From the perspective of relaxed and interested audience, I liked While You Were Sleeping. However, from the perspective of ‘Woman who cares what I think about myself and what other women think about themselves’, there were a few things about it that bothered me.
Do you realize how good your life is? Just take a moment and think about it. You have a place to live? Clothes? Food? Job? Luxury of owning a pet?
Me and my adorable luxury pet
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of those, you are at least as blessed as the main character (Sandra Bullock’s character, to be exact) and really, you can probably relax! Nothing’s that bad! :) Good news, eh?
So the lead in ‘Sleeping’ is unhappy because she’s un-partnered and she develops this fantasy that she’s going to marry one of the patrons of the subway system where she works. The whole film has to do with marriage and the search for the right marriage, because ‘that’s what she’s missing; a family’. I completely understand. I, too, pine and yearn for partnership. I also recognize that if I’m not happy on my own, partnership won’t fix that. I can be happy on my own without a husband, and not be any ‘less’ of a woman.
She also allows people to believe a lie about her, which is based on a misunderstanding, but would be easily corrected all the same. Her explanation of this is that she didn’t want to hurt them, but also that she so desperately wanted a family. So here we have a heroine who bravely saved a man’s life but doesn’t have the courage to continue to live as a single woman when she’s given the opportunity to have a deceptive relationship instead. Not exactly role-model material, though I will admit it’s a change from the deceptive role in films always being played by men. It’s sort of like the male lead in Penelope; he has some decent motives for his not-great behavior. Despite the faulty archetype being the same (liar gets to win in the end) I almost like that Sandra gets to play a character whose behavior is more traditionally masculine, at least from a filmmaker’s perspective.
Another conundrum the film does not satisfactorily resolve is that she accepts a marriage proposal from a guy who is not necessarily nice to her… he kind of harasses her repeatedly. I wish I could say I didn’t buy it, but the problem here is that I’ve seen it repeatedly, and not just in movie-land. When a person is starved for attention, it can be a real challenge to deny negative attention any berth in your life. It can be hard to say ‘no’ to an offer that you know isn’t quite good enough. There is even a scene where his character points out that he hasn’t treated her that well, and she proceeds to ignore this acknowledgment. There’s forgiveness and then there’s denial; I see her stance in this film as more of the latter, which reflects a certain desperation that plays off the ‘lack of husband’ issue.
So while this film was easy to watch, I could also see where it would be so easy to be ‘caught sleeping,’ and fail to notice the dangerous messages provided in the subtext of the film. In balance, I’d like to encourage women to keep your standards high and accept only treatment that is worthy of you. If other people can’t seem to treat you well, that is THEIR problem and NOT yours. Leave them in your dust. Love yourself. You are worthy.