Study Guide

When Harry Met Sally Gender

Gender

HARRY: Of course she wants to stay. Wouldn't you rather be with Humphrey Bogart than the other guy?

SALLY: I don't want to spend the rest of my life in Casablanca married to a man who runs a bar. I probably sound very snobbish to you but I don't.

HARRY: You'd rather be in a passionless marriage. […] Than live with the man you've had the greatest sex of you life with, and just because he owns a bar and that is all he does.

SALLY: Yes. And so had any woman in her right mind, woman are very practical, even Ingrid Bergman, which is why she gets on the plane at the end of the movie.

Way to generalize about your own gender, Sally. Her argument here—about the ending of Casablanca, of course—is that no woman in her right (and practical) mind would ever choose a lifetime married to a barkeep when she could be married to the awesome and noble Victor Laszlo. What's really interesting, though, is that she changes her mind later in the movie. Maybe women aren't so practical after all, Sally?

HARRY: What I'm saying is... and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form, is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

SALLY: That's not true, I have a number of men friends and there's no sex involved.

HARRY: No you don't.

SALLY: Yes I do.

According to Harry, gender matters in friendship. Men and women can't be friends—not because they're super different, but because men always want to sleep with women. Setting aside that stereotype for a moment, we have to ask: is there a reason you can't actually be friends with someone you want to sleep with? Hmm. Food for thought, no?

SALLY: I said to myself, "You deserve more than this, you're thirty-one years old..."

MARIE: And the clock is ticking.

SALLY: No the clock doesn't really start to tick until you're thirty-six.

Tick tock, ladies. Here, Sally and Marie point out one of the tricky parts of being a single lady: the old biological clock. The movie doesn't make much of Sally's decision to have—or not to have—kids except for one scene, but this brief moment reminds us that on some level, as a woman who wants kids, it's got to be in the back of her mind.

HARRY: Great! A woman friend... You know you may be the first attractive woman I have not wanted to sleep with in my entire life.

SALLY: That's wonderful, Harry.

Serious question, Shmoopers: do you believe Harry here?

HARRY: Ooh, Ingrid Bergman, now she's low-maintenance.

SALLY: Low-maintenance?

HARRY: There are two kinds of women. High-maintenance and low-maintenance.

SALLY: And Ingrid Bergman is low-maintenance?

HARRY: In LM, definitely.

SALLY: Which one am I?

HARRY: You're the worst kind. You're high-maintenance but you think you're low-maintenance.

Eek. This exchange might raise a few feminist hackles. But to put a less controversial spin on it, we'll just point out that this exchange about high- and low-maintenance women shows us just how close these two have become. Harry calls Sally out for being HM, and Sally doesn't get offended. She's genuinely curious.

HARRY: It's just different. It's a whole new perspective. I get the woman's point of view on things. She tells me about the men she goes out with and I can talk to her about the women that I see.

What exactly is that "woman's point of view"? What does Sally seem to think about the women Harry sees?

SALLY: Yes it is. You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman.

Sally's miffed because Harry's the kind of guy who'll sleep with you and then hightail it out of the bedroom at the earliest opportunity. And if Sally is to be believed, women aren't about that. Do we sense some foreshadowing?

MARIE: Thin, pretty, big tits. Your basic nightmare.

Here, Marie voices a big anxiety all non-supermodels supposedly have: there's always someone thinner and prettier ready to take your man. Whether or not that's actually true is pretty much beside the point here. Whomever Harry's dating, she's not Sally (who, we'd also like to point out, is not exactly hideous).

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