Bryan Caplan  

The Painted Veil: Best Gender Conflict Scene Ever

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I humbly submit that The Painted Veil contains the most amazing scene of gender conflict ever filmed.  Watch the scene on Youtube, and tell me I'm wrong - and give your alternate selection while you're at it. 

While you're watching the scene, count how many logically distinct (but often contradictory) arguments Kitty packs into a four minute conversation with her husband, Walter:

1. I don't know what you're talking about.

2. Mistakes were made, but let's not make this any worse.

3. If you were a gentleman, you'd take the blame.

4. We didn't mean to hurt anyone.

5. We're sick of sneaking around!

6. It's your fault that I don't love you.

7. Assumption of risk: You knew about all my flaws when you married me.

Then see the sucker bet that Walter offers Kitty: I'll quietly divorce you if your lover agrees to divorce his wife and marries you. 

I wish I'd written this!

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COMMENTS (15 to date)
Giovanni writes:

On the issue of gender conflict, that scene is rather biased. Basically, the man is painted as the good guy, while the woman is the bad guy (or gal).

Is it "amazing" because it delivers high entertainment value or amazing because you are cheering for the male gender?

John Jenkins writes:

I haven't seen the film, but if she is the one who is cheating on him, then she *is* the bad guy. I don't know for how much longer it will last, but we still do look down on people who break their promises.

Greg writes:

I do think it's a very good movie, and I like that scene. But describing it as the best gender conflict scene ever makes it sound too archetypal. Do you like it so much because she's acting "just like a woman?" It's a great portrayal of fairly stereotyped behavior, but I don't think it goes beyond the stereotypes. I think that's in part what Giovanni is getting at. For contrast, the first thing that comes to mind is Sally Potter's "Yes" with Joan Allen.

scineram writes:

I am cheering for the male gender.

Blackadder writes:

In terms of the best gender conflict scene on film, I would nominate the fight scene from Eyes Wide Shut.

Gary writes:

I'm not sure Walter comes off so hot in this clip.

Walter's first move: marrying a woman who didn't love him by playing her off her mother.

Walter's second move: staying married to a woman who doesn't love him by playing her off her lover.

Walter strikes me as penny wise, pound foolish when it comes to love and marriage.

Jarrah writes:


You mean 'alternative'. That's OK, I forgive you, because I get so much out of your writing otherwise.

And yes, I'm a grammar Nazi or whatever. I don't care.

Waldo writes:

A resonant theme with Somerset Maugham; bad girls and their male victims. It may have been a manifestation of his alternate? alternative? lifestyle.

burger flipper writes:

This post could only have been written by someone who never saw Ecks and Sever clash.

SheetWise writes:

The Godfather.

"Kate, what do you want from me? Do you expect me to let you go? Do you expect me to let you take my children from me? Don’t you know me? Don’t you know that’s an impossibility, that that could never happen? That I’d used all my power to keep something like that from happening? Don’t you know that? Kate, now in time you’ll feel differently. You’ll be glad I stopped you now. I know that. I know you blame me for losing the baby…yes. I know what that meant to you, I’ll make it up to you Kay. I swear I’ll make it up to you. I’m gonna change, I’ll change. I’ve learned that I have the strength to change. And you’ll forget about the miscarriage, and we’ll have another child, and we’ll go on -- you and I. We will go on."

SheetWise writes:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf --

Martha: I disgust me. You know, there's only been one man in my whole life who's ever made me happy. Do you know that? ... George, my husband... George, who is out somewhere there in the dark, who is good to me - whom I revile, who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha: Sad, sad, sad. Whom I will not forgive for having come to rest; for having seen me and having said: yes, this will do.

SheetWise writes:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof --

Maggie: Why can't you lose your good looks, Brick? Most drinkin' men lose theirs. Why can't you? I think you've even gotten better-lookin' since you went on the bottle. (As she caresses the brass bedframe) You were such a wonderful lover...You were so excitin' to be in love with. Mostly, I guess, 'cause you were (pause)...If I thought you'd never never make love to me again (pause)...why I'd find me the longest, sharpest knife I could and I'd stick it straight into my heart. I'd do that. Oh Brick, how long does this have to go on? This punishment? Haven't I served my term? Can't I apply for a pardon?

Brick: Lately, that finishin' school voice of yours sounds like you was runnin' upstairs to tell somebody the house is on fire.

Maggie: Is it any wonder? You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Brick (offering a solution): Then jump off the roof, Maggie, jump off it. Now cats jump off roofs and they land uninjured. Do it. Jump.

Maggie: Jump where? Into what?

Brick: Take a lover.

Maggie (angrily): I don't deserve that! I can't see any man but you. With my eyes closed, I just see you. Why can't you get ugly Brick? Why can't you please get fat or ugly or somethin' so I can stand it?

Brick: You'll make out fine. Your kind always does.

Maggie: Oh, I'm more determined than you think. I'll win all right.

Brick: Win what? What is, uh, the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?

Maggie: Just stayin' on it, I guess. As long as she can.

eigenperson writes:


Zac writes:

I have to say, even though I'm underwhelmed by all the film versions of A Doll's House, the final scene between Torvalds and Nora is probably the best gender conflict in drama.

But I do give kudos to the Godfather (part II) quote. Don't you know that?

Michael E Sullivan writes:

Hard to see how Walter comes off any better than Kitty in this scene. He's "right" in the sense of the explicit argument, but that doesn't justify his behavior.

The laws and culture around divorce and marriage (and gender in general) at the time were outrageously oppressive to women granting husbands powers of coercion that are unthinkable to most of us today. Walter is using that unjust power for all it's worth in this scene, and it's very hard to credit his character at all.

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