Fred Savage: Horrible romantic advice from Wonder Years to Ladies Night

Categories: Comedy

Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years
Last Friday, the news broke that one-time tween-dream Fred Savage will direct Charlize Theron in the upcoming female buddy-pic Ladies Night. The film is being described as Bridesmaids-esque, which means it will most likely be another mildly funny, wholly predictable rom-com attempt at proving that women can be just as marginalized and scatologically juvenile as their male opposites. This is nothing new for Savage, who spent six seasons on The Wonder Years misleading pubescent audiences into thinking that awkward, insecure, pint-sized whiners who get picked-on will always win over the taller, prettier girls they've been obsessing over.

And probably creating a few stalkers along the way.

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For skinny, unpopular outcasts like myself, The Wonder Years's Kevin Arnold was a transcendent hero. He proved that you didn't need muscles or decent clothes or even the absence of regular public beatings in order to land a girl as siren-like as Winnie Cooper. This was years before any of us discovered Morrissey or Hot Topic, which taught us to identify ourselves through our rejection, back when kissing a girl ten thousand times out of your league was not only a possibility, but an ultimate goal. And Kevin Arnold gave us the battle plan for that goal.

In season 4's "The Accident," Winnie Cooper spends the first twenty minutes repeatedly explaining to Kevin that she wants nothing to do with him. They were once an item, but that was a long time ago -- and now Winnie is into guys "with driver's licenses." This challenge motivates Kevin to step up his game, butting into her fun with older kids at the roller skating rink and showing up randomly at her house, only to be rejected with increasing vitriol each time. Winnie was once annoyed with Kevin, and now she downright hates him. But when he learns that these newly-minted drivers crashed a car while cruising with Winnie, he rides his bike to her house and waits for hours on her doorstep for her to return from the hospital.

"Winnie doesn't want to see you right now," her mother explains to him, while the lady of the hour waits in the car, not wanting to even speak to Kevin.

"The only thing left to do was go home," narrator Daniel Stern explains. "Only I didn't. I couldn't." So ol' Kev pretends to ride his bike home, only to return moments later, climb a tree and sneak onto the roof of Winnie's house to peak in through her bedroom window, where she lays half asleep.

I'm not sure this even needs to be said, but: THIS IS WHAT A STALKER DOES. The first twenty minutes of this episode read as a Dateline warning against predators. But it doesn't end there. While Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" slaps a thick layer of sentimentality across the screen, Winnie slowly opens her eyes to notice a voyeur peaking in through her bedroom window. Kevin makes eye contact and whispers, "I love you."

Continue reading for more bad advice.

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Solid. But let us not forget the message was also absorbed by the Winnies who grew up alternating between ignoring and using those short-awkward-shy-late blooming boys as emotional tampons until those girls go off to college where they promptly fell on their backs where they remained for four - or five years if you count the backpacking through Europe to acquire a couple of awkward hostel sexcapades and/or threesomes with the sexually omnivorous sidekick from Amsterdam  - earning them their sexual empowerment and a BA in French. 

Parlay that into their 20's where they bang their much older boss between "bad decisions" of backward baseball hat and tank top wearing Dbags that "never seem to commit" but are so tall and confident and irresistible and so they do it again and again until at 32 their ovaries scream and they suddenly realize that those distasteful Kevins of the world are still orbiting diligently and they are almost cute now and have regular jobs and reliable cars and 401ks. 

But there is still that one tall-handsome-aggressive-confident-high earning man who is FINALLY ready to settle down, except he wants no part of her sexually empowered/liberated past as a mattress back and opts for the 26 y/o version. To which she laments loudly and often "Where are all of the good men?". So Kevin it is. Fast forward seven years and two kids and a sizable mortgage and a house filled with Pottery Barn bric-a-brac that never seems to fill that hole inside her and she is just not "happy" and has just read the inspirational tale called Eat-Pray-Love and off she goes because dammit "I am entitled to be happy" and Kevin is left with 30% custody, 100% childsupport and a liquidating net worth that makes a decade of shlepping at that soulless BancoCorp feel like the slow suicide it really was.  The message you speak of continues, printing Minnies and Kevins like cardboard cutouts off into the world to fuel the consumption machine. Awesome. At least now we have Facebook. Everyone can star in their own show, but the plot is the same drivel.


@Inavandownbytheriver Whoah, you obviously feel pretty strong about this. While I half agree with you that the scenario you described does often happen, I don't think a young woman should refrain from sleeping with whomever she pleases, no matter the size of that number, just because some guy wont marry her down the road if she does. Speaking as a male, my attraction to a woman has never hinged upon how many people she's slept with.


@Josiah.Hesse @InavandownbytheriverHow very PC-open minded-progressive of you. Of course there are plenty of men like you but also plenty of other men who actually consider the entirety of a woman's past choices- sexual and otherwise. But I agree with you: have at it ladies. Time will tell. Just don't think that because Mr. Big showed up in the end that there are no hidden, delayed, or otherwise negative aspects/costs of unbridled "sexual liberation", hedonism, and credential-chasing in the real world. Cake and eat it too. Its your privilege. 

But more importantly it is interesting that of all the messages in the media, you pick up on what the men are (have been) wrongly told, but fail to acknowledge the dangers of what the women are also being told. Its a sign of just how embedded the message is; that it still comes down to the failing of men to navigate those false messages yet the duplicity of agency without responsibility for women is untouchable territory. 

In your take on the 'horrible advice', you failed to recognize that these messages are not just directed at men. Follow your hearts ladies, you can have it all! Be awesome! And if the modern commoditized man fails to appear when Disney says he should, you have every right to be upset and demand that all those Kevins that you ignored while plodding through the puddles of self-indulgence "man up" already. 

Your sex-positive posture is fine, nice and non-judgmental like the modern woman likes it, but it is unnecessary to pander to your female audience because your position is already a part of the dangerous message that is the mainstay of the media. But Its a decent, funny take though, so kudos for that.

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