‘It's Not About the Nail’ is a lesson in gender politics - and the evolution of modern media

We are no longer governed by schedules or traditional formats

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Some spend a fortune on psychotherapy and counselling. Some have shelves groaning with self-help manuals. And others, sadly, end up in the divorce court. The path that couples must take towards a proper understanding of male-female relationships is a difficult one, full of potholes and uphill gradients, and is strewn with well-meaning casualties.

But in a world where complex arguments are distilled into sound bites, and where reputations can be made and lost in 140 characters, it should not be surprising that one of the simplest, most effective explanations of the male-female dynamic I have seen comes via a piece of film that’s a mere 1 minute, 42 seconds long.

Excuse me if you know about this, but, even though some eight million people have already watched “It’s Not About the Nail”, I have not, in my anecdotal research, come across anyone who has discovered this bite-sized gem of a film. So I implore you to go on to YouTube, watch it, and then come back and resume this column... Right, you’re back. What did you think? Pretty clever, eh?

For those not near a screen, it opens on a tight shot of a woman complaining about the constant pressure she’s experiencing. “I can literally feel it in my head,” she says, “and it’s relentless.” The camera pans out, and we see that not only is she talking to her partner, but she has a nail sticking out of her forehead. The man points out that maybe she’d feel better if she had the nail removed. “It’s not about the nail!” she responds. “Why are you always trying to fix things instead of listening to me?” And there you have it. The universal truth of sexual politics. The man, a Martian, let’s say, wants to find a solution to the problem, while the woman, a Venusian, simply wants a hearing, empathy and consideration.

This is the work of an American film-maker and writer called Jason Headley, whose oeuvre is full of similarly terse and effective commentaries on modern mores, but as much as “It’s Not About the Nail” reveals about relationship issues, it tells us as quite a lot, too, about the way media is changing in the digital world. Traditional programme makers still think in 30-minute or one-hour segments because that’s the way TV schedules are organised. Those who make adverts have ideas that fit into 30-second or one-minute slots because that’s the way advertising has always been bought and sold.

However, this does not reflect the way people consume media these days. We are no longer governed by schedules or traditional formats. We’ll watch what we want, when we want, and on whatever device we choose. Millions have watched Headley’s beautifully polished film, and not a penny has been spent on promoting it. Today’s consumer is voracious when it comes to content, and is prepared to forage for it, sometimes in the most unlikely places. What they seek is quality entertainment, but not prescribed for them by a programmer. Maybe the TV schedules will one day catch up with this, and our viewing will be embellished by 10-second ads and two-minute films. As “It’s Not About the Nail” proves, it doesn’t have to big to be clever.

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