What ‘The Hangover’ Got Right About Domestic Abuse

What do those rationalizations sound like when a man says them?

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Guys, you don’t understand. Melissa checks my [credit card] statements. — Dr. Stuart Price

The first time I watched The Hangover (2009), I thought to myself, Damn, every abused woman needs to watch this. She needs to see what it looks like.

One character is an unaware domestic abuse victim. Dr. Stuart Price, derided as ‘Dr. Faggot’ by his sophomoric friends, lives with a deeply unpleasant control freak who controls and monitors him, who once hit him, and on one memorable cruise at which Stuart was not present, had sex with — some cruise member. No one can seem to remember his occupation.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s funny as hell and one of the few original movies Hollywood has managed to produce in the last twenty years. Which means there are no heroes in rubber muscle suits saving the world from improbable villains, no monosyllabic he-men inflicting far-right values and toxic masculinity on indigenous people, nor does it pretend to any deep meaning. It’s a hilarious whodunit in which they try to piece together what happened in Vegas during a bachelor party gone awry when one accidentally slips them roofies in Jagermeister.

Stu has to lie to Melissa, his partner, to get permission to go on this weekend, because it’s easier than fighting with her over Vegas. He tells her they’re in Napa Valley.

When he announces to his friends what he intends to do when they get home, they explode with disbelief, particularly Phil, a frat boy type unhappy with his suburban life and job, but he’s the genuine voice of reason when Stu shows them the ring.

Phil : If it’s what I think it is, it’s a big fucking mistake! Doug : She’s not that bad. Phil : Doug, she beats him! Stu : That was once, and I was out of line.

“Wait, have you not listened to anything I have ever said?” Phil asks. Clearly, he’s spoken to Stu many times over the three years he’s been with Melissa. Stu tells him it’s time, (for getting engaged), and ‘this is how it works.’

“A, that is bullshit, and B, she is a complete bitch,” Phil says, voicing what the audience thought when first introduced to Melissa, who reminds Stu to pack his Rogaine because she can always tell when his hair gets thinner (with a look of disgust) and hectoring him about not going to any strip clubs in case Phil should happen to ‘sniff one out’ in Napa Valley.

She won’t let him kiss her goodbye; she’s miffed he even dared to go on an excursion without her. Maybe she’s afraid he’ll fuck the bartender, or whatever, too.

“She beats him,” he reminds his friends. Stu tells him Melissa is ‘strong-willed,’ and he ‘respects that’.

“Wow. Wow. He’s in denial. Not to mention, she fucked a sailor,” Phil states.

There’s no difference when a woman says these things.

It sounds no less ridiculous. Phil may be an annoying juvenile pig, but he talks real turkey with Stu and lets him know Melissa’s treatment of him is not okay. Melissa is a bitch and although no one ever utters the abuse word, it’s what we’re all thinking. He sounds and acts exactly like an abused woman.

Except he gets less acceptance from his friends who care about him, who don’t want to see him ruin his life.

Like many women, Stu doesn’t listen to those wiser than he.

Years ago, when my father was still working, he told me about a young woman who worked in their office who came in with a black eye, and her co-workers asked her what happened. She admitted her boyfriend hit her because she’d refused to smoke marijuana with him.

“You need to leave him,” my father said, in a position to know about such things. He told her about a relative who was in an abusive relationship and how she found it difficult to get out. How the partner showed no respect for her and hit her repeatedly. How it only gets worse, not better, no matter what he says afterward.

“Why do you stay with someone who treats you like that?” Dad asked the young woman. And he related the line I knew was coming next.

“It’s because I loooooooooooove him!”

I told my then-boyfriend my father’s story. He was a kind, decent Pagan guy, the sort who would no more hit a woman than he would shoot a dog.

He knew someone who’d been abused, and he couldn’t understand why she put up with it. He screwed up his face in disgust when he said it: “Because I loooooooooove him!”

Male or female, Dr. Stuart Price is what someone looks like when they’re abused. The difference is, I don’t know, maybe male friends are more likely to tell you in plain speaking you need to dump the abusive asshole.

There’s a bigger, more critical problem with female abuse victims. When they tolerate abusive partners, there may be putting their friends and family in danger.

Far more often for women than men, their abuse isn’t, strictly speaking, a private matter. Because Melissa, if Stuart leaves her, isn’t likely to stalk him or try to kill him. That’s a real possibility for women — in fact, the most common way by far women get murdered. In a smaller number of cases, aggrieved dumped husbands and lovers will go after her family, and sometimes her friends.

Texas man shoots his ex and her family Brooklyn Dad shoots his daughter’s mother and her sisters Ohio guy kills his ex and her family, with help from his own Guy kills family to get to ex-wife he wants to kill, also with help from his family

It’s everyone’s business when a woman won’t leave an abusive man.

Here in Toronto, I used to work for a company where, prior to my joining, they were forced to shut down the office one afternoon because a crazy ex was coming to kill one of the administrative staff, and police warned he might show up at the office.

She put her entire office in danger because of him.

I wonder if her friends and family said much before he went off the deep end. My family didn’t, when our relative was in that situation. Neither were we in much danger, since we weren’t immediate family and we lived in another state. We hardly ever saw her because — well, you can guess.

Women are way too nice about abuse.