If you wanted to see a romantic comedy this year, you were in luck—especially if you wanted to see the old formula flipped on its head. A new wave of “feminist” romantic comedies attempted to empower women within the traditional meet-cute to happily-ever-after relationship story arc.

Trainwreck, starring comedian Amy Schumer, is perhaps the most talked-about example, but others include 50 Shades of Grey—lauded by some for its female-centric portrayal of sex, though not for its gender dynamics—and the Alison Brie-led Sleeping With Other People, about a woman who can only develop a healthy, balanced relationship with a man once the pair agrees to not have sex.

Those who argue that these films are empowering say something like this: The women in these movies are fully in touch with their own sexuality and unabashed about asking for what they want. They are not princesses waiting to be rescued nor incomplete without a man. These women are fully capable of walking away, no matter the man’s charm or wealth or persuasive ways.

You could dismiss these movies as superficial illustrations that "modern women like sex and that's okay," but they actually illustrate something that frustrates a lot of women—both Christian and not—about relationships: it seems like there’s no middle ground. You can choose sex without emotional involvement, or you can choose emotional involvement without sex.

But I’d argue that these movies do not empower women. Instead, they obfuscate the reality: sexual liberty doesn't reduce emotional vulnerability.

Sexual empowerment is not the same thing as power in a relationship—something many Christians readily acknowledge. ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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