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.
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.
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.
In the film's most famous scene, Sally and Harry discuss women's orgasms – or lack thereof. Harry is absolutely convinced that, not only have women never faked it with him, but that he could tell if they were. Sally hilariously puts him in his place with a performance for the ages.
As Harry puts it, women are either high maintenance or low maintenance. It's the cool girl trope taken to its extreme. And Sally? He says she's the worst type – high maintenance who thinks she's low maintenance.