What seems like Tony's ugly attitude toward women (in the remark Amanda hears on the Dictaphone recording) can partly be explained by a scene from the original shooting script that did not end up in the picture. In that, Dr. Flagg is visited by a vain and annoying female patient who severely tries his... well, patience. The deletion of that bit does make his attitude toward women seem harsher. In the movie as shot, until Amanda hears him assuming that SHE is "another maladjusted female," she actually is amused by what he says about the patient. The Astaire character's behavior throughout the rest of the movie does not support the idea that he is misogynistic, but I agree that some of the dialogue makes him seem so initially.
To read Ginger Rogers' character as having been "weakened" and "drugged" by Astaire's is to take this comedy too seriously. It was one of Rogers' favorite roles of their series together, because she got a chance to shine in a screwball role. And I think Ralph Bellamy, Jack Carson and Luella Gear offer good, if not sparkling, support here. The reason we seldom see Gear in the movies is that she did most of her performing on Broadway; she had appeared with Astaire before in "Gay Divorce" (in the Hortense role that Alice Brady played in the movie version).
I've shown Astaire's golf solo to many a golfer friend, and they never fail to be impressed. Maybe it isn't Astaire's most memorable dance sequence, but the fact that he hits such beautiful shots (he was a lifelong golfer with a score in the low 70s) while doing his impeccable tapping is worthy of admiration.
Amanda's dream dance ("I Used to Be Color Blind") is not something her doctor has forced upon her; maybe he can suggest her dinner selections, but he can't control the content of the dream! She's dreaming about him because he apologized (sorta) for his callousness during their bike ride, and they became friends during the dinner dance that evening. She began to find herself attracted to him. It's a gorgeous dance, filmed in slow motion and definitely showing off how beautiful and graceful Ginger Rogers is. I don't interpret their kiss to mean that she is "submitting" to anything--as a matter of fact, she initiates the clinch as she comes up from that deep backbend (as one writer puts it, it's her dream, after all).
Although I agree that "The Yam" is not a great song (the tune worked better as "Any Bonds Today?"), I'd rather watch the accompanying dance number than "The Piccolino" or the long sequences of chorus kids in "The Continental." Not that the signature steps are that attractive, but once The Yam gains momentum and wanders all over the country club, it's a blast. And I love the big finish, when Astaire props one leg on a series of tables and repeatedly swings Ginger over it (her idea, she said in her autobiography).
Now, about the hypnosis dance, to "Change Partners." Tony's attempts to medicate and hypnotize Amanda have had comic consequences (if they hadn't, there wouldn't be a screwball comedy), but there are two crucial differences when you come to this romantic dance: It isn't intended to be humorous, and what he is now trying to do essentially is UN-hypnotize her so that she is thinking for herself again.
I'll admit there is a submissiveness about her in the dance and that he is acting as a masculine force (and yes, Holdjerhorses, Astaire definitely had a strong masculine presence, non-macho though he was), but if ever there was a good cause, this is it. I find the number intensely sexy--he is mesmerizing her not because he wants to control her, per se, but because he loves her so much that he wants to get the "real" Amanda back. I also think it is significant that Tony cannot knock out Amanda, even for her own good. Far from a cop-out on the part of the writers, this was intentional and in character with the decidedly non-misogynistic character Tony has proved himself to be in all but the first couple of scenes of the movie.
The whole business about lovers hitting each other and getting black eyes is a staple of romantic comedy of the thirties, and it is NOT intended to be interpreted as serious approval of domestic violence. It is a comedy convention that represents the verbal conflict of relationships, mixed with good old-fashioned slapstick.
Finally, a last argument in favor of "Carefree:" despite the fact that this is a madcap comedy, there are some lovely, touching straight scenes in it that show just how strong Astaire and Rogers both were in the acting department. The scene during which she confesses to him on the dance floor that she loves him instead of Steve; and the one in his office, in which he gets her to admit that she dreamed about him, and she responds with grief when he tells her that he doesn't love her, are surprisingly moving, as is his dawning suspicion that he IS in love with her.
As wonderful as "The Gay Divorcée" and "Top Hat" are, it is moments like these, along with some of the dialogue in "Swing Time," that really show how multi-talented and underrated as actors these two musical performers were--yes, Fred as well as Oscar-winner-to-be Ginger.