Movies That Hate You: My Super-Ex Girlfriend

Synopsis:

Matt Saunders is a man who has had bad luck with dating women.  Egged on by his buddy Vaughn, Matt approaches a woman in a subway train, who immediately shoots him down.  Fortunes change when a thief steals the woman’s purse, and Matt immediately chases him down.  Although he retrieves the purse, he pushes his luck in taunting the man, who turns around and begins chasing Matt.  Matt hides in a dumpster, but opens it to reveal the woman whose purse he now had.  As the two of them leave, the thief is seen hanging from a fire escape.

At work, Matt finds an attraction to his project co-worker Hannah, who flirts with him despite being in a relationship herself.  This turns into confusion when his budding relationship with Jenny (the woman he met on the train) turns to more.  However, there are strange things that happen around her, such as her disappearing at odd times for almost no reason.  Also, it is hinted that Jenny may be psychologically unstable.  When they consummate their relationship, another man uses his technology to listen in.  Soon, he kidnaps Matt and it is apparent that he has had run-ins with G-Girl before.  When Matt refuses to help, this man has Matt hung from the Statue of Liberty and sends Jenny a message, taunting her.  Jenny quickly dons her other identity as G-Girl and rescues Matt.  While she rescues him, the kidnapper, Professor Bedlam, breaks into Jenny’s apartment and steals some strands of Jenny’s hair left on her brush.

Later, while out on a date, and Jenny’s neurotic behavior surfaces once more, an accident occurs that leaves Jenny unharmed.  Matt questions further, and Jenny reveals her greatest secret:  She is the superheroine G-Girl.  When he makes the connection between her and Bedlam, she tells of their origin from her point of view.  Although they become the first members of The Mile High Club to not use aircraft, this only makes things worse.  Hannah’s relationship crumbles, so she turns to Matt for help.  Jenny’s insecurity turns to jealousy because of it, and eventually Matt breaks up with her.  Scorned, Jenny starts taking revenge by defacing his car and throwing it into low Earth orbit; attempting to boil his goldfish; undressing him during an important business meeting using superspeed; and finally throwing a shark throw Hannah’s apartment after he spends the night there.

This drives him back to Professor Bedlam, who has figured out a way to de-power G-Girl.  He gives Matt a gift box, which he gives to Jenny for their date at Matt’s apartment.  However, Hannah and Vaughn show up and the situation spirals out of control.  The box opens up and reveals a rock that Bedlam kept from when Jenny became G-Girl.  The rock steals her powers, storing its energies inside.  When Bedlam attempts to take the power, Vaughn causes a distraction and chaos ensues.  Both Jenny and Hannah reach for the rock and there is an explosion.

Seconds later, Jenny reappears, her powers returned.  Matt is about to find out the full extent of G-Girl’s wrath, but Hannah floats to the rooftop, now with red hair…and powers similar to G-Girl.  Hannah and Jenny fight, brawling in ways only possible with superpowers.  Eventually, Matt manages to stop the fight by appealing to feelings of love and forcing Professor Bedlam to finally confess his love to Jenny.  Everyone reconciles, and Hannah and Matt consummate their relationship a second time, now that she has superpowers.  The next morning, Bedlam and Jenny appear outside Matt’s apartment, having returned his car burned out and badly damaged.  When Jenny picks up a distress call from a passenger jet, she and Hannah change into super-costumes and fly off to the rescue.  Matt and Barry, left holding their purses and jackets, decide to get a beer.

Review and Analysis:

What happens when you get a relationship like that of Fatal Attraction?  The end result is a number of people who end up being hurt (or worse) because of a woman scorned.  This was a theme in a number of movies featuring Michael Douglas in the late 1980s to mid 1990s, particularly Fatal (as mentioned previously) and Disclosure, both movies known more for their provocative sex scenes than their paper-thin plots.  The general idea is that the “scorned” woman takes her vengeance upon the man that wronged her.  And, depending on the movie, it is either supposed to be scary or hilarious.

Against this backdrop, My Super-Ex Girlfriend takes this concept one step further:  What happens when a man dumps a “Super” Woman?  What kind of vengeance could she wreak on him?  From the trailer and tagline, it is clear that Jenny’s character was supposed to be closer to that of Glenn Close’s (from Fatal Attraction), but now, there is the added bonus of her having Superman-like powers all the way around.  On the one hand, it means that a super-vengeance could be really painful.  And for Matt Saunders, it was.

But the unintended message that My Super-Ex Girlfriend sends happens to be that an abused man has no recourse AND that his suffering can be played strictly for laughs.  While this is Hollywood’s way of feigning interest in gender balance, one has to wonder how movies like Sleeping with the Enemy and Enough would have been received if the genders of the attacker and victim were reversed.

There is a Spoon, But It Has No Corn Flakes:

There were a few “deleted” scenes from the theatrical version.  The first one was a confrontation between Matt and a biker group.  Jenny eggs the bikers on, leading to Matt being assaulted, and rather badly.  Afterward, she tells Matt that she does grow tired of saving the world and that sometimes she would need “The Man” to protect her.

Two more involve Jenny’s transformation.  There was the car ride home where Jenny and Barry discuss what her Superhero name should be, and Jenny displays a cluelessness about it – although children’s features tend to do “Super (Insert First Name Here)”  (ie, Super Irma).  The second was Jenny’s cheerleader audition, where she uses her powers to do a super-somersault and get accepted to the squad.  Barry looks on, saddened, and Jenny’s explanation she originally gives with her going on her prom date and Barry crying, she repeats here.

Sadly, none of these make Jenny into a better character.

Jenny Johnson’s Troubled Life:

Jenny Johnson at 17. When her character was "likable."

Jenny Johnson had the same kind of high school life as Peter Parker, at least until she becomes Meteor Girl.  But watching this film in an attempt to justify the behavior of Jenny after her transformation brings some interesting speculations.

First, the meteor could be seen as genie, as it seems to have had the same kind of effect.  The genie (meteor) grants Jenny’s deepest wish, and makes her beautiful, popular, and more attractive.  Now, instead of being “stuck” with a loser like Barry, she could date the jocks and the “bad boys” and have her pick of any of them.  She would apparently find the dark side of this after high school; where instead of guys not paying attention to her because they did not find her attractive they were now dumping her because she had little to offer in a relationship other than her looks.  Thus, her “clinging” could be seen as desperation for companionship.

Basically, this is the story of Spiderman, except Jenny makes more money than Peter will probably ever see.

[The previous section was brought to you by The Comic Book Nerd Discussion Bureau.  If you ever explained a Romantic Comedy, Space Fantasy, or Superhero film at or near Thesis Level, your compensation better be as significant, because the results don’t amount to much]

Barry Edward Lambert’s Troubled Love:

A sensitive villain. Never could let go. But then, neither could she.

But where the movie insists that Professor Bedlam’s parallel is Lex Luthor, it is more that his parallel is actually that of Spiderman 3’s Goblin II (Harry Osbourne).  Both villains have a resentment that began as resentment over the hero’s apparent success.  Also, both villains are far more financially successful than their heroic counterparts.  Both also use their considerable riches to strike against the hero, but the hero never really strikes back with full force.

And both reconcile at the end of the film.

Girlfriend of Steel, Boyfriend of Inconvenience:

A more compelling couple. Actually, a Shark and Dead Air would be more compelling than Luke Wilson and anyone else.

This movie’s schizophrenia about whom you should be rooting for takes a turn for the ditch when Jenny decides to fill Matt in on how she becomes G-Girl and her version of how Dr. Bedlam came to being.  What follows is the story of the Ugly Duckling:  Jenny was Hollywood’s version of an ugly girl; she was a tall, lanky, bespectacled, braces-wearing brunette whose hair just hung from her head.  She was picked on by the Cool Kids in school, with her only friend being Barry, who was madly in love with her.  However, after touching the meteor that crash-lands near them, she goes from Ignored Girl to Hottest Cheerleader in a matter of minutes.  And then her actions from the first day of the next school year forward, while somewhat expected, reduce Jenny’s status on many levels.

The scene meets all of the expectations of “The Nice Guy,” which probably includes Barry’s love for Jenny being because she is a hard-luck woman.  It was also supposed to be a case of a Nice Guy Finishing Last, because Barry was dumped at the altar of their First Time (which was in the middle of being consummated) when Jenny became physically attractive for a wider group of young men.  Jenny’s commentary on how she loved the attention that she received from her other peers, as well as her “wondering” where Barry went after her transformation, was a signal of Jenny’s disconnect with her “old” self.

As for Barry, his newfound loneliness becomes jealousy; both at Jenny for her looks and powers, and at the boys she was now dating; Boys, as far as Barry was concerned, who gave her nary a second look before she transformed.  This jealousy would turn to resentment over the years and would result in him attempting to strike at both her and her potential lovers, which would sometime land him in prison.  It is when he is released from prison this one last time when he would come across the one thing that he believed would change things; a large chunk of the meteor that crashed many years ago.  He planned on using this rock to turn Jenny into an ordinary woman and then he would take the power for himself.  Apparently, he read the comic book Superman #159, loved the ending where Lois Lane as a super-powered human on an Alien planet loses her powers because of a rock and gives them to Kal-El, making him Superman on Krypton, and decided that this was the best way to rekindle his relationship with Jenny.  He even goes as far as to admit that he was going to do this to win her heart in the end.

RomCom Set Pieces:

In Hollywood’s version of the Romantic Comedy, there are several things that can usually be found in nearly all of them.

For example, a RomCom will often feature the Foreign Investment Group.  On some occasions, the group is from Europe (mostly either England or France) or Australia, but the majority of the time, the group is from:

Chinese, Japanese, or Korean? Well, nearly all of the same actors will be present in these RomComs, so who cares?!

Some non-descript Asian Corporation.  This is so relatively few lines need to be given to Asian actors in films like this, and the audience can chalk it up to Playing a Non-English Speaking Role.

Next, a RomCom will often feature a sassy Woman of Color, who will act as the Best Friend of the Protagonist.  With My Super-Ex Girlfriend, the protagonist would arguably be Matt Saunders, so the Black Best Friend role shifts:

Wanda Sykes as Carla Dunkirk. She was supposed to be "The HR Director from Hell," but it didn't work out that way.

I touched upon this particular role in Women of Color Sci-Fi Trope #3: The Incompetent.  Carla’s appearances all coincide with something that Matt does which would be misconstrued as Sexual Harassment.  She is the only woman of color of any significance in the film.

Third, a Romantic Comedy will often be devoid of Men of Color, unless they are gay.  My Super-Ex Girlfriend does have one Black Man, but guess what he is:

Oh, right. A criminal. Remember when the director gave us Winston Zeddmore?

Interesting side note:  Despite being dropped from the air in a car and having double whiplash trauma, he is able to immediately pop out of the car AND empty his magazine (written to show the audience that G-Girl is bulletproof) AND try to run away.

He has a cousin in Los Angeles that fights Hancock by bashing him with a compressed oxygen tank that explodes…and the guy continues to pound Hancock well after that, even though by all rights he should have been seriously injured.

Four, A RomCom is supposed to have a second relationship that hangs in the background.

She is simply known as "Shapely Bartender."

Normally, this second relationship, while being a throw-in, usually has some semblance of attraction between the supporting characters in question.  Not here.  The Shapely Bartender spends the entire movie making it clear that she does not enjoy Vaughn’s advances towards her.  Until, that is, she finds out that he’s part of G-Girl’s entourage, and then the movie ends, literally, with this:

Don't You Hate Homages to Other Bad Films? So do I!

In this case, this homage goes back to Revenge of the Nerds, where one of the beautiful girls has “The Best Sex of Her Life” with a Nerd…because all nerds think about is Sex.

Made for Each Other:

Despite their protestations about what they did to each other in high school, both Jenny and Barry were a match made in…Dante’s Inferno.

Barry Lambert's hobby: Stalking a Girl from High School. Somewhere there is an inappropriate joke about Facebook.

This scene was supposed to endear the audience to the fact that Barry, for all of his protests and anger, never really stopped loving Jenny.  This scene would have been better served with simply a picture on the mantle of Jenny and Barry together…before the transformation and something like “Best Friends Forever” in marker.  This was over-the-top; and fails to serve its intended purpose.

But…:

Obsessive Compulsive...And With Superpowers? This does not end well.

Scenes like this show that Jenny and Barry were indeed cut from the same cloth.  This particular scene, Matt had finished a meeting and ended up with a small wooden splinter in his finger.  Hannah decides to remove it…by using her mouth.  Of course, if Hannah did like most people and used either her fingernails or a pair of tweezers, having Jenny show up afterward would have made the scene less…humorous.

Barry has a tendency to punish those who stand in his way in rather spectacular fashion:

I'm sure the Statue of Liberty is tired of appearing in Superhero films like this.

When Matt first brushes off Professor Bedlam, he responds by hanging Matt off of the Statue of Liberty’s torch…and sending a Picture to G-Girl to taunt her.  The movie tries its hardest to make Professor Bedlam a villain that we are not supposed to root for.

But….

It has no Frickin' Laser Beam on its Head.

Jenny’s ultimate punishment to Matt for breaking up with him (and subsequently sleeping with Hannah) is to throw a shark (pictured above) into Hannah’s apartment.  When Matt saw that the shark was targeting his genitals (don’t ask for an explanation.  Really, don’t.), he lures the shark to jump out of another window of the apartment, down below into the street.

Besides all of this, it is clear that Jenny never uses her powers against Barry/Bedlam at any time during the film.  One has to wonder if Jenny feared that Bedlam had some kind of Deadman’s Switch; G-Girl’s secret identity would be revealed to the world if he were killed or seriously wounded.  But, not to worry:

An evil psychopath with genius level intellect and a psychopath with superpowers. This world will come to an end.

In this story, “Super Woman” marries the Lex Luthor character.  If you pray to deities that live in the clouds, reside in volcanoes, or exist in wormholes where time has no meaning, now would be a good time to do so.

In Conclusion:

There is no one to root for in this film.  Everyone is supposed to be hard-luck case; Matt, for being a magnet to woman with insecurities;  Hannah, for falling into bad relationships; Jenny, for never being able to find true love; and Barry, for never being able to reconcile his broken heart.  And in the end, it followed all of the usual RomCom tropes, including the trite roundup.

Although Grace’s review of this film from Heroine Content likens the final battle of the film to Lois Lane Issue #21, it is actually not the case.  It’s hard to fight over a man if the intention of them is to put him in traction for a long time to come.

But the issue of emasculation continues to crop up when talking about this movie, but even that misses the point.  Broken down, none of the men in the film actually had a problem dealing with super-women.  The ultimate issue, unfortunately, is that relationship violence is never funny, but the movie attempts to live within a bygone era where, at the very least, a man in a relationship with a woman whose violent response is over-the-top is supposed to be humorous.  Even attempting to put this into a context where Matt Saunders was some kind of craven individual that somehow deserved punishment, it would still ill-serve Jenny and Matt…and the movie because of the sticking point of Relationship Violence.  Attempting to justify Jenny’s behavior towards Matt should lead to a questioning as to why.  This is not really a funny slice of life, regardless of any group’s privileged attempt to the contrary.

Maybe after Jenny lost her powers, that shark would show up again and make a meal out of everyone.  Then the movie could end and Wanda Sykes may have her dignity returned to her.

Unfortunately, that will never happen, so avoid this film.

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One Response to Movies That Hate You: My Super-Ex Girlfriend

  1. Pingback: Movies That Hate You: Star Trek (2009) | Loose Cannon

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