I recently saw Knocked Up and liked it a lot: the premise is both so simple as it is convincing. Nerdy slacker gets hot girl pregnant, then what? Great concept. Great acting. Flawless direction. Structurally more or less good (had some minor notes but lets forget that for now okay). Great jokes. So yea it was funny, what more do we need? But somehow a voice kept nagging in my head, making me feel uncomfortable. There was one aspect of the movie I didn’t like so much: the characterization of the girl & consequently the believability of their chemistry.
The point here is NOT the fact that a chubby little loser can get a hot girl, only a fool would make that conclusion after seeing the movie. But the thing the movie never convinced me of, is if their relationship would really work out in the end. Would they be really living happily ever after, to put it in those terms.
I felt that their relationship hadn’t been put enough to the test to come to that conclusion. Why does Katherine Heigl as “the girl” really fall for Seth Rogen as “the boy”? The obvious obstacle in the beginning of the story is the audience thinking: how will THIS guy take care of a baby? (remember the tagline of the poster “what if this guy gets you pregnant?”). And yes in the end, Rogen proves he can take care of his life and gets things done but is that really it? Does that action ultimately proves to be enough for Heigl to fall for him?
I felt the movie simplified the ordeal of their relationship to that question: will he get his life straightend out or not? If ‘yes’, he will get the girl and baby. If ‘no’, he will go on smoking pot and never have sex with such a beautiful woman again. The moral choice here seems a little too weak to produce a fully formed relationship. Hence the chemistry between boy & girl felt a little thin.
Off course, we’re watching a comedy and one should be very careful to draw moral conclusions. But I couldn’t stop thinking about these gender issues in Apatow‘s comedies and how it felt as if his female leads were always a little too thin.
This shouldn’t pose a problem when you’re making over-the-top comedies. I mean it’d be foolish to judge Borat or Will Ferrell comedies on gender issues because it’d prove a) you don’t have a sense of humour, b) you haven’t understood a thing of these movies.
Will Ferrell is obviously playing the macho angle to get laughs. His comedies and Borat are aimed at people getting offended by it. That’s a whole different ball game. But Apatow ain’t trying this. Both 40-year old Virgin and Knocked Up try their best to portray fully developed characters and that’s also the reason you’re feeling much more emotionally attached to his films than say a Borat or Ferrell movie (which is not a critique of these movies, they just achieve different goals).
Then today at cinematical, I read this interesting Time Magazine article by Richard Corliss and we get back to my aching voice about Knocked Up’s female lead. Read the whole article through, it’s very clever if you don’t get too hung up on the whole gayness metaphors. Don’t take that too literally, it’s meant to provoke, and Corliss describes an interesting change in our culture.
The main thesis of the article seems to be that the Apatow clique introduced the advent of the ‘bromance’ (love the term btw), where the desired object of the boy is not longer the girl but acknowledgement of other men, which is subsequently achieved by getting the girl. So getting the girl just becomes a means to fraternize with your male friends. The desired object now is “affection from other men”. Thus the boy-meets-girl comedies become guy-meets-guy comedies.
Very interesting point. Although I think Corliss is totally wrong to attribute some sexual component to this and suggest that all these men really want to do is fuck each other (the conclusion of Y Tu Mama Tambien?). Don’t take his point that literal! Also, he should leave Will Ferrell movies out of this debate, for aforementioned reasons. Same goes for the Sandler movie I think, but I haven’t seen it, so it’s a bit hard to use here. I haven’t seen Superbad either, which is another problem to use it in this discussion.
That aside, we shouldn’t forget Superbad portrays two high-school nerds who have a problem with women. It is obviously written from the point of view of two insecure males. Hence we can expect some horny jokes, that is the point of view after all of a movie called SuperBAD. So all bullshit feminist commenters screaming about “how this movie is only about horny men objectifying women” & “all men think about is sticking their dicks into vaginas” can call up Germaine Greer and make plans over tea for a new world without the dicks.
Now let’s come to my main point: do the Apatow movies (let’s call Superbad an Apatow movie too) indeed have thinly developed female characters?
If we’d be to compare them to the great old screwball comedies, I would tend to say yes.
However, it should be established that Apatow movies are very popular among women as well. It is not only targeted at men. In fact I’d say male vs female fans are equally divided. What makes it so popular among women then?
Two questions arise:
- A. If these female characters are indeed too much of a caricature, what makes them so?
- B. Do women agree that Apatow’s female leads are too much of a caricature and does this bother them? (feminists aside, I’m talking about a general public here)
I’m interested to hear any opinion about this. Maybe I’m totally wrong of accusing Apatow and do most women not at all think the female leads are thinly written.
My guess however is Corliss is somewhere right in his article. Namely: in the post-feminist world we live in, the Apatow men are intimidated by women and are kind of clueless how they should get the girls. So they bond PLATONICALLY with their male friends in order to overcome their own helplessness. Most men identify with these characters mainly for these reasons.
But then as far as women go: why do they like these movies? Apart from it being just a good movie off course. I’m not trying to explain our individual taste here completely sociologically but I do think it’s possible to make some presumptions. So then what? What could be a reason for women to identify with, if we agree it’s not the female leads because they are too thin?
The one reason I could come up with: maybe women like these movies because they enjoy seeing the men so helpless. And I don’t mean that in some feminist wrath kinda way. In fact, a much heard term is that Seth Rogen’s character is “cute”. Not physically cute but cute as a person, as a character. Maybe the post-feminist women find men’s helplessness combined with their fraternally raunchiness just plain and simple cute.
Ain’t that a happy ending?