Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Adam's Rib

I feel as if I have been far too mushy-gushy recently, so I have carefully preserved a feeling of rage for almost an hour so as to be able to deliver it intact to you, the blogging audience. No, don't thank me. Honestly. And the applause was totally unnecessary too.

So for my Humanities class on humor, we watched a movie entitled Adam's Rib. The plot summary for imdb reads as follows: When a woman attempts to kill her uncaring husband, prosecutor Adam Bonner gets the case. Unfortunately for him his wife Amanda (who happens to be a lawyer too) decides to defend the woman in court. Amanda uses everything she can to win the case and Adam gets mad about it. As a result, their perfect marriage is disturbed by everyday quarrels...

Let's leave aside the ridiculous feminism with which the movie is riddled. Let us focus only on the trial that forms the center of the movie. The movie opens with a woman following her husband, through a train station and into a strange apartment building. She takes out a gun, fires a shot through the door, and then bursts in upon her husband locked in an embrace with some strange woman. She fires several other shots, hitting her husband more than once and scarcely missing the woman.

Everybody got the facts? Seem pretty clear? Right. Now, can somebody explain to me why the shooter would not be culpable for attempted manslaughter or at least assault? Anyone? Ah, but if only you were Katherine Hepburn. Then you could transform the entire thing into a crusade for women's rights. That's right, women's rights. Specifically, the right of women to shoot philandering husbands. Just as, she argues, men seem to have the right to shoot their unfaithful wives.

What the blinking heck? Excuse me? That is a legal argument? And that's not just the justificatio that she uses to take on the case, even though she knows her husband is the prosecuter and this is bound to cause all sorts of conflicts in their marriage, not to mention jeopardizing the integrity of the trial. Oh, no. That's the argument she gives to the blinking jury. That they should imagine that all the players in the sordid little crime were of the opposite gender and they should reach the verdict in that way. That- get this- that the woman shot her husband in defense of her home, which is just like self-defense really. The fact that this would allow wives to shoot anyone that might attract their husbands' affections does not seem to occur to her.

Along the way to this ludicrous closing argument, she brings in a series of entirely random women to come in and testify. Not women that have anything to do with the case, of course, but simply women who can tell the court how darn cool it is to be female. Because the entire crux of the case rests on gender equality, doncha know? 'Cuz equal protection under the law is all about the right to haul off and shoot people who get on your nerves.

And, of course, the criminal is acquitted. I say of course because the movie was all shaping up that way, with the wife getting off the best in every court room battle, with the husband stuttering and stumbling over his words, and in his closing arguments throwing a temper tantrum about the defendant's hat and ripping it off her head. (It's a long story. It made some sense in the context of the movie, I suppose.)

To be fair, the movie did allow the husband to have some licks back at the end. There's no point in going through the whole mess, but he did prove that she didn't think that people ought to go around shooting unfaithful spouses. Hurrah!

But the shooter still got off. And you knew that the movie wanted you to cheer for this blow for gender equality instead of booing the obvious affront to simple justice.


Miri said...

oh come now Tobie. you mean every feminist you know doesn't intend to shoot her philandering huband?

Tobie said...

Silly child. If they were real feminists, they wouldn't have husbands.

dbs said...

I'm really struck by how vehement you are about this. I agree that the whole thing is foolish, but this isn't the first movie in which a logical plot line is forfeit for a comic theme. (Yes, I know that it sets both feminism and justice on its ear.) I cringed through the movie because the dynamics between Tracy & Hepburn didn't add up. (And they were an actual couple.) And Tracy looks so completely stupified by each turn of events.

Oh well, as Tracy says in the end, Viva La Difference!

Tobie said...

I thought that movie was just unfair, because it was so tilted against poor Tracy. He really came across as an idiot, and it irked me because he was right

Probably extra annoyance because I was watching it for a college class, surrounded by people who didn't seem to have any problem with any of it.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Actually, at that time in history in many states, (e.g., Texas) killing a man in flagrante delicto with your wife was not murder. It was excused as a 'crime of passion'. The movie was playing off this (at the time) well known fact.

There's an analogy here to how we make mistakes in understanding halacha by not knowing the societal contexts in which the laws were made, but I'm not going to make it.

Larry Lennhoff said...

More on Crime of passion. I seem to have gotten some of the details wrong, but the main point is correct.

Tobie said...
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