How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days draws heavily on the irresistible charisma of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey to pull off a pretty wacky premise. Hudson’s Andie bets she can scare off any man in ten days, while McConaughey swears he can win over any woman in the same period, and the result is an absurdist battle of the sexes. But is this really a couple whose happily ever after we want to feel all warm and fuzzy about? Here’s our Take on some of the most Toxic Takeaways from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, as well as one Meaningful Message that redeems it in the end.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days draws heavily on the irresistible charisma of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey to pull off a pretty wacky premise. Hudson’s Andie bets she can scare off any man in 10 guys, while McConaughey swears he can win over any woman in the same period, and the result is an absurdist battle of the sexes. But beyond the lighthearted fun of their silly hijinks on the road to falling in love, what is the film really saying?
Throughout the film, we watch Andie and Ben promote regressive ideas about what men and women want, painting women as joyless, desperate relationship-seekers, and men as shallow commitment-phobes. Both main characters are strikingly manipulative and opportunistic, not to mention — as they rightly point out about each other — egotistical and vain. Is this really a couple whose happily ever after we want to feel all warm and fuzzy about? Here’s our Take on some of the most Toxic Takeaways from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — as well as one Meaningful Message that redeems it in the end.
Toxic Takeaway #1: Women are crazy (and obsessed with landing a man).
Andie’s main goal is to drive away a guy by making the “classic” mistakes many women make in relationships. But who actually acts the way she does? Andie pretends to be baselessly jealous, insecure and suffocating. She even goes so far as to name Ben’s private parts. These aren’t classic mistakes women make — they’re straight-up unhinged. But by casting this as expected behavior from women, the film suggests that women, in general, lose their minds upon encountering an attractive, eligible guy.
Ben Barry: “Did you just witness the one-woman homage to The Exorcist, you saw it!” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
The harmful stereotype that women are “crazy” has been used throughout history to dismiss women’s emotions. As Medium’s Karolína Fialka writes, craziness “has been perceived as a strictly feminine trait throughout history, making the word “crazy” kind of a gendered insult. Until not too long ago, a mental illness called hysteria (a name derived from the Greek word for the uterus) … was diagnosed left and right in women whose behavior didn’t comply with the societal norms of their time.”
Charlotte Dalrymple: “According to your diagnosis, hysteria seems to cover everything, from insomnia to toothache.”
Dr. Mortimer Granville: “It’s not my — ”
Charlotte Dalrymple: “It’s nothing more than a catch-all for dissatisfied women.” - Hysteria
Toxic Takeaway #2: Men don’t want to settle down.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days plays into old cliches by framing all early relationships as a battle of the sexes — between a woman who obviously wants to settle down, and a man who wants to avoid that at all costs and just have meaningless sex. The film sets up men and women as almost two different species, who want fundamentally different things from relationships, and implies that this is why so many relationships don’t work out. But rather than advocating that people look for partners with similar desires, the film sends a message that relationships are normally a fight between two parties negotiating for opposite goals.
Ben is horrified by Andie’s moves toward commitment during their relationship. Obviously, she’s intentionally taking it to a farcical extreme — redecorating his apartment, buying a dog, making a scrapbook of photoshopped family pictures.
Andie Anderson: “I used Photoshop at work today to composite our faces together to see what our kids would look like.” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
But the reason she chooses these actions to put him off is to affirm her underlying assumption that any demand for commitment is an immediate turnoff for men.
In fact, it’s an untrue stereotype that women are always the ones pushing for a serious relationship. Professor Elizabeth Aura McClintock notes in Psychology Today, “In stark contradiction to the stereotype of men as commitment-phobic ‘players,’ Pew Research reports that young adult women and men are equally likely to want to marry.”
Toxic Takeaway #3: Still, unattainable men will fall for you — if you’re a “cool” girl.
Ben is cast into another cliche: the man who thinks he doesn’t want to settle down and has to be tricked into realizing he does. Andie tames Ben’s womanizing ways, proving he just needed the right girl to see that he was actually interested in a serious relationship. This sets up the false expectation that all men think they want to stay bachelors but are actually just waiting for the perfect woman. In reality, if someone repeatedly says they don’t want a relationship, it’s probably best to them at their word.
In showing why and how Ben does a 180 and suddenly wants to settle down with Andie, the film sets up a very specific idea of what version of femininity is “attractive” to guys. Early on, Andie’s friend Michelle is distraught after being dumped by a guy she barely knew. Andie then pretends to act like Michelle does for her article.
Andie Anderson: “I’m going to limit myself to doing everything girls do wrong in relationships. Basically, everything we know guys hate.” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
This whole premise sets Andie up as someone whose real personality isn’t like those desperate, emotional, traditional women but is actually the cool exception.
The film makes a point of contrasting the stereotypically feminine persona that Andie uses to drive Ben away, with her real (cool) self. For every time she drags Ben to a rom-com or a Celine Dion concert, the film has to show her cheering at a Knicks game or chowing down on a burrito. Even the way she dresses changes to be more feminine when she’s trying to lose Ben. Andie rejects the female-oriented content that her magazine Composure produces and the ditzy women who work there, complaining that she wants to write about politics and “real issues.”
Andie Anderson: “I want to write about things that matter, like politics and the environment, and foreign affairs, things I’m interested in.” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
There’s nothing wrong with these preferences, of course, but in this framework, they reinforce Andie’s distance from “normal women” and their interests or actions. All of these traits play into the Cool Girl trope: that what a guy really wants is a girl with the personality of a guy — someone who loves sports games, beer, and burgers while still looking hot.
This portrait can also be limiting to men, by dismissing the idea that men could possibly want to engage in any of these supposedly “girly” activities or behaviors.
Still, a big part of why Andie gets away with her behavior is because she has the cool girl’s fundamental quality: she’s phenomenally attractive. This plays into the cliche of…
Toxic Takeaway #4: The hot person rule — If you’re gorgeous enough, anyone will want you, no matter what you do.
Despite Andie’s admittedly insane behavior and her shady motives, it’s taken as a given that Ben still wants to be with her. As soon as she reveals that she regrets losing him in her published article, he runs off to beg for her back. Likewise, it’s a given that she’ll fall for the equally hot Ben. This sends the message to viewers that they shouldn’t work on their personality or worry about starting relationships off in the right way — they just need to focus on looking great, and everything will work out. Speaking of which:
Toxic Takeaway #5: Lying can lead to true love
Andie and Ben’s entire relationship is built on dishonesty. Ben is lying to Andie to advance his career, as part of a professional bet in order to land a big account. And Andie is lying to Ben as part of an article she pitched, which just so happens to be completely unethical and hardly provides a very flattering portrait of female journalists.
Lana Jong: “This poor schmuck she’s been pretending to date - well, not even pretending to date, she’s actually dating the guy. She’s doing the most atrocious things to him.” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
As Alex Zaragoza writes for Vice, “Depicting women journalists as morally ditzy or fully unaware of real ethical lines in their profession… proliferates the idea that we’re unprofessional, flighty, easily distracted, and willing to engage in questionable behavior because we like someone.”
But while each gets mad the other was so bold as to humiliate them, in the end, the film implies that because Andie and Ben are both engaging in mirror-image toxic behavior, this must mean they’re perfect for one another.
This leads us to:
Toxic Takeaway #6: Find your equally toxic partner.
The couple comes off as empowered by their mutual willingness to go to extreme lengths of lying and manipulation as if this somehow sets them above “normal people.” The film seems to argue that a person’s ideal partner is someone whose toxic traits match up to theirs.
Andie Anderson: “Are you as nice as you seem, Ben?”
Ben Barry: “No.”
Andie Anderson: “Good, neither am I.” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
It’s fitting that Andie and Ben’s big confrontation is to a passive-aggressive duet of the song “You’re So Vain” — because it’s true. They’re both so sure of their desirability and wiles that they believe they can have any partner wrapped around their little finger.
Toxic Takeaway #7: Happy Ending = A Man
Ultimately, the film implies a happy ending for a woman is settling down with a guy, even if she claims that’s not her priority. The solution presented for Michelle’s relationship problems isn’t for her to take some time for herself or learn to be happy alone but to change her behavior for the next guy that comes along.
Depictions of Andie’s boss and Ben’s female competitors reinforce the stereotypes that high-powered, successful women are cold and unfriendly. And just as we saw that bachelor Ben just needed to meet the right girl, Andie is the classic “career woman” who realizes love is really what she wants and needs for a fulfilling life. She’s just been in denial of this universal need. Her happy ending is giving up the big job interview in D.C. to be with Ben, even though she’s realized she can’t achieve her dreams of being a political journalist at Composure.
Despite all those toxic takeaways, this movie also leaves us with one Meaningful Message that just might make How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days worth it: if you do find the right person, they’ll overlook your mistakes and “crazier” behaviors to love the real person underneath. The film starts out framed as a “how-to,” addressing people’s insecurities that they need to follow the rules and do everything correctly to find love.
But in the end, Andie and Ben develop real feelings for each other when they stop acting. They like each other most when they’re not proving some gendered stereotype or pushing some secret agenda, but just being their true, authentic selves. Ultimately, real love means you can throw out the rulebook and do everything wrong. It’s just about accepting each other for who you are and feeling good when you’re together.
Ben Barry: “Look who made the trip with me.”
Andie Anderson: “It’s our love fern!” - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Fialka, Karolína. “It’s Time To Stop Calling Women ‘Crazy.’” Medium, 2 May 2020, medium.com/an-injustice/its-time-to-stop-calling-women-crazy-87f9aacb72d.
McClintock, Elizabeth Aura. “Who Craves Relationships More, Men or Women?” Psychology Today, 31 July 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/it-s-man-s-and-woman-s-world/201407/who-craves-relationships-more-men-or-women.
Zaragoza, Alex. “‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’: Great Rom-Com, Terrible Advice.” VICE, 29 Apr. 2020, www.vice.com/en/article/n7j83k/how-to-lose-a-guy-in-10-days-great-rom-com-terrible-advice.