The Guy Gets the Girl, the girl gets…

It’s the classic movie scenario. The guy gets the girl, and the girl gets the guy.

Or does she?

Not according to the movie Bumblebee.

Charlie Watson is the protagonist of Bumblebee but she doesn’t get the guy at the end of the movie, despite saving the world. In contrast, the male protagonist of the previous instalment in the Transformers franchise gets the girl after proving himself a hero.

Charlie Watson, played by Hailee Steinfeld, battles the same humanoid robots, overbearing parents and cynical government forces as Sam Witwicky, but she doesn’t finish the movie in the arms of her crush. It’s not clear if she even has a crush. Sam Witwicky, however, definitely gets the girl, and his movie-long crush is the character Mikaela Banes, played by none other than Megan Fox who was once declared the hottest woman alive.

Sam Witwicky fulfils the role of the hero. He overcomes self doubt and many other obstacles to defeat a seemingly impossible enemy and concludes the movie in a romantic scene with Mikaela. He gets the girl because he is the hero, and it could almost be said that he is the hero because he gets the girl. It’s what heroes do.

So why doesn’t Charlie get the guy?

A guy is within her reach. Her neighbour Memo is shown to have a very obvious crush on her from the moment he appears on screen and the two are drawn together during the battle against the Decepticons. Just as the music slows, peace is restored and the sun begins to set, their hands draw closer; but she pulls away. Charlie makes it very clear to Memo that nothing is going to happen. The girl doesn’t get the guy.

Why not?

Is she too young?

No. Charlie is 18. This is made abundantly clear at the beginning of the movie. In fact, her 18th birthday is the pretext for her being given the beat up old VW which later turns out to be Bumblebee. Thus, Charlie is clearly old enough to decide if she wants to pursue a relationship with Memo, but she doesn’t. Perhaps she was shown to be 18 so that she could legally drive a car, not so that she could pursue a romantic relationship. The character was also given a name more associated with males. Should we read anything into this?

Is a sequel planned?

Will they, won’t they? helps sustain the narrative during this movie and Charlie’s declaration at the end hints at a continuation of the budding romance in a future movie. Keeping viewers hooked could explain why Charlie doesn’t get the guy.

Is there a deeper reason?

Is a young female protagonist not allowed to get the guy, no matter how courageous, physically capable and badass she is?

Must she remain pure, chaste and virginal simply because she’s a young woman? Perhaps a heroine is tainted if she succumbs to any physical desires, even though Sam Witwicky certainly succumbs to his physical desires. Will one loving, extended embrace or one kiss on the lips reduce Charlie to a fallen angel, a tramp, a slut or a loose woman. Perhaps a young woman acknowledging her physical desires is simply too much for Hollywood – too progressive. No fast women, just fast cars.

If this is the case, we must ask why. The genre of the movie itself may tell us.

The Transformers franchise is clearly aimed at males. Fast cars, machines, action and explosions appeal to the stereotypical male – the same stereotypical male who believes every young woman should be chaste, except the ones who satisfy his cravings. The same males with underlying Christian notions of female chastity.

In addition, every male viewer must be led to believe that he has a chance with the good-looking Charlie (Hailee), just as they believe they have a chance with coupled Instagram models who never reveal their relationships. For this reason, Charlie must remain single.

The male viewer could also be said to control Charlie’s body and choices. Marketing-savvy Hollywood producers know what sells blockbusters like Bumblebee. They know the formula and they adhere to it religiously. They know that predominantly male viewers will reject a sexually liberated and free-thinking young woman unless she practices that liberation in their lounge chair, and not on screen. The collective attitude of men towards young women traps Charlie in the friend’s zone with Memo and denies her the opportunity to connect with Memo in the same way that Sam connected with Mikaela.

Is it positive?

This could be an empowering moment for Charlie and female protagonists. Charlie decides if the relationship is initiated, at the end of the movie and throughout the movie. Charlie is shown to be in control. The producers could also be making a statement that a heroine doesn’t need a male love interest in order to be a heroine. She is independent. Female protagonists and heroines could in this way be subverting the action movie genre. Or maybe we’re reading too much into this. After all, it’s a Transformers movie.

Charlie doesn’t get the guy…but at least she gets the car.

Actually, she doesn’t.

The movie ends when Bumblebee flies off to save the universe.

Images: Paramount Pictures

A Request

“You’ll have to go back,”

Oh no, thought Tim, I’d really don’t want to. What will she say?

Tim was extremely reluctant to return and demand a refund, because of what had happened since he’d purchased the medicine from the chemist.

The specialist explained why Tim was entitled to a refund, and the difference between the correct medicine and the one he was given. Meanwhile, Tim weighed up the consequences of demanding a refund or forgetting the matter entirely. The hit to his wallet had been hard, but the hit to his dignity might be more severe, and more lasting.

“…and make sure you speak to the pharmacist directly, not just the front desk staff. And if they don’t want to give you a refund, call me straightaway, I’m happy to speak to them.”

Thoughts raced through Tim’s mind while he sat in the consultation room. I could just do nothing, the specialist might forget. But the doctor’s conscientiousness made that unlikely, and is why Tim made the four-hour round trip for the appointment.

The specialist continued explaining the mistake and the reason that Tim had broken out in red rashes from head to toe after taking just one tablet. Tim wasn’t completely focussed, but did hear the words:

“…ended up in hospital after taking that medicine…” Tim had been lucky.

I guess I have no choice, he surmised, but the task ahead soured his mood on the long drive home.

Tim’s finger hovered over the button.

Follow.

Should I? he pondered.

Should I request to follow her?

He’d been struck by her physical beauty as soon as he’d approached the counter, even as she was partially obscured by the cashier and the plethora of medicines which surrounded her. She’s obviously intelligent, too. She looks quite young but that might be the result of her genes, and she must have spent at least four or five years at university before taking up this current position. She’s not too young for a man of Tim’s vintage. She possessed the two qualities Tim genuinely admired in women – brains and beauty. He certainly didn’t subscribe to the the theory that men should never date a woman who is smarter than them. He craved an intellectual sparring partner. Maybe subconsciously he wanted intelligent children, maybe he just wanted someone who could converse. Either way, he knew he would like to get to know this woman more.

He felt his heart beat faster as his finger remained fixed over the button. He imagined the optimal outcome, and his heart beat faster again.

When he first entered the pharmacy, he thought he would be in and out in a few minutes, but he’d been unable to find the correct bottle of tablets, so approached the cashier, who wasn’t able to help.

“The pharmacist will be with you shortly,” she offered.

While he waited for the pharmacist to bring him the medicine, he surveyed the chemist aimlessly. Locals waiting for scripts. Parents buying cold and flu tablets. Tourists stocking up on sunblock and repellent. Then his eyes rested on the board.

The supervising pharmacist had a Sri Lankan or Indian name, while the pharmacist on duty had a name that stood out. It was uncommon in these parts. The pharmacist who had caught Tim’s eye was clearly not from the sub-continent, so she must be the owner of the second name. He rolled it over in his mind a few times, committing it to memory, and realised that unlike most people from this suburb, he had visited the land of her ancestors. He had an ‘in’, a conversation starter. He then tried to remember some of the words he’d picked up from his travels through that country. They trickled back, but then he remembered that those words belong to languages in the south, and her family name comes from the north. No problem, he still recalled a few words of the northern language – at least enough to surprise her. Maybe even impress her.

His finger continued to hover.

Is it creepy?

Will she think I’m a creep, a stalker?

Will she remember me from the pharmacy? We’d spoken for quite a while as she explained the tablets and their likeness to the ones I couldn’t find on the shelf. It was a typically mundane conversation that had been made substantially more enjoyable by her presence. Surely she will notice my profile pic when she sees the request.

Is it normal, is it flattering?

Lot’s of people meet online these days, via social media, via Tinder and all sorts of dating apps and dating sites. Millenials connect via socials, even if many of them don’t admit it – and the photogenic pharmacist was a millenial. People lived most of their lives online, so of course they could meet a partner online. COVID had even forced people to socialise entirely online, so sending an electronic request to initiate a connection with another person is surely somewhat normal these days.

On the other hand, is it too forward?

Will she wonder how I found her? If she remembers it was me, she will know that she never told me her name, nor asked for mine. She was definitely smart enough to deduce that I’d taken it from the board in the pharmacy. She was also smart enough to realise I’d committed the name to memory while in the store – after all, it was not a ‘common’ name.

She might think it was endearing that I’d gone to so much mental effort to remember her name, or she might find it very disconcerting. Some might even call it the early stages of identity theft, or cyber bullying. What’s more, the social media account looked like it hadn’t been updated for quite some time, so she might become suspicious upon seeing a follow request completely out of the blue.

He must think I’m single, she’ll also think. Did he check if I was wearing a wedding ring?

Yes, Tim certainly did. As soon as she emerged from behind her counter.

Will she think less of me for not saying anything in person? Should I have expressed my interest face to face in the pharmacy, upon first meeting? It was hardly a romantic setting. A chemist, surrounded by cures for illness, next to a shabby old man with all manner of health complaints waiting for who knows what medicine. And the middle-aged lady coughing through her nicotine-clogged lungs and showering the chemist with coronavirus: very romantic. Plus, she was giving me medicine, and knew what I was likely suffering. This is what people try so hard to hide on a date.

Will she think me cowardly for not speaking face to face, and for hiding behind a social media account to connect with someone?

His finger descended.

Requested.

Armed with the proof of purchase, the doctor’s business card and the bottle of offending pills, Tim approached the pharmacist.

“Um, hi…”

Image: Ilan Dov