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With many of us spending more time at home these days, we’ve had more time to revisit our favorite movies of the past and re-examine our perspective on the characters we grew to love. And thus the “The Movie Villain/The Actual Villain” meme was born. It started with an examination of High School Musical’s Sharpay vs. Troy and Gabriella. Now, one regarding beloved rom-com 500 Days of Summer has made its way to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and he has made his thoughts clear here:
The star of the 2009 indie took to Twitter to play devil’s advocate against his own character of Tom Hansen. He agrees Tom is the actual villain of 500 Days of Summer, despite Zooey Deschanel’s Summer Finn being the “heartbreaker” in the context of the film. Maybe this is still a hot take, but he’s completely right. If you haven’t revisited Marc Webb’s first film, it plays much differently once you venture outside the perspective of Tom’s narrations and examine their relationship with a closer eye.
I think that it’s Tom’s fault. I think if you really pay attention, Tom’s not listening to Summer. If you ask what the message of the movie is what I take away most is you have to listen and understand your bias and even when you're biased toward believing one thing, you have to really listen. And when you hear something that doesn’t fit into what you wanted to hear, you still have to update your thinking.
In 500 Days of Summer, Tom kind of coasts through his relationship with Summer, believing she was the woman of his dreams because she checked these boxes he had in his head about his perfect, imaginary girlfriend. During the movie, there are a number of signs there for the character to look out for, such as Summer stating her disinterest in being more than friends with him multiple times – he chose not to see it because he didn’t want to. When they broke things off, it was “her fault” due to his own bias about what he wanted to happen.
JGL has expanded on how the sympathies of audiences who view 500 Days of Summer can often skew toward Tom’s favor by default because the movie is only being told from his perspective. If the same movie was made from Summer’s POV, we may think much differently about the big Smiths’ fan.
It’s this layered debate about 500 Days of Summer that makes the movie one of the all-time great entries in the romantic comedy genre. What do you think? Who is the actual “villain” of 500 Days of Summer? Vote in the poll below.