seen the movie, try to watch it without Josh coloring your vision so negatively.

    • As a feminst who happens to also enjoy smart science fiction tales….
      I must say that Chris gets everything correct in his reply to Josh’s review.
      I am all for the bashing of any piece of art that promotes patriarchal systems in society. However, I am against the the deliberate use of distortion and untruths in criticism-which Josh is clearly guilty of here.

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