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The Meg Ryan Orgasm Scene In When Harry Met Sally is Stupid

Before I get into this, let me be clear. I have nothing against Meg Ryan. I’ve always liked her. She was my first celebrity crush. She’s been wonderful in many things. She was even wonderful in When Harry Met Sally, which, by now, most people know spawned the aforementioned orgasm scene. But the scene itself drives me bonkers. It’s terrible. Let me explain.

Harry and Sally are in a crowded diner talking about past lover and sex (if memory serves, it's been a while). The conversation comes around to Harry claiming he can tell when a woman is faking it. Sally disagrees. And to make her point, in the middle of a crowded diner, she fakes an orgasm. Except it’s one of the laziest, most clichéd, most unconvincingly phony orgasms ever put on screen. Yet the film and all the characters act as if she has just proven him wrong. They even throw in that stupid, cutesy line from the patron played by Rob Reiner’s mom.

Not only do I have doubts based on watching this scene about whether Meg Ryan has ever actually had an orgasm, I have doubts about whether she had actually had sex at that point in her life. Her faked orgasm is right out of a Mel Brooks comedy or a run of the mill rom-com from the 60’s. Which is fine, except, and I’ll reiterate here, the point is to show Harry that he would never be able to tell if a woman is faking. If a woman did that during sex as a sincere attempt to convince me, I’d be more than a little insulted that she would think so little of me.

I have no doubt Meg Ryan could've played the scene convinincingly. She's a wonderful actress. Part of the blame, or most of it maybe falls on Rob Reiner, considering he showed her how he wanted her to act it out, which actually explains a lot. Would it have been better if she launched into an uncomfortably real, maybe even unflatteringly unguarded orgasm, right there in a crowded diner? I think it certainly would’ve been funnier. Think about how it would elevate Billy Crystal’s reaction, think about how funny the cutesy stupid-ass line from the old lady becomes. But might it also make certain portions of the audience uncomfortable because female sexuality tends to make people uncomfortable? More than likely, especially for a 1989 audience. For my money, though, that’s where the scene really could’ve been used to say something and be worthy of the praise it receives.

And praised this scene is. If it wasn’t held in such high regard as some high water mark of comedy or treated as such brave acting on the part of Ryan or if an otherwise charming romantic comedy wasn’t always singled out for this scene as if it’s the only thing in it, I wouldn’t be picking such a strange random hill like this to die on. But it’s one of the most overpraised, overrated scenes I’ve ever seen and I'm too much of an obnoxiously opinionated ass to keep quiet.