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Jewesses with Attitude

When Harry Met Sally: 21 Years Later

It was twenty-one years ago on July 12th, 1989 that audiences were introduced to characters Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and Harry Burns (Billy Crystal), who brought the perennial question of whether men and women could just be friends to the big screen in the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. It has become one of the most iconic films of the twentieth century with people still watching and talking about the movie today. The enduring appeal of When Harry met Sally rests on Nora Ephron’s classic screenplay that touches upon issues relating to relationships, sex, love and friendship that are still relevant for many people.

I don’t usually like to admit this but I only saw this movie for the first time less than a year ago (please don’t judge me!) when a friend came over and insisted that I had to watch it. It was one of those lazy days and this lighthearted movie fit the bill. I enjoyed the movie for its witty banter and the humorous way that it dealt with many of the issues surrounding relationships. There were various things that I could relate to and behavior that I had experienced being portrayed in the film.

Yet beyond the way in which this movie deals with the relationships between men and women, one of the most memorable things about this film is the scene in which Sally fakes an orgasm in Katz’s delicatessen in order to prove to Harry just how convincingly a woman can do so.

In many cases, including mine, people know about this scene even if they have never seen the movie because of the iconic status it has taken on. It has become such a defining element of the movie that it simply wouldn’t be the same without it. Ephron explains that when she was once on a flight on which the movie was being shown, the orgasm scene was cut in order to make the film family friendly, and people were vocal about their disappointment concerning this decision. Ephron agrees that the movie is not complete without it.

So the question remains, why has this scene become so popular? There is the obvious answer that it’s because of the fact that Sally fakes an orgasm in a way that most people would never dream of doing, in a public place for all to see. However, I think the reason lies deeper than that. The topic of faking orgasms is one that is slightly taboo, especially as a topic of discussion between men and women. Faking an orgasm is not something people usually advertise in a public way. It is something that can be discussed between close friends, but surely not with the person you’re sleeping with or a roomful full of strangers. Therefore, to have this discussed and portrayed in a movie was groundbreaking.

What was your reaction when you first saw this scene? Did you find it funny, uncomfortable or inappropriate? Do you think it may have paved the way for shows such as Sex and the City, in which sex is so openly discussed?

How to cite this page

Romanow, Katherine. "When Harry Met Sally: 21 Years Later." 14 July 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/when-harry-met-sally-21-years-later>.

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