WARNING: Huge gigantic catastrophic spoiler alert if you haven’t seen and want to see the film.

 

In the vastly underrated 2001 movie The Tao of Steve, the main character, Dex (Donal Logue), lives by his philosophy described in the title.

Dex is thirtyish, pretty slobby, not terribly attractive, and quite overweight.  At the beginning of the film, he’s attending a college reunion party.  In college, Dex was the fit, cool, popular guy who charmed and slept with lots of women.  He was also a drunken insensitive prick most of the time.  A group of women at the reunion comment to each other about the weight he’s gained…and reluctantly admit they slept with him back in the day.

Dex is a stoner-slacker type who works part-time as a Kindergarten teacher and lives with several roommates. They share Dex’s Tao of Steve philosophy: To get women, be a Steve.  Steve McGarrett, Steve Austin — but, most importantly, the epitome of cool: Steve McQueen.  McQueen was rugged and manly and always had swagger and confidence – but he was so cool about it.  Dex explains that good-looking guys can always rely on their looks, but average- or below-average-looking guys have to work at it.  His three-point plan goes:

 

1. Eliminate desire

2. Be excellent in her presence

3. Retreat

 

In summary, don’t let on you’re interested, do something awesome and unique to impress her, then split.  The gist is that attractive women are so used to guys strongly coming on to them that such actions will bewilder and intrigue them – and thus make you desirable.

Dex’s approach works for him: he picks up a young bartender at the party by showing her how to make a Long Island Tea using various world philosophies and religions as metaphors for the different liquors.  He’s very witty and charming and has an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy.

But at the party Dex also meets Sid (Greer Goodman), who’s drumming in the punk band providing the entertainment.  He’s intrigued.  They talk, and he doesn’t remember her, but she remembers him.

Sid’s smart and knows how Dex is.  He keeps showing interest, using his method, but she continuously (and sarcastically, but politely) calls him on his lines and assumes he always has an ulterior motive.  Which, of course, makes Dex even more intrigued.  He’s not used to this.

It doesn’t take long for us to see that Dex is becoming unraveled by his own worldview.  He’s being a Steve and Sid’s not going for it.  We find out that the main reason she’s so cold is that they slept together in college – and Dex doesn’t remember it at all.

You see where this is going.  Dex has always been a charming womanizer.  And now he realizes he’s in love for the first time in his life – and the woman isn’t going for his sure-fire method.  Plus, he forgot an important moment that Sid obviously thinks was special.

One of Dex’s roommates is a younger protégé who Dex has been coaching in the Tao of Steve.  Dex finally tells him, “all this time I’ve been trying to make you me.  But you don’t want to be me.  I’m not even sure I want to be me.”

In the end, Dex spontaneously flies to New York to see Sid at her new job location (she’s a theater set designer). She sees he’s truly humbled and cares for her, and it all ends well (I love happy endings).

THE LESSON: you can have a foolproof method for picking up women.  Maybe you learned it from a book or DVD, maybe from a friend, maybe you came up with it yourself.  But you’ll eventually meet that special someone who will blow all that nonsense out of the water.

The trick, fellers, is to be honest with yourself and with the woman in whom you’re interested.  That’s it.  You don’t have to be Steve McQueen.  Because, let’s face it, nobody can be Steve McQueen.

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