Problematic movie tropes and where to find them: Here's where to get your dose of manchild films and more

·3-min read

'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic €" and asks, 'But are they really?'.

Read more from the series here.


Hallo dears! It's that kind of time again y'all! Time to feel self-righteous and fabulous as we point fingers at various items and say, hey! That thing is so mean you guys! So I was supposed to review a sweet little movie called The Stranglers of Bombay but that's not happening because fam, I forgot to watch it. Because the pandemic. Anyway the fact remains that I cannot whine about The Stranglers of Bombay without actually watching it. I mean I could but this column does have a certain set of standards. They are low standards but they are our standards and we love them. So!

Today we will continue with our embarrassing list of problematic movie themes that I enjoy because I forgot to watch the movie I was supposed to write about today, which is also embarrassing. Let's do this fam!

Previously on Problematic Movie Tropes: Immigrant Spelling Bee Movies, Hero with Heart of Milk/Gold Movies, The Amazing White Dude Movie, The White Saviour Movies, Poor People Work Hard and Get Rich Over the Course of One Song Movies

Manchild Movies

In today's modern world, 'manchild' usually refers to entitled dudes who cry when their entitlement is endangered. Which I totally understand, I mean if that happened to me I would cry too. Anyway, in the Manchild Movies I am referring to, the dude, for whatever reasons, acts like an actual child.

Apart from being unable to do basic things for himself like bathing or eating, said dude is also "innocent" aka "doesn't know anything" aka perfect dude for the otherwise wily heroine to seduce. In a previous instalment, we took a look at one of the most manchildest movies I have ever seen called Chinna Thambi, which I unabashedly loved in my youth and I am so sorry. Not going to lie, the problematicness of this movie only became obvious when I flipped the genders. Because a young woman with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old, being manipulated and seduced by a young man, is clearly wrong, no? However, when the childlike person is a dude, it gets confusing for some reason. Especially if there is good music and comedy. Because it's a dude, you know? So it's fine. NO IT'S NOT FINE THESE KINDS OF MOVIES ARE SUPER PROBLEMATIC WTF.

Problematic Rating €" Even if it has great music. Even if it's funny. Even if there is only one rape scene and one instance of someone slapping a woman so hard that she falls down. Movies about exploiting developmentally-challenged dudes are problematic.

Trauma Porn

So obviously trauma is bad. And porn is "banned" in India so that must also be bad. But there are so many things to love about Trauma Porn. Horrific events and their aftermath get condensed into two-hour movies with limited blood and crying. We get to watch pretty people act everything out for us so we don't have to read the book. We don't have to see anything super super gross. And at the end, we become woke and then we can go do something else. In this way, we learn that Partition, the freedom struggle, various communal riots, slavery, wars and the Holocaust were all really bad, man. And fam, that's about all we learn about these and other traumatic incidents. Which is a superconvenient way to learn about inconvenient things, no?

Problematic Rating €" I know that as a woman writing on the internet I need to learn about the concept of timepass, it's just a movie, etc. But fam, what does it mean when we start viewing actual traumatic events as timepass movies? Does it mean I am anti-national? Obviously yes.

We're not done yet! Tune in for the second instalment of this column where we continue to investigate problematic movie themes I enjoy! Wow!

Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications

Also See: All the problematic movie tropes that play out on the big screen, and why we can't get enough of them

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Bachi Karkaria's Tales from TJ Road: A third generation jeweller's glittering story of upward mobility, gentrification

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