Study Guide

When Harry Met Sally Gender

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You know how this goes: men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men want sex, women want commitment. Men hate cuddling, women love cuddling. The list of clichéd stereotypes goes on and on… and on.

In When Harry Met Sally, our main characters toy with these stereotypes and clichés in a decidedly late-80s way. Its women are somewhat liberated—they have careers and agency and all that feminist jazz. And Harry and Sally are living proof (for the most part) that men don't only think about sleeping with women. But the movie still relies on those gender norms to create the central arc for our main characters: Harry learns to commit, realizing it's not all about sex, and Sally learns to soften up and let loose. Just a little bit.

Questions About Gender

  1. Is there any way we could call When Harry Met Sally feminist? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think this movie subscribes to the age-old adage that men are from Mars and women are from Venus? Or does it try to break free of that gender binary?
  3. Does this movie pass the Bechdel test? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Sally and Marie have an awesome and supportive friendship, but it would be nice if they talked about something other than men for a change.

This movie isn't about the differences between men and women—it's about their fundamental similarities, and how that can lead to great friendships.

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