Does Estrogen Cancel Out Your Critical Faculties?

Talking movies with a guy friend the other day and I mentioned my dislike of the movie 300.

He sighed and said, “Testosterone. You just don’t have enough of it. 300 was awesome.”


Never mind that I have a deep and abiding hard-on for any number of superbutch movies. I even wrote a blog post about them. (This list could have gone on for. ev. er.)

Apparently, even though I can point out non-gender-related reasons 300 was not awesome,** my estrogen levels cancel them out. I’m not sure what my friend makes of Roger Ebert’s critical drumming of the film. Maybe Ebert’s testosterone levels are low?

(**#1 Reason 300 was not awesome:
Zack Snyder uses the Brian De Palma school of “Look at me, I’m directing!” directing. The stylized cutting, art direction, acting–“Hey! Over here! Can’t you see I’m directing RIGHT NOW!”–only made the extremely cool story of the Battle of Thermopylae look ridiculous. The History Channel’s Battles BC version was better. “See how I’m creating tension with these quick cuts mixed with freeze frames? Just like MTV! Aren’t I arty? Hello? I’M DIRECTING OVER HERE!”)

Sometimes, guys in my writing group have similar reactions to women’s critiques. If a woman doesn’t like their sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal story, they shrug and say, “It’s a guy thing.”

  • Even though, in our group, women are as likely if not more likely to read in the fantastical realms.
  • Even though some of the females are more experienced writers and better critiquers than some of the males.
  • Even though their critiques have nothing whatsoever to do with any gender-related aspects of the story.

Male writer: “It was a dark and stormy night on the nuclear reactor.”
Female critiquer: “That’s a really trite opening–”
Male writer: “TOO MUCH ESTROGEN!”

Sigmund “Biology is destiny” Freud would back you up. Then again, he said this about women: “Women oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own.” Can you say “reductive?” How about “marginalizing?”

How about “bullshit?” It rhymes with “penis envy.”

Among the many unfortunate results of stereotyping by any trait that people have in common: You’re going to be wrong a certain amount of the time. Yes, many women (pick a random percentage) don’t like bloody action films. Yet many women (another random number) do. It’s a percentages game any way you look at it. And I’ve heard that all people with the right amount of testosterone (i.e. men) hate more than anything to be wrong.

So, before you dismiss a woman’s negative review because she doesn’t have the right naughty bits and the right amount of the more legitimate hormone, consider you might be suffering from vagina envy and try to listen beyond your fear to the validity of her words.

When I say I don’t like 300 or Sin City or Fight Club, consider first that those movies might have sucked.

And while we’re at it: Laura Klein in a recent blog post: STFU about what women want.

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20 Responses to Does Estrogen Cancel Out Your Critical Faculties?

  1. 300 was awesome. Best. Movie. Ever. *raspberry*


    • Chris Devlin says:

      See, and that’s funny because, as has been proven time and again whenever we see a small child, you have way more estrogen than I do. You must be confused.


  2. Nikki says:

    See, what you’re missing about 300 is that it wasn’t about the infamous battle so much as about the comic written by Frank Miller. In that sense, both Sin City and 300 were brilliant. And what’s wrong with Fight Club? You just don’t have enough estrogen to properly appreciate these films!

    But re: the critique – this could all be avoided if they just followed the rules. Primarily, “why, I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for your critique.” No arguing allowed!


    • Chris Devlin says:

      It’s true, I haven’t read the Frank Miller comics. Then again, I haven’t read MOST comics and have loved many movies made from them. A movie still has to work on its own whether the audience is familiar with the source material. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be cracking up during the tense scenes in both of those movies. I just thought the writing was riDONKulous. Granted, the films looked great. A+ on art direction for sure.

      And Fight Club, don’t get me started. As a friend says, the first rule of fight club is don’t talk about how good fight club is. It’s a movie with a trick at the end, and the thing about trick endings is, you gotta be able to go back over the whole story when you know the trick and it needs to add up. Sixth Sense adds up. Angel Heart too. Fight Club? Yeah, NOT!

      But re: the critique – this could all be avoided if they just followed the rules. Primarily, “why, I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for your critique.” No arguing allowed!
      Heh. So many things could be avoided, true!

      Nice to see you, thanks for coming by.


  3. “Fight Club” is a brilliant subversion of modern-day culture and mens’ place in it, not to mention a stunning insight into the mentality of disassociative identity disorder. “Fight Club” (the novel and film) are wry (and sneaky in their subtlety) satire on the whole culture of machismo.

    I can’t drive by IKEA without remembering Tyler’s “IKEA boy” quip to Jack. Tyler is insulting Jack’s materialism as a symbol of males’ emasculation in modern society.
    “We’re designed to be hunters and we’re in a society of shopping. There’s nothing to kill anymore, there’s nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation this everyman [the narrator] is created.”
    —David Fincher

    Such sentiments might explain why some writers favor the paranormal genre, where the primal urges of humankind can be bought to the forefront. 😈

    I will have to admit that films like “Fight Club” and “Scott Pilgrim” are acquired tastes.
    Not everyone is going to “get” them, or even should. Every act of of ‘violence’ in “Fight Club” has a message behind it. When people see a martial arts master break a wood board, some only perceive the outer ‘violence’ of the act while others focus on the master’s inner discipline (that gives the master their ability).


    • when you know the trick and it needs to add up.
      Jack’s discovery of how his alter-ego Tyler took control of his physical body (during Jack’s “blackout” periods”) explained basically everything that Jack discovers through the course of the storyline. Jack’s discovery of Tyler’s phone call records (all made when Jack blacked out in the hotel room) certainly “added up”.

      The outside world saw Jack and Tyler as being one person, since they shared Jack’s body. You, the viewer, saw Brad Pitt (Jack’s visualization of Tyler), but everyone else in the story saw only Edward Norton.


    • Chris Devlin says:

      The salient point, and the reason I bring up Fight Club in the same breath as 300, is that my objection to the film has nothing to do with my gender, but has everything to do with the fact that I’m a writer and I felt the writing of the “trick” ending was flawed. I had no objection to the fighting, the violence, the casual androphilia, the over-the-top and highly implausible ending. I can swallow all of that, but not when the writing of the characterization is bad. (Specifically, the twist required you to believe that a group of men in a parking lot saw a drunk guy beating himself up and their response, instead of calling 911 or giving him a wide berth, was to lionize him and put him at the center of a movement. Yeah. No. I can’t even imagine one person reacting that way, let alone a whole group. It was ridiculous.)

      It’s fine to explore Deep Philosophical Issues in your writing, but not when you sacrifice storytelling itself to do it.


  4. I can’t even imagine one person reacting that way, let alone a whole group.
    What about Adolf Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch?
    Two days after the putsch, Hitler was arrested and charged with high treason in the special People’s Court.
    Ten years later, he was the ruler of Germany.
    Could anyone have imagined that outcome back in 1923? 👿
    Groupthink running amok is how dictators get into positions of power, and it’s not something that “makes sense” or can be foreseen/imagined, even by astute observers.

    Fight Club’s example: “His name was Robert Paulson”. Jack protests Project Mayhem’s “no-name” rule, and attempts to restore a sense of humanity about the man who had just sacrificed his life. The group misinterprets this, thinking “Tyler” is saying, “In death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name.” (making Robert Paulson a martyr). Thus began their mantra of “His name was Robert Paulson”, the symbol of Jack/Tyler losing control of his creation.


    • In summation: Can I believe that a drunk guy beating himself up could become the center of a movement?
      Given the twisted groupthink (as depicted in the “His name is Robert Paulson” scene!) that brought Hitler, Mussolini, et al into power, my answer is “Hell, Yes!”
      Not only that, this could now happen via YouTube. A video of a drunk guy beating himself up could easily get a million hits. If even one in a thousand viewers believed this made him the ultimate tough guy, there’d be 1,000 potential members of his “Fight Club”, just from a YouTube video.


      • Chris Devlin says:

        Hitler was already spouting his Third Reich spiel–the Beer Hall Putsch was a revolutionary action. And I don’t believe Hitler was drunk or beating the crap out of himself. I’m not saying people don’t follow crazy people doing crazy things. I’m saying it didn’t work for me in Fight Club, because it wasn’t about trying to make it make sense–it was about trying to trick you.

        Say you’re out with your guy friends having a beer. You go to your cars to leave and see a guy, incoherent, not spouting any philosophy at all as I recall, and he’s bloody and beating himself up. This is not the beginning of a movement, but the beginning of a 911 call. I hope. They needed to give a reason those random guys would follow this lunatic besides, “Um, we need them to or the twist ending won’t work.”

        Bad storytelling, and I would think so, even if I had a boatload of testosterone. 😉


      • “Tyler Durden” at Occupy:
        When the cops come charging at him, he grabs a billy club and knocks himself out before the cops get to him.
        That video would be plastered all over the world’s news, and many Occupy protestors would hail his action as the ultimate gesture of defiance, even if he was drunk and incoherent.

        Hitler wasn’t drunk during the putsch, but my point is:
        Hitler won his position through his charisma, and so did Tyler. His act of self-flaggelance captured attention, and his subsequent charisma won over his followers.

        As far as the ending of “Fight Club” being “over the top”:
        Timothy McVeigh and only three accomplices destroyed a Federal building and killed 168 people.

        On Sept. 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers killed almost 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in property damage.
        What could several hundred people willing to die for “Tyler Durden” do? (keeping in mind many of them were employees in the targeted buildings, thus having full access to restricted areas.)
        If anything, the ending of “Fight Club” may have been underestimated the potential damage! 😯
        Even when I first saw it in the theater, two years before “9-11”, I thought the ending was a logical “ramp up” from Timothy McVeigh, Waco, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, etc., a demonstration of what terrorists could do if they had as many people in action as Tyler Durden.


      • In closing, I will concede that whether one enjoys Fight Club or not is dependent on how the reader/viewer accepts the possibility of the main hook and the ending occurring.

        If they cannot, they will not be a fan of this novel/film. However, the fact a number of readers/viewers do not accept the premise/ending (when many others obviously have) does not mean Fight Club is “bad” or “poorly written”. It just means this work is not for “everyone.”

        I actually admire Devlin for not wanting to accept the main premise and ending. She wants to think people would be “better” than this. That they would call 911 if they saw a drunk guy beating himself up, instead of lionizing him as their leader afterward. Devlin’s refusal is a stated belief that people would behave better than they did in “Fight Club”.

        I, too, would hope they would call 911, but my knowledge of human history enforces my belief that in the “wrong/right/destined” time, place and circumstances, Tyler Durden could become a hero to an army of fanatical followers, no matter how unlikely this may “seem.”

        Who would have thought Adolf Hitler would be the leader of Germany only 9½ years after being convicted of treason? I don’t think even his most fanatical followers in early 1924 would dare to have dreamed that possible.

        And the Beer Hall Putsch gave the Nazis their first martyrs. {sarcasm font}”Their names were Robert Paulson.”{/sarcasm font}


      • Chris Devlin says:

        I actually admire Devlin for not wanting to accept the main premise and ending. She wants to think people would be “better” than this. That they would call 911 if they saw a drunk guy beating himself up, instead of lionizing him as their leader afterward. Devlin’s refusal is a stated belief that people would behave better than they did in “Fight Club”.
        Actually, it’s not. I wasn’t saying I don’t buy the twist at the end of Fight Club because people would behave better than they did during the parking lot scene. I said I don’t buy the twist because people wouldn’t behave the way they did at all. If you, or me, or any group of people coming out of a bar saw a lone, drunk, incoherent man beating himself up in a parking lot, they might:
        1) Give him a wide berth, shaking their heads with disgust and/or pity.
        2) Call 911
        3) Heckle and make fun of him
        4) Rush in and stop him and administer first-aid

        They would not–at least not anyone I’ve ever met in my life, or heard of–listen to him in rapt awe and follow him to the ends of the earth. It doesn’t make any sense. And even if you accept that for some reason the sight of a bloody lunatic made them go nuts and emulate him, why didn’t they start a Fight Club where they got drunk and beat themselves up? That’s what he was doing. When you thought it was two guys beating each other up because of the stifling influence of consumerism on their natural masculinity, or something, it made more sense that the guys would keep that going. But a guy beating himself up?

        Sorry. Not buying it. Never going to buy it. Bad writing. That’s my final answer.


  5. Chris,

    I haven’t seen the film in question. You’re making me wonder if I should. But I have to say, your post gave me a nice deep (but laydylike) laugh on a day I could use it.

    One of the problems with dismissing the estrogen laden gender is that, as we get older and our estrogen begins to diminish, our testosterone goes up–right about the time that our mate’s testosterone begins to diminish. This is a prescription for disaster among some couples and in some groups. Fortunately, most of us figure it out and carry on . . . in part because we’ve eased up on our egos by this time (unlike that director you refer to).

    Great post.

    Melanie Mulhall


    • Chris Devlin says:

      I’m chuckling, deep but ladylike. I’m still waiting for my ego to ease up. Maybe in a few years…

      But see 300, just for the serious musclature. It’s hilarious.

      Thanks for your thoughts. Good to see you here.


  6. Karen Lin says:

    Great post. It may be somewhat of a generational thing. Women and men are really becoming somewhat more androgenous in their tastes…just like women are enjoying football more and men are changing more diapers. Karen


    • Chris Devlin says:

      That’s good to hear, that men are changing more diapers. I’m still not into football, or changing diapers. Maybe I’m just an alien, I’m not sure…


  7. Lesley L. Smith says:

    Aw, Chris… I reject your premise. From your post title you seem to be implying there is at least a faint chance that estrogen invalidates opinions. This is a shame. You’d probably never see a blog post entitled ‘Does Testosterone Canel Out Your Critical Faculties?’–would you? When your male friends make such utterances, you should give them the response they deserve: laughter.

    As for your critique partners, they sound a little like bullies–maybe you should just kick them out of the group? 🙂 But seriously, since females buy the majority of books, it’s their loss if they don’t listen to ‘estrogen-laden’ opinions. Female readers are everyone’s demographic!
    Good luck!


    • Chris Devlin says:

      Hi, good to “see” you.

      Sorry if I wasn’t able to convey how utterly tongue-in-cheek the non-question in my title really was. Maybe I should have gone with my first instinct, which was “Does Not Having a Penis Invalidate Critical Opinions?” Penis is a funnier word. That might have put paid to any lingering doubts. 😉

      But seriously, since females buy the majority of books, it’s their loss if they don’t listen to ‘estrogen-laden’ opinions. Female readers are everyone’s demographic!
      This is ever so true! If nothing else, money should talk louder than gender bias. If only…


  8. Ironically, I’ve never seen “300”. The previews made it look like a bad clone of a Michael Bay stupid-fest. A Flintstones version of “Transformers.” A waste of celluloid that would lower my I.Q. ten points just by sitting through it. A film that would only last 15 minutes if all its slow motion scenes were sped up to normal.
    And this opinion is coming from a guy who has seen every one of the Fast And Furious movies.
    I should have been first in line for “300” (at least cynical marketers would think so).
    Guess my guilty pleasure movies need five hundred-plus horses, and not of the equine persuasion… 😉

    Super-ironically, Devlin found the same joy reveling in “300’s” unintentionally over-the-top machismo that I found in (you know what’s) intentionally over-the-top machismo. 😈


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