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Psst, You … Don’t Want to Relate to Tom From (500) Days of Summer

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

In the midst of my quarantine rewatch of the show New Girl, I kept thinking back to my first love of star Zooey Deschanel: (500) Days of Summer. I was a young 17-year-old who thought I understood what that movie meant, and then, in college, loved it even more. It informed the way I listen to music, the people I associate with, and more importantly, it taught me which “nice guys” are … well, not nice guys.

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The beginning of the relationship in (500) Days of Summer has Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) telling Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that she doesn’t believe in love. In a true “man” move, Tom secretly makes it his goal to change that for her despite the fact that Summer told him right off the bat that she didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend. In fact, she doesn’t want to be anyone’s anything.

Worried she changes her mind and leads him on? Nope, she straight up tells him again, at the 35-day mark, that she doesn’t want anything serious. The problem with Tom isn’t that he thought he could change a girl and make her fall in love with him. It’s that he thinks the tiniest things mean that he’s met his soulmate, and if a girl doesn’t feel the same way, he … breaks all his dishes.

Tom is the worst. His relationship with Summer is the worst. But what’s even more fascinating about this movie isn’t even the commentary it leaves us with. (I will say it does leave us with the greatest post-sex scene in cinematic history, because Tom dances to work to “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates.)

No, what’s really fascinating about (500) Days of Summer is the number of men in this world who … think that Tom Hansen is the good guy. In fact, it’s such a topic of conversation that if you just Google “Is Tom Hansen the Good Guy,” there are plenty of think pieces about how he’s NOT. And that, to me, is what’s probably the most interesting aspect of this movie, because it shows that so many people out there look at Tom’s behavior and find it acceptable.

There are so many moments in this movie where Tom is just a douche. When they go to karaoke, he acts almost “too cool” for it—when the entire team from work is there AND they’ve clearly been there before—not to mention the fact that he chooses “Here Comes Your Man,” which is presumably meant to impress his crush. Sadly, it only gets worse from there.

With each new moment of Summer telling Tom that they’re just friends (with benefits), he follows it up with an incredibly douchey move. When a man hits on Summer at a bar and she has the situation handled, Tom lets his ego get the best of him and punches the guy—after Summer told him multiple times to let it go. It’s not romantic; it shows he’s not listening. Despite near-constant moments of Summer Finn expressing that she DOES NOT want to be Tom’s girlfriend, he screams at her that they ARE dating despite what she thinks, and that he has a right to say so.

Tom is also the king of not reading a room or, better yet, reading people and their feelings. We see the juxtaposition of their IKEA trips. In the first, they’re running around, clearly flirting with each other and having fun. Because Summer is INTERESTED in Tom, but she’s not ready to date him. The second trip? She is clearly upset about something and not interested in his games, and he refuses to listen and just keeps pushing and pushing her, even when she asks to just go home.

It’s all these moments and more throughout the movie that just continue to reinforce the fact that Tom, actually, sucks. It’s to the point where his perception is so warped, and so reflected in how the story is told, that even in the montage where he’s on a creative spurt at work, it’s easy to see that as just his overconfidence making him see himself as some big creative hero, while he’s probably really just annoying everyone with unsolicited input.

I guess I don’t understand how people could misunderstand this, but then again, that’s kind of the point of Tom. He misunderstands The Graduate; he misinterprets this entire situation, and he’s, essentially, telling us this story. So, everything we’re seeing is through his eyes and how he perceives it. All this to say that Tom Hansen is quite literally the worst.

So, sadly, if you as a human looked to Tom Hansen as a hero? You’re Tom watching The Graduate and woefully misinterpreting it.

Anyway, if Joseph Gordon-Levitt calls Tom Hansen the villain, we should listen.

(image: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh.

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