For any young man—scratch that—for any man out there, of any age, who finds women baffling and mysterious, the movie that you must watch is 2000’s “The Tao of Steve,” starring Donal Logue.
It’s about a pudgy, nondescript young man who understands the language of women and how to make them fall in love with him. Or at least how to get them to take notice. It’s like discovering the holy grail.
The great thing about this movie is that you think you are in the presence of an absolute genius for the duration of the movie. And then you find out later—guess who wrote the script? A woman. Duh! Which makes it even more awesome. Because it’s like some kind of Trojan horse situation—you get to sneak into the enemy’s stronghold and understand their language.
In love, there are laws, there are rules, there are archetypal things that must happen. Like the ritual mating dances of male birds. You can YouTube a million examples of male birds working very, very hard to build something impressive, do a fancy dance, or display some plumage to impress the little female bird.
Let us, in fact, have a look at one of those right now. I highly recommend watching until the actual dance performance. The BBC does this rather well—the music is perfect (read hilarious). Without further ado, I give you—the Bird of Paradise:
And now for examples of male humans in movies who attempt to do an excellent thing in the presence of a female.
1) ‘Blue Valentine’
Ryan Gosling plays the ukelele and “sings stupid” for Michelle Williams. Actually he sings stupid—rather awesomely.
2) ‘Love, Actually’
An excellent thing is done in Keira Knightley’s character’s presence. It’s a terribly bitter-sweet moment. But wait till the end to see her reaction. It’s wrong, of course to do a great thing in a married woman’s presence (which in this case is telling the truth) but you can tell this man just needed to tell his truth to maintain his sanity.
3) ‘The Bourne Identity’
This is not immediately apparent as an excellent romantic thing. It is, however, a powerful demonstration of alpha male dominance, of guarding the territory and physically protecting a woman from a lethal onslaught.
Which, when the dust settles, translates into one of the most impressive, great things that can be done in the presence of a woman. “I’m still alive! Maybe I’m also in love!” German actress Franka Potente’s borderline going-into-shock acting is stellar.
4) ‘Bull Durham’
Very fun to watch the young Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins in this classic scene, where Sarandon’s character has managed to get two men vying for her attention. Maybe a video of two bull moose squaring off should have been included, with the demure doe moose hiding behind a tree watching intently, to ascertain who will win her hand, er, hoof.
Because that’s (sort of) what’s going on here, but as Costner’s character, “Crash” Davis says, he doesn’t tryout anymore. As he gets ready to leave, he lays a long monologue about his beliefs (which are really his passions) on her. It’s a straight-up excellent thing done in her presence, and it gets her terribly hot and bothered. But he himself can’t be bothered. Which bothers her even more.
“Witness” was a star vehicle for Harrison Ford to expand into super-stardom, riding on his “Star Wars” success. He plays John Book, a detective escaping from a murderous crew of corrupt colleagues by hiding out in an Amish community. The family who nurses him back to health after he crashes his car on their property includes a young widow.
It’s during the most excellent Amish barn-raising scene (where they took the opportunity to showcase Harrison Ford’s real-life pro carpentry skills) that he, John Book, does a great thing in her presence. He builds that barn, by golly. Carpentry skills are highly valued among the Amish. It’s an enchanting scene.
So, these were examples of the second rule of the “Tao of Steve”: Doing an excellent thing in her presence. The first rule of Steve is “eliminating desire” (never go on a first date without first expunging all thoughts of lust), and the third, to quote Steve himself, “We pursue that which retreats from us. Don’t be a puppy. Because that bores chicks. Boredom equals death. Be the thing that retreats.”
The next episode will contain examples of the third rule, of the “Tao of Steve,” in the movies.