Allow me to make three outrageous assumptions, so I don't have to keep saying "Of course, not all women…" and "That being said, some men…" and so forth. Here goes: 1) Women love romantic movies. 2) Men love action movies. 3) Men love women, and women, for some reason, love men.
I'm totally overgeneralizing and I know it. Somewhere, at this very moment, a heterosexual man is renting Beaches. But Guy Movies and Chick Flicks clearly appeal powerfully to their respective genders.
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Hollywood's solution for the middle ground, the Date Movie, is supposed to appeal perfectly to both men and women. I'm talking about films like Jerry Maguire, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, or Say Anything. They look good on paper: a little bit of Pink syrup, a little bit of blue syrup; the spine of a love story and an evolving relationship for the ladies; some edgy jokes or a hot lingerie scene for the fellers. You pray you get Knocked Up, and not Gigli. What's your favorite movie to watch together?
But guys never love these movies. Oh, we go all right—but we're there because we want to see YOU. We always find something to watch and/or laugh at, but don't kid yourself: we definitely feel like we're taking one for the team. Jen Aniston in a towel is nice but doesn't erase the sneaking suspicion that we've been tricked into watching a chick flick in disguise.
Here's why: Movies are about getting lost for two hours in a communal dream, and men and women, generally, dream different dreams.
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What WE want from a movie, our escape, is heroism. Reluctant, individual, improbable heroism. Guy Movies always have this at the heart: Regular schmoe digs deep and overcomes superior forces. Think Wanted. Die Hard. The Matrix. Star Wars. Normal dude is swept up by circumstance and rises to meet the occasion, ideally with automatic weapons.
And here's the key insight: The hero does not change. It's counterintuitive—Hollywood loves a "character arc"—but it binds virtually all Guy Movies, from spy films to boobs-y comedies to space epics. Bond is always Bond; Clint leaves town on the horse he rode in on. The Blues Brothers do not repent. When a regular guy overcomes the odds and survives intact, the subconscious takeaway is: If the Federation came calling, you too would kick major alien ass.