If I’m the only one seeing this phenomenon, why does it show up in so many movies targeted at males? Moneyball, 2012, War of the Worlds, Lincoln Lawyer, that train movie with Denzel, etc..
All alphas with a heart of Light Triad rejected by hot wife/girlfriend who is often now with total herb and longing for the alpha back. Kids want mommy and daddy back together.
While I disagree with his characterization of the women in these movies as typically “hot”, this theme is so common as to be painfully cliché. At one level I think this is just Hollywood selling divorce. The women in the audience see the divorcée as being empowered, and can revel in the divorcée’s opportunity to prolong the choice. Pushing the eject button has no risk for her, since her ex husband remains available in an endless waiting pattern should she find herself terribly alone. This is no doubt reassuring to the Future Divorcées of America Club members in the audience, because the husband is almost always shown as more attractive than the ex/estranged wife. He is also generally shown as still fulfilling the husband’s role of protector, even though she is no longer fulfilling the role of his wife. Additionally, the divorce in these movies is almost always hinted as the “I’m not haaaaapy” variety of divorce. Hollywood shows these frivolous divorcées as being empowered, enjoying the full security benefits associated with remaining married, as well as never being negatively judged for failing to keep their lifetime commitment.
All of this is sufficient explanation to see why Hollywood writers would want to push this message. As with the rest of the media, they are enthusiastic marketers of divorce. But I think there is another reason why this particular theme is so popular. This also plays into the endless courtship fantasy. The husband is essentially forced to reprove his worthiness to her all over again. Typically he is required to perform a feat of daring or great cunning (or both) in order to rescue her, or at the very least prove himself to her. He is also shown actively seeking her affection in the process. We can see this in many examples (plot spoilers for Diehard 1 & 2, Killshot, Unstoppable, and Fireproof to follow):
Die Hard: Bruce Willis’ character (John McClane) travels across the country in an attempt to reconcile with his estranged wife (played by a frumpy actress 7 years his senior) who is not haaapy. Once he arrives she is taken captive by a gang of international terrorists. McClane single handedly defeats the terrorist gang and rescues his frumpy old estranged wife.
Die Hard 2: Online summaries suggest that McClane is now back together with his wife, but as I recall it they were still shown as at least having problems. At the very least this is an extension of the original movie’s courtship following her not being haaaapy. Terrorists strike again while McClane is waiting for his wife’s flight to arrive, and he is forced once again to perform superhuman feats to save her.
Killshot: Thomas Jane’s character (Wayne) has been kicked out of the house by his not haaaapy estranged wife Carmen (played by Diane Lane, 4 years his senior) after he lost his job. Armed men (one a mafia hitman) show up at Carmen’s workplace, posing a threat to Carmen. Wayne is coincidentally there and lures the two dangerous men out into the parking lot and defeats the men single handedly armed only with an iron rod. The couple is forced into witness relocation together, where Wayne continues to woo his wife in an attempt to reconcile. Carmen ultimately rejects him again and returns home without him once the FBI tells them it is safe. The FBI had been fooled however, and Carmen is held captive by the two men and under direct threat. Wayne travels to Carmen and yet again saves the day.
Unstoppable: Will Colson (Chris Pine) teams up with Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) to stop a runaway train. Will is estranged from his wife Darcy (Jessy Schram), who took out a restraining order following Will threatening a man she provoked him into believing she was cheating with. In this case the wife is actually hot and played by an actress who is 6 years younger than the actor. Will and Frank have to risk their lives to prevent the train from crashing, preventing a major disaster which would have threatened Darcy as well as Will and Darcy’s young son.
Fireproof: This is the Christian contribution to the endless courtship genre, and is celebrated as exemplifying modern Christian’s commitment to marriage. Hero fireman Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) must convince his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) not to frivolously divorce him. To do so he undertakes a 40-day test to prove his worthiness to his unhaaaapy wife. While he is doing this his wife is busy flirting with other men, and is no longer wearing her wedding ring. A doctor she is flirting with unexpectedly learns that she is married when the hero arrives at the hospital with an injured arm after rescuing a young girl. From the plot summary on Wikipedia:
As he continues his 40-day challenge, Caleb begins doing more household chores and running more errands for Catherine, and leaves her roses. Caleb even smashes his computer to pieces with a baseball bat in order to remove the temptation of viewing internet pornography. Nevertheless, Catherine, who is led by some colleagues to think that Caleb did all these things with an ulterior motive in mind, is still intent on divorce. When she later learns that the equipment needed for her mother’s medical care has been paid for in full, she arranges a lunch date with Dr. Keller, thinking he was the benefactor. Caleb discovers Dr. Keller’s relationship with Catherine and immediately informs him that he won’t let him have Catherine without a fight. Catherine’s friends misinterpret the confrontation as a threat, but they do not tell her since the Holts’ marriage doesn’t concern them. Dr. Keller (who is actually married) breaks off his relationship with Catherine.
Eventually Caleb completes the test to his whorish wife’s satisfaction, and she gladly takes him back.
All of these movies are a play on the mythological theme where the hero must accomplish some great feat to woo his would be wife. However, in these cases the hero has already wooed her; she just turned out to be flaky. He finds himself having to woo her again, and again, and very often the hero still faces rejection at the end of the story or at the very least ambivalence.
More straightforward versions of the endless courtship fantasy theme are the movies 50 First Dates and Groundhod Day. In these movies there is a plot device which causes the man to have to continuously start over, re-wooing the woman each day because she has no recollection of his past efforts at courtship.
I suspect that movies with this theme if anything will become even more popular as women slowly recognize that they have cut open the goose which laid the courtship golden egg.