As Jennifer Aniston and Bill O'Reilly trade barbed words about the virtues of single motherhood in Aniston's new movie "The Switch," the directors of the movie that sparked the debate say they're mystified by the talk-show host's critique.
"We're surprised that issue has any traction with the right," Josh Gordon, who co-directed the dramatic comedy with Will Speck, told 24 Frames as the pair discussed the movie Friday in their Santa Monica offices.
"This feels like culture battles that were fought in the '90's. It feels like 'Murphy Brown.' And Jen dealt with it years ago when she had a kid on 'Friends.' I'm surprised anyone on the right is still digging these bodies up."
The contretemps began when Aniston, while promoting "The Switch" last weekend, told reporters that "women are realizing it more and more, knowing that they don't have to settle with a man just to have that child."
"Times have changed, and ... what is amazing is that we do have so many options these days, as opposed to our parents' days when you can't have children because you have waited too long."
His moral hackles raised, O'Reilly fired back this week, saying that Aniston is "throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that hey, you don't need a guy, you don't need a dad."
In a roundtable he convened on his show, O'Reilly said that this type of thinking was "destructive to our society" and that Aniston is "diminishing the role of the dad." (Aniston then replied, telling People magazine that "many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts),
but for those who've not yet found their Bill O'Reilly, I'm just glad
science has provided a few other options.")
"The Switch" tracks the story of a thirtysomething woman who chooses to have a child via artificial insemination, and the consequences that ensue when Jason Bateman's character swaps his sperm for that of her chosen donor. The great novelty of the film might be that there's little novelty at all to single motherhood; indeed, much of the movie focuses on Bateman's character and his emerging relationship with the child when the boy re-enters his life as a 6-year-old.
"It's ironic what Bill O'Reilly is saying about the dad not getting enough credit," Gordon said. "If you see this movie you leave with this appreciation of how difficult it is for men to step up."
And while Speck/Gordon -- whose previous effort was the more broadly comedic but still gender-role-themed "Blades of Glory"
-- were hardly looking to make a family-values picture, they say that at the front of their minds was the importance of a father’s role in parenting.
"Ultimately, it's not a movie that charts the path of a single mother needing a man," Speck said. "What it feels like is the realization of these characters that when you have certain kinds of connections it can be beneficial to a child."
Photos: Jennifer Aniston in 'The Switch.' Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.
Bill O'Reilly. Credit: Associated Press
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