Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Long Explanation For Some Reading Recommendations

I've been reading a lot of Sadie's work on Judd Apatow at Tiger Beatdown and her guest post on Shakesville. Now, I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Judd Apatow. I love his films' trailers. I hate his films. Seriously; I see every movie trailer in the Apatow oeuvre, and I think to myself, "I want to see that!" And then I forget about it for a year or three, and catch it when it is on HBO - and then I hate myself for having ever wanted to see it in the first place.

I think my favorite post of Sadie's is her Because, Um...? post. Because it's true. I have been a romantic comedy fan from way, way back. Mostly because I'm a big wuss who really does love a happy ending. This is my reason for also loving action films, and one of the reasons I have for disliking westerns. And yet, the romantic comedy has begun to wear thin, for the reason Sadie highlighted. Too many of the romantic comedies I have seen - movies that are purportedly chick flicks, mind you - employ the Because, Um...? girl. A lot don't; I can definitely see why Sally ends up with Harry, and why almost every woman ends up with Hugh Grant across his multitude of films. It's because even though Harry and every guy Hugh Grant has played recently are assholes, they've got some redeeming quality - even if that redeeming quality, in Hugh's case, is simply being as cute and charming as Hugh Grant. But too many romantic comedies end with me scratching my head thinking, "Why is she interested in him?" Movies like 29 Dresses; movies like Knocked Up; even movies like Juno (seriously, Juno says Paulie Bleeker is the coolest person she knows, and all I can think is that Juno needs to meet some more people). The Because, Um...? phenomenon is incredibly annoying, and I'm glad it has been named.

I liked her other posts as well, though I took some umbrage at the maligning of a puppet Dracula musical throughout the Forgetting Sarah Marshall post. But that's really because I'm a big fan of puppets, musicals, and vampires, and because I could totally see Joss Whedon being able to pull off a Dracula puppet musical about eternal love and having it be edgy and cool and artistic and fun.

Really, though, Sadie does a great job pointing out why these films make me so incredibly, Hulkishly, angry. It's because the films are based on the belief that sex is cool but girls are not; that the vagina is a thing to be pursued, and that the woman who that vagina belongs to is pretty much worthless. It is because the bromance aspect of Apatow's movies directly correlates to an inability to form actual romances with women. I'm actually a huge fan of the idea of a bromance; my favorite bromance writer is Aaron Sorkin, and part of why I love his work so much is the deep, passionate, platonic love many of his sets of male characters hold for one another. But the Apatow bromance is damaging, because it too often keeps the bros of the 'mance in an enforced childish state. There is no encouragement of growth within these bromances; the bromances exist in part as a way of preserving the legitimacy of the man-child life, as a way of insulating themselves from the corrupting influences of those women who want actual partners to share in the joys and responsibilities of domesticity.

So, I highly recommend the multiple Apatow posts. And her Dollhouse post, which - aside from her dislike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite show of all time - is beyond awesome, and probably deserving of a whole post on its own.


John said...

1) If you like vampire puppets, I highly recommend the episode of The Middleman entitled "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation." While they're technically ventriloquist dummies, everything about the episode is fantastic (especially the Bon Jovi reference delivered as a dramatically appropriate action hero tagline.)

2)I can't get into Hugh Grant. His charm always seems too fake to me. John Cusack, on the other hand, is a completely different story (though I still can't convince myself that his characters are things like kickboxers or assassins.)

3)I think that Sadie is selling a lot of those movies short, and that she and I definitely took different things away from both the characters and the plots. I thought that the real story in Knocked Up was about Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's marriage, and how they eventually come to view each other as allies and equals instead of "Married, with Children"-style adversaries. I thought the moral of Superbad was that date rape isn't as good of an idea as movies like American Pie would have you believe, and that our heteronormative American High School environment causes young men who are clearly and obviously gay to believe that they must forcibly prove their heterosexuality to the world by having sex with young women by any means necessary. And as for Pineapple Express, that movie was so ridiculous I couldn't take any of it seriously (though I thought that the whole point of Seth Rogen's inappropriate relationship was that it was inappropriate, and that everyone involved in it had serious psychological problems.) I'll have to find a way to expand upon this elsewhere, though, because I'd rather not leave a comment longer than the entry.

petpluto said...

"2)I can't get into Hugh Grant. His charm always seems too fake to me. John Cusack, on the other hand, is a completely different story (though I still can't convince myself that his characters are things like kickboxers or assassins.)"

John Cusack rarely plays an out and out asshole. Even in a movie like High Fidelity, you see why a girl would be interested in him, and you understand why that girl in particular is interested in him. He doesn't just skate by on charm and good looks, though he totally could!

And I don't get Colin Firth, so I think we're about even in not understanding almost universally understood British appeal.

On your third point, I'm planning a longer Apatow post about why I hate the movies. Sadie covers a lot of the points I think are important, but I've got other parts to it as well about why all of the movies drive me up the frickin' wall!

MediaMaven said...

I think if you take John’s reading of the films, they work. That’s how I at least read Superbad, the idea that in reality American Pie-style shenanigans don’t work and it’s a terrible message to send; there were a few scenes (some of the more heartfelt one) that I felt were very realistic in terms of emotions and situations. One of my greatest problems with romantic comedies is that the characters the audience is meant to root for are drawn too thinly, and we have no idea why they are interested in each other. Happy endings are depressing if they’re automatic, with no feeling behind them. There are just so many movies in that genre—and so many movies/shows in general—that have couples get together “just because”.

Pineapple Express was terrible and I want my money back. I do remember wondering why Kristen Bell’s character was with Seth Rogen’s character for 5 years as it seemed they had little in common and no reason to be together at all; she was just so much out of his league. He wouldn’t even get dressed to go out! Come on, horrible boyfriend.

I was heartened to read of someone else absolutely hating The 40 Year-Old Virgin; I always have to justify why I dislike it so, and everyone always thinks I’m nuts when I do (for the record, Jess and I walked out of the showing at school). The only other people I know who hate it are my parents; coincidentally, my father hates all Judd Apatow movies (from the little he’s seen), precisely because he does not understand why he should watch a movie about losers who sit around all day and bitch and moan and whine like children when they should get a job and grow up.

What if there were more women-directed romantic comedies?