Released in 2003, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days became an instant classic, putting its star Kate Hudson in the running for the title of Rom-Com Queen. In the process of reaching out to snatch the crown, Hudson and her co-star—the undisputed king of the genre, Mr. Alright Alright Alright himself Matthew McConaughey—reinforce a classic trope: the bad lady journalist whose heart gets in the way of her ethics. Le sigh.
Magazine writer Andie Anderson (Hudson) is tired of writing girly mag fluff at Cosmopolitan-_inspired _Composure magazine. Don't let her cutesy, alliterative name fool you. She wants to do real reporting! About politics! Unfortunately Composure has boxed her into being the "How To Girl," giving tips on avoiding traffic tickets and… her latest assignment, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (of course).
Andie sets off to terrorize some dude by "using the classic mistakes most women make all the time" in relationships to show them how to hang on to a relationship, believing that if she knocks the column out of the park she'll be allowed to be the Politics Girl. Unfortunately, that dude is sexy-with-a-dollop-of-sexist ad exec Benjamin Barry (McConaughey), who makes a bet with his boss that he can make any woman fall in love with him. If he can accomplish this, he gets a major new client. With both of their self-interests at stake, Andie and Ben begin their 10-day courtship during which Andie does absolute batshit things like redecorating Ben's apartment with stuffed animals and making an album of Photoshopped photos of their future children. It's all fun and mind games until Ben takes Andie to meet his family, and they're the nicest white people in the world (even though his brother-in-law is a cop). Suddenly, Andie and Ben catch real feelings and then do sex in his parents' guest bathroom. They predictably discover the truth at a fancy gala, leading to an angry rendition of "You're So Vain" accompanied by Marvin Hamlish, before they eventually reconcile a bridge after Andie quits her job.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days came in classic rom-com form, bringing goofy antics and solid chemistry between its stars to tell a story that is implausible and unethical in real life. McConaughey really corners the market on dickish-yet-hot romantic leads (see also: Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past and Failure to Launch), while Hudson has the charm and range to carry the movie's comedic bits and emotional moments. Movies have long struggled with portrayals of women journalists' work, catapulting its protagonists into questionable actions that would never, ever be allowed in actual newsrooms. Andie goes semi-undercover to wreak havoc on her subject's life, lying and manipulating him for a story, and her editor loves the idea so much she gleefully shares the juicy details with anyone who'll listen (including Ben. Oopsies).
Crossing professional lines is not exactly integral to the job, though it is according to Hollywood. It's one thing to pester Jeff Bezos by investigating his abusive labor practices and foot size, or writing informed criticism on cultural figures and entertainment that may do harm to underrepresented communities through their work, messaging, or public image (the latter might make you some enemies of the Kardashian-Jenner family). It's another to, say, pretend I'm a housekeeper so I can infiltrate Drake's cold, _Scarface_-set-looking mansion and lay on his expensive horse hair mattress for a blog, only to end up falling for Canada's most lovelorn rapper and doing him on that $390,000 bed. As much as that would be an interesting assignment and actually a solid remake of Maid in Manhattan, it crosses multiple ethical and legal lines and would get me fired and my company sued.
Is It Really That Bad?
Depicting women journalists as morally ditzy or fully unaware of real ethical lines in their profession, as movies like Never Been Kissed, Richard Jewell, or Trainwreck do, it proliferates the idea that we're unprofessional, flighty, easily distracted, and willing to engage in questionable behavior because we like someone. One might lean on those investigative skills to dig into a crush's Instagram history, but Andie lying about her journalistic intentions then getting her back blown out in the shower as Ben's family plays their favorite card game on the patio is a major HR violation. If Andie Anderson thinks she can cover the messiness that is politics while being this irresponsible and unethical, well, maybe she should just go into politics.
Acting like women-focused publications only cover shoes and boys is narrow-minded, sexist, and perpetuates the idea that girls r dum and only care about nail polish. Excuuuuse moi, but most publications cover a wide range of topics. Writing about shoes or, say, a 2003 rom-com starring Kate Hudson doesn't mean you aren't politically engaged or intelligent.
It's Still Okay to Love It
Rom-coms may have you believe love triumphs all and matters more than your job and professional reputation. If you're looking for an accurate, nuanced portrayal of women journalists, or any job or person for that matter, you've come to the wrong place. But people don't come to rom-coms for realism, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is top-tier because of its cutesy hijinks, solid performances, and the idea that love can be found in unexpected places. You just realize you're in the morally hazy world of the genre where jobs are merely a stepping stone to getting alright-alright-alrighted next to a bottle of Pantene Pro-V by Matthew McConaughey.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.