When Harry Met Sally is a near perfect rom-com. Penned by undisputed romantic comedy queen Nora Ephron, this movie is often held up as one of the best movies of the '80s and the gold standard of the genre. It's funny, it's sweet, and it's actually romantic. It's the movie that launched a thousand reenactments of the infamous "I'll have what she's having" scene. But there's just one tiny thing that keeps it from being flawless: When Harry Met Sally is pretty sexist.
There's no way around it. When Harry Met Sally is all about mansplaining. There are plenty of annoying moments in When Harry Met Sally that become all too clear upon rewatching. Harry doesn't think men and women can be friends, and he spends nearly every scene talking over Sally and belittling her life. Sure, they have a prickly, opposites-attract type of chemistry, but who would want a relationship with someone who basically considers women aliens?
How much mansplaining in When Harry Met Sally is there? Way, way more than you thought.
Harry Condescends To Sally About Male And Female Friendships
Early in the film, Harry explains his bizarre viewpoint on male/female friendships. He believes men and women can never be purely platonic friends, because "the sex part always gets in the way."
When Sally says she has male friends, Harry just plows on with his longwinded explanation of how non-sexual relationships between the sexes are impossible. It's offensive, and any adult can tell you it's just not true.
Harry Represents Stereotypical Men
Screenwriter Nora Ephron explains the movie's thesis – and gives some context for Harry's odious behavior – in an 11-page introduction to the movie's script:
"The truth is that men don’t want to be friends with women. Men know they don’t understand women, and they don’t much care. They want women as lovers, as wives, as mothers, but they’re really not interested in them as friends. They have friends. Men are their friends. And they talk to their male friends about sports, and I have no idea what else."
Harry's sexism could be indicative of the way Ephron views male chauvinism as a whole.
Harry Negs Sally While Declaring His Love
At the end of the movie, Harry makes his big speech declaring his love to Sally:
"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
Who on Earth would declare their love by listing off all the things about the other person that annoy them? Harry, that's who. No wonder Sally responds, "I hate you."
Harry Barely Lets Sally Get A Word In
Harry tends to monologue at Sally rather than have a conversation with her. He waxes sexist about men and women being unable to remain purely platonic; he goes on about his fatalist attitude on reading the last page of a book; he dominates the majority of the dialogue in their talking head segment. He doesn't seem to care about Sally's opinions.