Study Guide for Making Mr. Right

1. Citation

Making Mr. Right. Dir. Susan Seidelman. USA: Orion, 1987. John Malkovich, Ann Magnuson, stars.

2. Brief Description

Pygmalion/Galatea motif with some gender reversal and other twists (possibly including a sendup of male questing). Dr. Jeff Peters is a scientist who makes an android who gets humanized by Frankie Stone-who, in turn, becomes more fully human. Peters does not get fully humanized, but he does get a happy ending, shot into space. Frankie Stone and the android (Ulysses) live happily ever after?

3. Major Cast

Jeff Peters (Chief Robotic Engineer for Chemtec), Ulysses: John Malkovich Frankie Stone (PR person): Ann Magnuson
Trish (F.S.'s friend): Glenne Headly Estelle (F.S.'s mother): Polly Bergen
Sandy: Laurie Metcalf Steve Marcus (male pursuing F.S.): Ben Masters

4. Comments and Questions

  1. John Malkovich is the star of Mr. Right, but the character, Frankie Stone, is the protagonist. Note opening of film and notice how we know Stone will be important, and so will the relationship between men and women.
  2. In the little movie we see at the meeting early in Mr. Right, note the title for Jeff Peters: Chief Robotic Engineer. Since the soundtrack of the commercial within the film makes clear that what's being pitched is an android, the "Robotic" in the title becomes ambiguous. How is "Dr. JEFF PETERS" a Chief and a "Robotic Engineer"? Does he change during the course of the film? If so, does he become a bit more human? More like a man?
  3. This movie is a comedy, and the traditional pattern of comedies moves from relative unhappiness to happiness-for the positive central characters. In Northrop Frye's analysis, central characters who aren't positive and remain that way have to be circumvented or expelled (such an expelled character is an alazon [plural, alazones]). Generally, romantic comedy moves toward integrating as many people as possible into a new, better, more flexible society, coalescing around a central couple. How happy is the conclusion of Mr. Right? How appropriate? How appropriate if the film examines a Ulysses character from Penelope's point of view?
  4. According to Henri Bergson ("Comedy," ca. 1900), the essence of comedy is "the superimposition of the mechanical upon the organic," specifically upon the human. How does Mr. Right use this technique? How does it get comedy out making the mechanical more human?
  5. How does the film use voice-over announcements and intercut TV shows and commercials? (Compare Robocop.)
  6. Given the men in this film, is there something to be said for a woman's getting herself an android, or even a robot, and making Mr. Right? Is the film an equal opportunity satire, getting us to laugh at women also? How about American society, at least as typified by Miami, Florida? (Note Ulysses as an "innocent abroad" in Miami, FL.)
  7. Joan Gordon and several other big-time feminist scholars of science fiction once agreed that, if men erred in enjoying "T&A" films, it was equally bad for women to enjoy films that let them lust after men. "But what the hell; it's sexist but fun"-and she lead an extended discussion of Mr. Right as a "C&B" flik (where the "B" stands for "buns"). Is part of the attraction of the film for women (gay men?) Malkovich's body-or at least for women intellectuals over 30? Is part of the fantasy "making" Mr. Right?
  8. The film Metropolis makes much of "the male gaze" and both the power of women (or female robot) and oppression of women (at least of the saintly sort) through the male gaze. Is the male-gendered Ulysses the object of the female gaze in a similar and/or different way?
  9. Making Mr. Right shows women interested in sex. Is this aspect of the film Good for the Women (as a power minority in patriarchal culture) or not? Is it good for women if the "cultural dominant" is sexual puritanism and finds lust in one's heart as bad as adultery? From the ancient world well into the Enlightenment, women were held by many male intellectuals to be inferior and (and because) women were sexually insatiable. In the 19th c., women were better than men because far less interested in sex than the male beast-and one of the reasons to keep women home and domestic and carefully married was to protect women.