Every generation has a movie that defines an era. It’s like everyone you know has seen it. And especially in films about love or
coming of age, it represents that time period. The music, the fashion, and our outlook on life. Coincidentally, it’s the tenth
anniversary of 500 Days of Summer, a not quite romantic dramedy about Tom and Summer. But the thing about these
generational films is that we grow older. Our perspective changes, and so over time, we may
have different interpretations of the same film. Tom is a Romantic. He’s built his identity around movies and songs. He’s an artist. And he works as a
writer for a greeting card company. – I love us. – He meets Summer and falls in
love with her. But there’s a catch. – I’m not… …really looking for anything serious. Is that okay? – Yeah. – So the film shows us their relationship,
how it starts and how it eventually falls apart. – I think we should stop seeing each other. – Just like that?
– Just like that! – A lot of people sympathize with Tom on their
first viewing because he’s the main character. It’s his perspective, so we get to see
when he’s happy and when he’s depressed. But I think there’s more to it than that. It starts with our perception of love to begin with. The people that watch romantic
comedies already identify with love. In the same way that you’re
rooting for a team in a sports movie. We’re here to win, and the game is love. Writers will tell you that passivity is boring. And that’s why great screenplays
have characters with strong motivations. Our empathy for fictional characters has more
to do with how much they want something… – I want to get her back. – …and not always what they want. So the idea of pursuing someone romantically has been
conflated with screenwriting proactivity since forever. And being wanted is attractive. – Do you like me? – The film is also stylistic. There’s the obvious stuff like a
dance routine after they first have sex. But the fashion, the music, and the cinematic
devices support Tom’s pop-culture idea of love. For instance, Summer always wears
blue to match Zooey Deschanel’s eyes. And it’s no secret that
500 Days of Summer is a hipster movie, meaning it fetishizes media
outside of the mainstream. Tom and Summer wear classy vintage clothes. The soundtrack features older songs
by Simon and Garfunkel and the Smiths, while introducing modern underground
music by Feist and Regina Spektor. Tom dreams in parodies of Ingmar Bergman. And at different points, the film uses a
square aspect ratio with rounded corners, even during split screens, which
evokes older films and album covers. You may disagree with Tom’s romantic viewpoint,
but the film is an indie pop-song love-fetish in itself. And that’s why we like it. I don’t think the filmmakers realized how much of a
backlash that Summer’s character was going to get. – I’m just always surprised when women will
be like, “I hated your character in that movie!” And I’m like, “Really?” – Because everything about it screams
Tom has the right idea, just not about Summer. – Tom was right.
– No. – Yeah, I did. It just wasn’t me that you were right about. – And at the end he meets a woman named Autumn,
assuring him that he’s met the love of his life. A year ago, I made a video about Don Jon, which I
think was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s way of exaggerating some of the ambiguous parts of 500 Days of Summer. Both films subvert the romantic comedy formula by
using a dashing lead with misguided ideas about love that he has to unlearn in some way. But there are a few differences that
make Don Jon’s message a little clearer. First, Jon’s expectations for love are all external. He’s pressured by his parents, his friends,
his girlfriend, and society to be someone he isn’t. But Tom knows who he is,
and he knows what he wants. Second, Jon’s expectations are more ambitious. He’s thinking about living
together, and marriage, and kids. Tom probably wants those things too, but his only goal in the movie is to be in
a committed relationship with Summer. And finally, the characters in Don Jon
have expectations for their partner that they’re unwilling to match themselves. For instance, Jon is constantly disappointed
that his partners aren’t very enthusiastic when it comes to oral sex. But he’s not enthusiastic about giving it either. (Jon): There’s nothing good about this. – Barbara wants a man who will do anything for her… – When a real man loves a woman,
he doesn’t mind doing things for her. All right? He’ll do anything for her. – …but she’s unwilling to compromise on anything. – We’re not talking about this anymore. – Tom on the other hand is fully romantic. So it’s fair to expect his partner
to be as romantic as he is. The problem is… …Summer is a Cynic. (Summer): Let me break it down for you.
(McKenzie): Break it down. – Okay, I…like being on my own. Relationships are messy,
and people’s feelings get hurt. Who needs it? – Now at first, a cynical attitude can
sound pessimistic and maybe even unhappy. Especially coming off the heels of
someone so bright and optimistic. But look at how miserable
Tom is throughout the movie. Summer wants to be happier by having
realistic expectations about her relationships. – You’re happy?
– You’re not? – Well, all we do is argue. – That is bullshit! – After a couple of heartbreaks, people stop
looking for every new relationship to be the one. The novelty wears off, and love becomes seasonal. – I need to know that you’re not gonna…
wake up in the morning and feel differently. – But I can’t give you that. Nobody can. – So it’s easier to distance yourself from
partners because that feeling may go away. And nobody wants to be trapped. – I’m just tired.
– Okay. – Summer still likes music and pop culture though. It’s what they bond over. – You have good taste in music.
– You like the Smiths? – If Tom was listening to William Shatner’s
Tambourine Man, would she still liked him? – You like the Shat?
– [ LAUGHS ] – I don’t know, she’d probably like him more. – Come on, I love Ringo Starr! – Nobody loves Ringo Starr.
– That’s what I love about him. – It’s just that Summer doesn’t see
music as a sign of a soulmate. – Just cause some cute girl likes
the same bizarro crap you do… …that doesn’t make her your soulmate, Tom. – Just like she works at the same company as
Tom, but she doesn’t write the greeting cards. She’s an assistant. To her, it’s a job. You may notice the hearts everywhere
you shop closer to Valentine’s Day. Love is a commodity. Companies sell products with love,
and in turn, love starts to depend on products. – She’s the light that guides me home. Yes, that is one of our cards. No, someone else wrote it. It doesn’t make it less true. – I think people sympathize with
Summer when they’ve had enough. And a lot of that starts by
realizing all of Tom’s mistakes. He doesn’t listen when Summer tells him
upfront that she doesn’t want a serious relationship. – Summer is…completely honest…
– And upfront… – …the entire movie.
– …from the beginning. – That’s right. – He doesn’t listen to his friends
when they try to give him realistic advice. – I think it’s kind of like how they say,
“There’s uh…there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.” – No. – They–they say that.
– Well, they’re lying. – He’s stuck in his own dream world,
and he never learns his lesson. So he keeps making the same mistakes. – It’s Amanda Heller all over again. – So meeting Autumn can be seen as destiny,
but it can also illustrate how deluded Tom is. And to this day, Joseph Gordon-Levitt encourages
viewers to watch the film from Summer’s perspective, to understand what it’s about. So that’s it, right? Tom is stubborn and has silly ideas about love,
and Summer has it all figured out? Well, not exactly. After a breakup, we start playing the blame game. They did this, and they did that. And if we’re self-aware enough, we might
admit our own mistakes in a relationship. But unless something goes horribly wrong… – Sid stabbed Nancy. – …most relationships end because of compatibility. By sympathizing with Tom or Summer, the first two interpretations,
the corollary is that the other person is wrong. Compatibility means focusing less on the shortcomings
of individuals, and more on their problems together. I can’t say either way that Romanticism or
Cynicism is the only way to behave in a relationship. Because it depends. Just like I can’t say there’s only
one way to interpret The Graduate. I think this is shown best in the
‘Expectation Versus Reality’ scene. It represents their two philosophies clashing. – There’s no such thing as love. It’s a fantasy. – Well, I think you’re wrong. – Can they exist at the same time? I don’t know, it depends on how
people reconcile their differences. Somebody has to compromise. But if the biggest issue in a relationship is the
definition of that relationship, then probably not. – Well you’re not the only one
who gets a say in this! I do too! And I say we’re a couple, goddammit! – Intimacy can come in different forms. Sometimes a stranger can feel the closest to you. Or you can share your whole life with someone
without wanting to commit to them forever. – I’ve never told anybody that before. – But as much as Tom
idolizes Summer, she knows that. She makes the first move. – So that was…fun the other night. – So both of them enter a relationship knowing that they
fundamentally disagree on what their relationship is. And jumping around narratively
shows the consequences of that. First, a scene where Summer reassures Tom. – I’m happy. Aren’t you happy?
– Yeah. – Then two scenes later, they’re arguing about it. – This is not how you treat your friend! Kissing in the copy room. Holding hands in Ikea. Shower sex! Come on, friends my balls! – For Summer, it’s as simple as: – Because I wanted to. – You just do what you want, don’t you? – But why did Tom agree to a casual relationship,
other than he really wanted to be with her? Maybe Tom felt like he could change Summer. How many of us have entered a relationship thinking
we can love someone enough that they’ll change? Maybe Tom thought summer could change him. Some people call Summer
a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a term coined by Nathan Rabin
criticizing the film Elizabethtown. He writes, “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in
the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace
life and it’s infinite mysteries and adventures.” – I want you…to get into the deep, beautiful
melancholy of everything that’s happened. – But since then, the term has bloated into a blanket
description of any offbeat/quirky/bohemian girl, which is why Rabin has disowned the term. Because having pink hair, or a big hat,
or a ukulele can be unfairly labeled as a male fantasy. But still, it’s a pretty good
shorthand for that type of character. She says weird things. – They used to call me anal girl.
– [ SPITS ] – She has weird taste. She’s open about her sexuality,
with men and women. And either she makes the first move so our sensitive
main character doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting, or she’s just out of reach so
our guy is constantly chasing her. Or both, in this case. I bring it up though because it’s a neutral
term to me, neither positive nor negative… …which is what this video is about. You can look at Summer as an evasive,
promiscuous ingénue who’s in and out of Tom’s life so he can learn a big lesson at the end. Or she’s an independent character
who illustrates how possessive Tom is. I think both can be true. Summer motivates Tom to be an architect,
and she moves on and gets married. – You never wanted to be anybody’s girlfriend,
and now you’re…somebody’s wife. – It surprised me too.
– I don’t think I’ll ever understand that. – Summer’s marriage may seem like a
180 flip, but people change. That’s life. It’s just that Tom wasn’t the one who
made it happen, like he was hoping. Change can’t be forced. You can’t say all the right things, sing the
right songs, or love someone enough. And maybe it hurts to realize the people we
love are more compatible with somebody else. – I really do hope that you’re happy. – Hopefully our interpretations reflect our own growth,
not projecting our Romanticism or Cynicism, but finding someone who complements us. And if we can’t, learning to step back and say: – I guess we can just agree to disagree. – Yeah.