Is ‘When Harry Met Sally’ a Realistic Depiction of Male-Female Friendships?

And does it hold up 30 years after its release?

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It is loaded with gendered stereotypes…

I started to feel acutely pained fairly early on in the film, during a scene where Sally is seated at a table with two girlfriends — she has just broken up with her boyfriend of five years. They lament the lack of available men to marry and the race against their ticking clocks at the grand old age of 31. They worry that they need to get married before the men start to die off. “At least you can say you were married,” one of the women remarks without irony, as though this is life’s crowning achievement.

… And occasional casual racism

I know I know, if we rule out any thirty year old films that have racist jokes, there won’t be anything left. But Harry’s quip that the dishes in an Ethiopian restaurant should just be empty because there’s no food in Ethiopia is pretty jarring at best.

The most famous scene makes absolutely no sense…

I’m willing to suspend disbelief while watching movies — so I can pretend that it is possible a woman might simulate a fake orgasm in a crowded cafe in order to make a point to her male companion. But I do not, even for the sake of the movie, believe that woman would be Sally. It simply doesn’t fit with her character at all. We know her to be neurotic and uptight — because Harry is constantly pointing out these traits in her (generally as flaws).

…And why the hell do they refer to sex as “doing it”?

I mean, just why. Are they 12 year olds? No, they are grown-ass adults who talk about sex non-stop for one hour and 36 minutes, but still somehow have to use this childish euphemism because they can’t name the act out loud. Was this an 80s thing?

Nothing about their friendship rings true

Global wanderer. Expert thumb-twiddler. Screenwriter, travel writer, and copy writer. Find me at www.clairejharris.com.

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