Learn From This: 500 Days of Summer

You’d be surprised what you can learn from the movies.

No, seriously.

There’s a great deal of knowledge to be had, if you only know where to look. Even if it’s a case of being a warning to others. Which brings us to the Learn From This section of Dr. NerdLove. I’ll be reviewing movies that my fellow nerds and geeks should be watching, not only because they’re good movies, but because there’s a lot that you could benefit from, if you’re paying attention. So to start with…

500 Days of Summer is a must-watch movie for guys.

No, literally. Any guy past the age of 16 needs to be sat down with a copy of this movie and made to watch it from start to finish. With Clockwork Orange-style eye restraints if need be. And afterwards there will be a written exam. Anyone who fails the exam is prohibited from talking to women he is not actually related to for a year until he wises up.

I spent the entire movie wondering when the hell director Marc Webb managed to follow me around when I was dating my Summer. There are few things as emotionally painful as watching your entire relationship writ large on the screen, watching someone make almost every mistake you made yourself.

I literally spent the entire movie predicting the plot like i was the Amazing goddamn Kreskin (Google it, kids).

Despite what this sounds like, I loved the movie. It’s incredibly well written and sublimely acted; Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are believable and charming. You can understand exactly what it is Tom (Godon-Levitt) sees in Summer (Deschanel).

And I fully believe every man should see this. Not geeks, nerds or the like. Men in general. As a whole. The entire goddamn gender. Because this is a movie is a point by point breakdown of some of the most common mistakes guys make when they’re chasing the women they love.

What Nerds Can Learn From This:

Oh so many things. Let’s break it down for you. Obviously, spoilers are going to abound, so read at your own risk.

There Is No One: Early on, the Narrator – who, let’s face it, is narrating things from Tom’s perspective – is showing us facts that aren’t exactly in evidence. Zooey Deschanel is cute as hell, but she’s not a ravishing beauty by any stretch of the imagination, making men swoon in her presence.

However, Tom’s got a bad case of one-itsis. He’s become convinced that he and Summer are soul-mates and that there’s no one else out there who could complete him the way she does. This makes him profoundly blind not only to her flaws, but to the problems in the relationship that doomed it from the outset.  It’s not until he meets Autumn that he starts to recognize that there are other women out in the world who are better for him.

When the woman tells you she doesn’t want a relationship… LISTEN TO HER: Part of Tom’s problem is common to nerds: he only hears what he wants to, not what Summer is actually saying. She tells him repeatedly that she doesn’t want anything serious; Tom, meanwhile is too busy dreaming of white-picket fences (or, really, an awesome condo in Silver Lake) and he’s totally convinced that he can change her mind if he hangs in there long enough.

Beware The Mixed Messages: Summer is by no means innocent in this; every time she tells Tom she doesn’t want anything serious, she goes and does something that sends the completely opposite signal. She tells him she doesn’t want to be in a relationship… then goes and plays house with him in IKEA. She breaks up with him after making out in the street. She tells a guy in the bar that she and Tom are just friends, but then comes to his place and sleeps with him. These are warning signs and should be treated accordingly.

Don’t Be In Love With Love: The narrator even says Tom’s idea of romance is based on a misunderstanding of the ending of The Graduate. Tom’s so obsessed with the idea of soulmates and Twue Wuv that as soon as a relationship rolls around, he feels like he’s just won the lottery AND scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Of course, this leads to…

Don’t Date The Fantasy: Tom, as evidenced by the Narrator, never sees Summer as the woman she really is; she’s the Magic Indie Girl of His Dreams, not a complicated woman who is, frankly, an insensitive tease at times. It’s his stubborn refusal to accept the reality of Summer, with all of her attendant flaws, complications and complexities, that leads to his downfall and his inability to get over her.

You Don’t Wanna Be Friends: Break-ups mean the relationship is over. Trying to be friends after the breakup is almost always a bad idea; at least one person will be more emotionally invested, and too many people (usually men) attempt to back-door their way back into the relationship. When Tom reunites with Summer at a friend’s wedding, he sees it as a golden opportunity to win her back. This colors his every interpretation of their weekend together; he’s reading the tea-leaves and his obsession with her means he’s going to see everything as a sign that True Love really will win in the end. Then two days later at the party, the universe applies the Hobnailed Boot of Reality upside his head and he enters the downward spiral.

You Need To Focus On Yourself: Ultimately it’s not until Tom begins to spend his time fixing his life that he starts to get over her. Instead of brooding and drinking – two hobbies I myself have enjoyed on more than one occasion – be starts to remember his real dreams and begins to peruse architecture again. He’s focused on improving himself and getting his life in order and giving up on his foolish obsession with the idea of the perfect relationship. And then, right as he’s genuinely not looking for love… he meets Autumn.

Watch this movie. Learn from it.

(500) Days of Summer [Blu-ray] with Digital Copy

  • Macabre Mirth

    True advice, man. Keep up the good work. I always dig the LEOG spinoffs.

  • metalraygear

    still have not seen this movie.

  • This review is dope, the next obvious review should be "Swingers". This movie should be required viewing for every young adult male. My less obvious suggestion is War of the roses, currently on netflix. It is a movie about the end of love, to say anymore would ruin the movie.

  • Alex

    Great advice Harris! I completely agree with everything u said. This movie was an eye opener to me as I fell into the same trap as Tom did. I'm still working on getting over my ex but like Tom I'm working on my life. I want to be a script writer so I've been working on a couple to get her off my mind. This movie is a fantastic movie and like u I think all guys should watch it…and girls too so they can see what the hell there doing to us

  • Davey Peppers

    Honestly, I rented this movie so I would know the end so that this article wouldn't spoil it for me. I saw it, and it is amazing. Keep up the good work!

  • BassSamurai

    I liked the movie, until the Han in the mirror shot.

    Then I loved it.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      That moment right then, encapsulated everything about that scene for me. There's not a nerd out there who hasn't banged the woman he's been after for the first time and not woken up feeling like Han Solo.

  • DazzOne

    I have not even seen this movie, and everything you just described (especially the part about "She tells a guy in the bar that she and Tom are just friends, but then comes to his place and sleeps with him. These are warning signs and should be treated accordingly." That hit close.) was true. I'm still trying to get over my "Summer".

    I've been focusing on getting this new job, hopefully moving into this new apartment, and losing weight (which has actually been working. 280 in October, 263 today). Recently ran into her brother at my gym (and interestingly enough, The Rock was there too. That dude is HUGE). I think he recognized me. Her brother that is. I almost don't want to go back there. I don't have a problem with him, at least I don't think, but I really, REALLY hope I don't run into her. I'm actually scared of how much of a bitch I might act if I see her again.

  • O rly?

    Hey DazzOne above? You said you went to a gym where The Rock happened to make an appearance. May I know the location of this place so that I may get my Creep on? #totallynotafangirl

  • cea765

    Good article! I just wanted to say that even though Summer is a girl, and Tom is a boy, their roles can easily be switched between a man and a woman. I just watched the movie and winced through all of Tom's delusions and blindness, seeing myself in him so clearly, even though I'm a girl! My Summer was a guy was just as good as she was at giving ambivalent messages. So maybe this movie should be required viewing for all the hopeless romantics out there–not just the men!

  • Paul

    Holy crap, man, I recently watched the movie after reading this article, and I can only say that I can related to the story so much because that is in essence what I did . She was a high school senior, and I was a junior (now, I'm the senior)
    So once she graduated, I never saw her again. Then I came across another website that really got me motivated and got my blood pumping. That website got me motivated to improve myself in various ways, and the self-improvement process helped tremendously in moving on. I can't express enough how much I can relate to this movie….I just don't know what else to say except that today, I am a different man, a better man, and finally see relationships through the eyes of reality.

  • Pingback: Learn From This: Don Jon — The Good Men Project()

  • 666international

    Please add this post to the Learn From This category

  • jessie06972014

    Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Summer has it. When you come across this type of emotional vampire, run for the hills. When you can't run, walk. When you can't walk, crawl. Just get away from toxic females like her. And the number one rule is if you watch with the girl you are dating and she "loves it", break up immediately.

    The thought of watching this movie ever again makes me want to vomit.

  • Was this written with TVtropes in hand? jesus christ